Visit London Blog » countries beginning with s Enjoy the very best of London Thu, 28 Aug 2014 11:51:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Somalia in London: Rageh Omaar, Mo Farah, and Somali Food and Culture at Kingsley Hall Fri, 14 Oct 2011 13:39:10 +0000 London has been connected to Somalia for many, many years, through its involvement with the British Somaliland protectorate. The first Somali immigrants were seamen and merchants who settled in London (as well as Cardiff and Liverpool) in the late 19th century. More recently, civil war in Somalia during the 1980s and 1990s has increased the number of immigrants as asylum seekers, particularly women and children.

Estimates suggest there are around 70,000 Somalis living in Greater London at the moment.

Perhaps the most famous Somalis based in London are Rageh Omaar, the TV news presenter and writer and Mo Farah, the long-distance runner.

Rageh Omaar made his name during the Iraq War; he now works for the London division of Al Jazeera English, and hosts his own monthly investigative documentaries called The Rageh Omaar Report.

At the 2011 World Athletics Championships, Mo Farah won the silver in the 10,000m and the gold in the 5,000m. It’ll be great to see what he can achieve in the London 2012 Games.

Are you interested in Somali culture? You can find many Somali-oriented restaurants and cafes in the Southall area of London.

In addition, you can sample Somali food and culture at Kingsley Hall in Powis Road later this month.

The Three Bees Café is holding a Somali Food and Culture Evening on Tuesday 18 October, between 4pm and 7pm, with wonderful, wholesome food prepared by the Somali ladies who use Kingsley Hall. As well as a food demonstration at 5pm, there’ll be a quiz at 6pm. Visit the Kingsley Hall facebook page to find out more.

Do you know anywhere else in London you can sample Somali culture? Let us know in the comments below.

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Senegal in London: Sabar Dance Classes Mon, 10 Oct 2011 09:00:28 +0000

Senegalese director and choreographer Diene Sagna moved to the UK four years ago to run his own dance company, Yaye Dib Sabar. He also holds sabar dance classes in London:

“Sabar is the drum, and also the dance – they go together. Of all the dances in the world that I know, it’s only sabar where you have to be in the air all of the time! You have to be light but also energetic and powerful. In the past it used to be just women who danced but now men are dancing sabar too.

“I’ve been dancing for a long time. When I was six years old I won a competition and after that, even though I was also going to school, dancing was my focus. When I was 17 I started to work professionally, going to Europe and working with big artists. I’ve worked with Youssou N’Dour, dancing on his video for 4444. I’ve also toured and performed with [bestselling Senegalese singer] Coumba Gawlo Seck.

“There are a lot of different African dance classes in London. They used to be mainly from Ghana or Nigeria, but now I can see the interest in Senegalese dance is increasing. It’s hard to make African dance respected in Europe – people think it’s just for fun. You can find contemporary and hip hop dance in the big theatres, but not this West African dance. I want to bring it onto the stage, that’s my fight.

“In London this June we held the first Yaye Dib Sabar International event, a weekend of Afro-dance workshops called Jump for Joy! We will be holding this every year in memory of my mum (who died in 2009) as a way of celebrating not only her life but also West African culture and in particular Sabar dance and drumming.

“I invite all students, from London and the UK as well as Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Belgium where I do workshops every year. I also organise an annual two-week dance training holiday in Dakar, Senegal, called Kaye Fecc, meaning Come Dance. The next one will be from 23 January to 4 February 2012.

“When my students see sabar they say it’s powerful, fast, fun and energetic also. But some people also say sabar is harder because they cannot understand the timing, the breaks. People also say sabar is the most difficult West African dance because it’s changing every week in Senegal. If I stay in UK for two years without going to Senegal I’m going to be lost! That’s why I go every year and spend two or three months there, finding out what’s new.”

The next Yaye Dib Sabar dance and drumming class in London is on Sunday 23 October 2011 at Studio 68 dance studio. More information

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San Marino in London: Sammarinese Stamps at the British Postal Museum Wed, 14 Sep 2011 09:00:37 +0000 Opening of Government Palace and Installation of Captains Regent. Issued 30 Sep 1894 Thematic Collecting. Issued 17 Mar 1988 Centenary of the Modern Olympic Games. Issued 12 Feb 1996

Here is a fresh challenge for the World in London team: San Marino - one of Europe’s smallest countries. Does London have anything fascinating and Sammarinese to feature in our World in London blog? Of course it does. We turned to Jenny Karlsson at the British Postal Museum and Archive for this latest foray into London’s incredibly varied multicultural offering.

