On Saturday, March 4, 2023 I embarked on a journey from Nairobi, Kenya to London in the United Kingdom.
The objective was to join the global team week dubbed GTW in the global capital of London. I’m a member of a team that works in promoting the rights of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities around the world.
Jomo Kenyatta International Airport
I arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) at 1300 hours ready to board the flight to London via Dubai.
JKIA is Kenya’s largest international airport located along Mombasa Road in Nairobi. To access the airport you need a car because public means of transport is not very reliable. There used to be buses transporting people to and from the airport.
Kenya is considered a regional aviation hub in East Africa because of JKIA, Moi International Airport in Mombasa, Eldoret and Kisumu Airports.
Many international flights land at JKIA on a daily basis including a direct KQ flight to New York City in USA.
We were scheduled to leave JKIA at 1530 hours on board of Emirates Airlines flight but there was a half an hour delay and we ended up departing at 1600 hours. This is one of the rare occasions when I get on board of some of the largest airborne vessels.
The flight to Dubai took us 5 hours. We landed at 9 pm at Dubai International Airport. This is one of the largest airport that I have ever been to. It is the hub of Emirates Airlines.
Emirates Airlines had a humble beginning in 1985 with two planes flying to only four destinations. Now it is one of the largest airlines flying to all the corners of the globe.
According to a friend of mine who is a journalist, Emirates has the largest fleet of Boeing A380 planes. This is the largest plane that transport over 500 passengers and crew. It has two floors and is a marvel to behold.
The Boeing A380 has three main categories of travels: first class, business class and economy. Your travel experience differs depending on where you are located in the plane. First class passengers get the highest utility from traveling followed by those in the business section and finally those in the economy. However, they all arrive at the same time in the next destination but those in the economy have less space to stretch their limbs during flight and their cuisine is as good as how much they pay for the flight. This is an economic concept known as price segregation.
Dubai International Airport
We arrived at Dubai International Airport at night. This is the second time I am arriving as such a time. Therefore, I won’t comment on how Dubai looks like from the skies. I will preserve that for another time in future. But from rumor mills, I’ve heard that Dubai is highly developed and the tallest building in the world is located in the city.
My first visit to Dubai was in December 2022 when I was traveling to South America for a conference on public services. This time round, I found as usual the airport has changed. One of the changes is that it is now a “silent airport”. This means that unlike JKIA and London, the airport staff in Dubai do not announce flight information. I believe this is to prevent noise pollution. But you can easily miss your flight if you are not keen and wander away from the gate of departure.
Our flight departed Dubai is the wee hours of the morning around 3:10 am for a seven-hour trip to London. I was eager to be in London for the first time. We arrived in London on board flight EK007 Emirates. As we neared the capital city of United Kingdom, our biggest fear was the freezing cold. As we were cruising at 40,000 feet about sea level, the outside temperature was -55 degree Celsius. However, when we landed the temperature rose to 4 degrees Celsius. This was very low temperatures for people coming from East Africa (the tropics).
However, our colleagues in London told us that this is not cold because they were at the tail end of winter season. We were lucky in that respect. However, we dressed in our warm attires and wore warm head gears as well as hand gloves to be on the safe side.
Travel from Heathrow Airport to Hotel
In London, we confirmed that there is efficient public transport system in place. People use underground trains as well as business to get to various destinations. With advice from experienced travelers, we purchased Oyster Card issued by Transport for London (TfL) and loaded it with cash to last me for one week of travel around the city as I attended to business.
The beauty of Oyster card is that it is used to pay for transport when using both train and buses in the United Kingdom.
We arrived at our hotel where we will be accommodated during our stay in London.
Touring East London
Upon arrival we discovered that we won’t check in until 3 pm and there was no place to idle until then. Therefore, we decided to tour the city on foot. We started with a supermarket down the road.
Then later went to Central London to see new places and meet the people. Our first stop was in front of the East London Mosque where we took a photo for posterity. London has a long history which will be a subject of another article on this blog. However, it is important to point out the city was founded by the Romans. Initially as the City if London and had a wall protecting it from enemies. The City of London still remains as a city within a city.
Icon red buses
While walking around we saw the iconic red buses which are owned by Transport for London (TfL). This means that we will use our Oyster cards to pay fare on those buses. This is killing two birds on one stone. The efficiency in public transport in London is legendary. There are no traffic jams because most of the traffic is on underground trains which are always on time and available.
We concluded that there is no need for one to own a private car. For those who own the cars, they are simple small cars. A long the street we saw cars such as Nissan Note, Mercedes Benz, Polo, Toyota Vitz but no fuel guzzlers. This might be due to the fact that the city has better road networks hence no need for bigger cars.
Housing is one of the challenges that we witnessed in London. There are some homeless people on the streets. These are men and women who sleep on the cold pavements at 4 degrees Celsius.
We saw some of the most iconic architecture in London. One specific building we saw has a replica in Nairobi, Kenya. See the building behind me in the photo below.
We saw the Victorian era building in London. These were mostly churches which remain preserved. Some of the buildings are classified as UNESCO World Heritage sites.
As usual there are statues erected strategically on the streets of London in memory of great men and women from the past.
London still has evidence of its Roman era origin from the kind of architecture of the time. We some of these 18th Century buildings in Wellington as we were heading to St. Paul’s Cathedral.
At Wellington there is a statue featuring two soldiers with guns. The statue was erected in honor of the non-commissioned officers and men of London who served the king and the empire in the first world war (1914 – 1919). The memorial was erected by the City of London on 12 November 1920 and was unveiled by the Duke of York. The statue also honors men and women who served in the Second World War.
We came to a place which is reputed to be the only place in London with buildings from the 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st century. Two of them are churches and one of the buildings belong to Michael Bloomberg. These buildings are near 1st Queen Victoria Street. See the photo below:
St. Paul’s Cathedral
St. Paul’s Cathedral was constructed by the Anglican Church of England. This is the largest cathedral in London and a tourist attraction. Many tourists visit this place due to its rich history. However, the church is still active and mass is held there daily. The place is open from 7 am – 4 pm.
There is a golden colored statue outside St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. As we toured the cathedral, we could not stop wondering whether the statue is made of real gold. Some of us concluded that real gold would have been stolen long time ago.
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