San Marino is one of the world’s smallest countries, but did you also know that it is world famous for its beautifully designed stamps?

The British Postal Museum & Archive in Clerkenwell, London holds all the stamps that have ever been produced by the state until 1995 in its vast philatelic collection. A few of these can be seen in the images above.

The first San Marino postage stamps, produced in 1877, were a definitive stamp edition depicting the Three Towers of San Marino at Monte Titano.

Commemorative stamp editions were introduced in 1894, the first one being dedicated to an important historical event in the history of San Marino: the inauguration of the Public Palace, seat of the government and parliament and heart of the institutional and political life of the country.

Over the years, the attractive designs of San Marino’s stamps have been extremely popular with stamp collectors around the world, and it is estimated that 10% of the republic’s revenue is generated by the sale of its postage stamps to international collectors.

The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) is the leading resource for British postal heritage. It is a combined museum and archive, bringing together The Royal Mail Archive and a Museum Store. Its unique collections include posters, photographs, staff records, telegrams, postal vehicles and pillar boxes, as well as all British stamps that have ever been produced and a wide range of international stamps.

The BPMA cares for the visual, written and physical records from over 400 years of innovation and service, illuminating the fascinating story of British communications. Records in The Royal Mail Archive are designated as being of outstanding national importance.

The British Postal Museum & Archive’s current display features treasures from the collections such as sheets of Penny Blacks and evidence from the Great Train Robbery, as well as unique items from the world’s first airmail flight that took place in 1911.

For more information, or to find out about upcoming exhibitions or events, see

 Have you spotted anything else from the tiny San Marino in London? Some of their famous wine, perhaps? Let us know in the comments below.

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South Africa in London: Nelson Mandela, The Lion King and Cape Town Fish Market Fri, 09 Sep 2011 09:00:12 +0000

Ntokozo Kunene came to London to study Fashion Design, and is currently interning at an African publication. Ntokozo tells us her South African highlights in London.

Statues of Nelson Mandela

You can’t talk about South Africa without mentioning Nelson Mandela – our symbol of reconciliation, and what it means to be South African. London has two statues dedicated to him.

The first, a bust outside Royal Festival Hall, was unveiled in 1985 by Oliver Tambo – another stalwart of the fight against apartheid. In Parliament Square, you’ll find a life-size statue of Mr Mandela, which he unveiled himself in 2007.

The Lion King in London

Several South Africans star in the award-winning musical The Lion King.

Brown Lindiwe Mkhize plays Rafiki, Andile Gumbi plays Simba, and Sello Maaka Ka Ncube once starred as Mufasa. South African musician and Grammy award-winning artist Lebo M contributed to the soundtrack of both the original animated film and the London theatre production at the Lyceum Theatre.

South African Food: Cape Town Fish Market and Nandos

When I arrived in London I was happy to find that one of my favourite South African restaurants from back home, Cape Town Fish Market, also has a branch here.

The walls are decorated with pictures, commissioned from various Capetonian museums, depicting the fishing community of Cape Town.

The menu is a mix between South African and Japanese cuisine and caters to both meat and fish lovers. I thoroughly enjoy sitting around the Teppenyaki grill table and watching as my meal is prepared.

South Africa is a diverse country of people of various origins and this is reflected in our food. Few people know that the highly popular Nandos (Portuguese flamed grilled peri peri chicken) found all over London, is actually a South African chain.

South African Shopping at Savannah

There are times when we miss the comforts of home, and when this happens we head to the many Savannah stores, which stock South African food and drink.

This is a good place to purchase genuine biltong, a kind of dried/cured meat that most South Africans cannot live without. You can also find maize meal – corn that is ground to a fine powder and used to cook our one of our staple starches called pap/meilipap. From South African cider and wine to our local sweets and crisps, Savannah is like taking a trip to the country itself.

Where else can you find South African culture in London? Tell us in the comments below.

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Sudan in London: The Sudan Women’s Association in London Wed, 24 Aug 2011 09:00:20 +0000

The Sudan Women’s Association was established in 1991, when the war in Sudan drove many women to flee their country and look for refuge in the UK.

It is run by a group of Sudanese women living in the Camden area. It was set up to help Sudanese women in the UK become less isolated, to help with social exclusion, promote education, preserve culture, and develop a sense of community among their members.

I spoke to Rita Paulino, 35, who’s been living in London for five years, about her involvement with the association. She was excited about the organisation’s imminient rebrand: they’re changing their name to the “South Sudan Women in Skills Development” in the near future, to better reflect the work they do.

“I came to London from Sudan in Africa five years ago. I joined the association four years ago, mainly in order to meet new people. I wanted to learn what’s going on and find out how to live in London.

“Our community centre offers workshops and training for women to make friends and gain experience. Without the SWA, it would be difficult for me to find a job. After taking workshops in hospitality, I was able to go to Goodenough College, and obtain a qualification. Since then, I’ve been able to find work, at places like the Barbican Centre. It was great working there – there’s so much classical music, so many people from all over the world, it was wonderful!

“Another important thing the SWA do is organising projects for young people to encourage them to learn about their home country, what life is like there, and how the situation can be improved. We think projects like this help give young people something to do, otherwise they’re just hanging around the streets with nothing to do. We’d rather they were in here and engaged than out on the street.

“We always return to the same topic whenever we get together at the SWA: Sudan, and the problems there. We like to campaign to raise awareness of the problems in Sudan, we like to be politically active.

“I love London – here everyone is a foreigner! There’s a spirit of saying, yes, I also come from somewhere else, and now I’m living in this city. When all the different communities come together like this, we can learn from each other and see how rich different people’s ideas are. We can celebrate each other’s festivals, celebrate how they’re living. London has great charities that express this cultural diversity through their actions. It’s a very creative city.”

Here’s a video of Rita’s colleague, Elizabeth Ajith, talking about work at the association:

Read more about the Sudanese Women’s Association on the Basis Project website.

Do you know of any other examples of Sudanese culture in London? Let us know in the comments below.

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Syria in London: Syria’s Official and Unoffical Embassies Tue, 01 Mar 2011 17:03:55 +0000

Our post about Syria in London for the World in London series comes from journalist Dania Akkad.

If you want to go to the official Syrian embassy in London, you’ll find yourself in well-heeled Belgravia Square surrounded by the gigantic mansions and high-flying flags one might expect for a diplomatic neighbourhood.

You might even get lucky and meet Syrian Ambassador Sami Khiyami, an effusive diplomat who’s served in London since 2000 and has been known to make a room of expats belly laugh.

Of course, if it’s the unofficial Syrian embassy that you want, you will have to head to Shepherd’s Bush. Here, on busy Uxbridge Road where you can hear all sorts of languages just walking down the street, you will find Damas Gate.

What looks like an unremarkable green grocery from the outside is often the first port-of-call for Syrians who have just arrived in London. Consider Samer al-Lamadani, 44, the unofficial ambassador.

Since he arrived from Damascus in 2000 to work as the store’s accountant, al-Lamadani said he regularly connects newly arrived Syrians with other Syrians who can help them with jobs and lodging, no resume or references needed.

“People who come,” he said, “they are easy to trust because you will know their family.”

Today, according to Ambassador Khiyami, there are an estimated 25,000 Syrians living in the United Kingdom of whom 70 to 80% live in London. It wasn’t always this way: the earliest recording of Syrians coming to the UK was in Cornwall in the 5th century BC. They had come to trade tin with the Romans.

More recently, starting in the middle of the 19th century, Syrians could be found mostly in Manchester where they came to establish trading houses to export cloth and other products of industrial England to the Middle East and to other Syrian expatriate communities in Africa and South America.

Where once it was possible for a Syrian to arrive in the UK and set up shop with a modest amount of money, many Syrians say it now takes millions of dollars to start one’s own business, a fact that has drawn many expats to London for professional careers in finance, education and medicine.

Still, in London, it is rare to find a distinctly Syrian neighbourhood because, as many expats say, Syrians tend to blend in.

“Syrians,” says Father Nadim Nassar, the only Syrian priest in the Anglican Church and co-founder of the London-based, peace-building nonprofit, The Awareness Foundation, “are the people in the Arab world who are most able to integrate because we do not see integration as assimilation . . . I don’t know why – we have an ability to integrate without losing our identity.”

In fact, many expats say that at least half of the Lebanese restaurants in London are likely offering Syrian dishes by Syrian staff, but keep up the image of being Lebanese because it’s a “brand” that is better known.

That is not the case at Damas Gate where Syrian products stand out – from foul, a bean dish which is traditionally eaten for breakfast, to olives to sweets like dried apricot and nougat, a chewy, pistachio delight.. And where Syrians, newly arrived or longtime British residents, can connect with home, an island of Syriana in a cosmopolitan capital.

Damas Gate is open every day of the year, from 9am to 10 pm, except on the Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha holidays. It’s located at 81 Uxbridge Road, W12 8NR. Photos by Nicholas Adams. For more see:

Do you know where else you can find Syrian culture in London? Let us know in the comments below.

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Singapore in London: Restaurants, Tiger Beer and the Search for a Singapore Sling Wed, 16 Feb 2011 14:00:45 +0000

Author John Malathronas writes about Singapore for our World in London challenge.  John Malathronas is a freelance travel writer and photographer. He’s been travelling to Singapore and following its fortunes for more than 20 years. He is the author of travelogue Singapore Swing and co-author of the Michelin Green Guide to Singapore:

“The first point of call for those who want a Singaporean experience in London is a pilgrimage to Westminster Abbey.  There, in the north choir aisle, you can find a seated marble statue of Sir Stamford Raffles who founded the colony in 1819.

“Although a legendary figure in Singapore itself , Raffles incurred the displeasure of his employers, the East India Company, and died in London in relative penury at the age of 44. You can also visit his actual grave in the church of St Mary’s in Hendon, where a carving on the stone floor identifies the burial spot.

“Singapore has a well-earned reputation as  a gourmand’s paradise and its citizens are fanatical about food.  There seems to be surprisingly little argument among its London expat community about where to sample the best Singaporean dishes in the capital. The Bugis Street Brasserie at the Millennium Hotel in Gloucester Road  is rightly said to serve the best Singapore food outside Asia: try the Taste of Singapore Set Menu for a quick introduction.

“At the cheaper end of the spectrum, The Hare and Tortoise in Russell Square is also a restaurant with an extensive Singaporean menu. Its distinctive Char Kway Teow (a rice noodle dish with Chinese sausage) is a particular favourite of London-based Singaporeans.

“The best accompaniment for the light, spicy Oriental mix that is Singaporean food is, of course, Tiger Beer which is brewed in the city-state but found everywhere in London.

“As for a cocktail you could try its most famous alcoholic export: the strikingly pink and flavoursome Singapore Sling. Alas, it requires dedication to find a Sling in London nowadays. I have asked for it in bars from Shoreditch to Soho and have received concoctions that range from a passable imitation of a Sling to a mojito in disguise.

“So I end with a plea: if anyone knows of a London bar that serves a good Singapore Sling, please let me know.”

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South Korea in London: Fan Dancing, Taekwondo and Kimchi Tue, 25 Jan 2011 10:00:11 +0000

Writer Jennifer Barclay covers South Korea for our World in London challenge:

I fell in love with South Korea during three months travelling around the country, recounted in my book Meeting Mr Kim: or How I Went to Korea and Learned to Love Kimchi, and more than 10 years later, I’m still fascinated. Thankfully, there’s plenty of Korean food and culture in London.

Korean Festivals in London

Festivals and food are two things Korean people love and do very well, so the annual summer Korean Food Festival is a highlight of my calendar. Held in New Malden, a South London suburb which is home to around half of the 40,000 or so Koreans resident in the UK, the event is always busy with a mix of Londoners and dominated by sizzling smoke from the beef barbecue and other delicious aromas created by local Korean restaurants. It’s not all eating: there’s often a taekwondo display and traditional music performance, gradually descending into karaoke as afternoon turns into evening.

Taste the East Festival started up last year by Tower Bridge. And the Korean Residents Society usually holds a summer festival in Kingston honouring the British Korean War Veterans who turn up proudly in uniform; I’ve seen a mesmerizing fan dance there, and kimchi-making demonstrations – that’s a traditional Korean dish made of a pungent mix of cabbage, garlic, ginger, onion and hot red pepper.

Korean Food in London

I’m addicted to the spiciest Korean foods and even though I try to sample all the restaurants scattered over central London, I find myself returning to old favourites when in need of a satisfying bowl of soup and noodles or rice. Between Tottenham Court Road tube and Denmark Street is St Giles High Street, a little bit of central London that is forever Korea (I hope). Opposite a Korean and Japanese supermarket are Woo Jung and the tiny Seoul Bakery – both cheap and cheerful eateries, the latter with scrawled messages all over the walls from happy customers.

Korean Culture

Just off Trafalgar Square, a traditional old building has been completely transformed inside with wood panelling and funky chandeliers to create the Korean Cultural Centre, where I like to catch a new contemporary art show every couple of months. There are regular talks and free film nights on Thursdays and there’s always a theatre, dance or art show or a touring musician in town.

The best for me are the Korean drummers for their energy, stamina and sheer sense of fun. So I couldn’t believe it when Jeung Hyun Choi from the drumming troupe Dulsori started to teach Korean drumming in London and actually let me loose on an hourglass drum! Try hitting both ends differently – in time – and remembering the words to shout along with fellow drummers. The experts make it look so easy.

Most Koreans are proud of their culture, and are more than happy to invite others to join in. Part of the fun is making new friends. You just might learn to love kimchi too!

Find out more about Korean London on Jennifer’s blog or follow her on Twitter.

Tell us where else you can find South Korea in London in the comments below.

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Sri Lanka in London: Ceylon Tea at Lanka Cake Shop in Primrose Hill Tue, 11 Jan 2011 16:30:18 +0000

When we started looking to Sri Lanka for our World in London series, we came across Lanka Cake Shop and Tea Salon. This popular café and shop keeps the thirsty residents of Primrose Hill happy with a range of teas from Sri Lanka.

Lanka is partnered with the Euphorium Tea Salon in Colombo, Sri Lanka and serves up specialty infusions that can’t be found anywhere else in the UK.

These pure Ceylon teas are characterised by their delicate colour and rich flavour and are served at selected tea salons and shops in Sri Lanka. You can enjoy a pot of tea in the Lanka café or pick up loose leaf or silken tea bag varieties to try at home.

You can even sample the teas in cake form such as the shop’s Earl Grey tea flavoured crème brulee.

Let us know where else you can find a Sri Lankan experience in London.

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Sweden in London: Taxis, the Tube, Gothenburg-style cafes, zombies and IKEA Fri, 08 Oct 2010 09:00:20 +0000 By Bengt Bjorkberg, Project Manager and part-time brainwashed zombie. Archway (ex Swede)

On a random Friday about a decennium ago I decided to leave the shores of Sweden in search of a new place to call home, and thought I would stop by London on the way. Ten years later I am still in London, and now I can both drive like a London cabbie (my car has the scars to prove it) and navigate the Tube system in rush hour (sometimes I don’t even get bruised by it). In short, London is my home now; I am a Londoner in all but accent.

London is overcrowded, but the fact that it is overcrowded is also what well and truly makes London one of the most vibrant and entertaining places in the world. Gothenburg has its small little streets with wonderful cafes all set to the beautiful backdrop of the Atlantic, Stockholm has its archipelago and lakes, London has its people and its ever-changing soup of cultures and influences.

If you happen to like hard hitting-beats because they are likely to turn you into a brainwashed zombie, you will find like-minded people in London to share the experience. If you are really interested in a specific technique to fold napkins, used to send coded messages in the Vatican during the 4th century (a technique only hinted at in a lonely paragraph in a book about masonry), London is the place where you will find someone who shares your interest, and there is most likely even a museum dedicated to napkin folding that you can meet up in. You can find any kind of food, from any country, region or city, sometimes even from a single village. You can spend your whole life in London finding new things to try and new things to experience, and that is why I never left London.

For those who want to sample Sweden in London:

  • National food: IKEA has a Swedish food hall, try the flatbread
  • Regional food: There is a stall on Borough Market that sells west coast fish, try the west coast salad
  • Swedish city experience: Scandinavian Kitchen, it’s almost like going to a real Gothenburg cafe, try their taster “Swedish Smorgasbord”
  • A Swedish village: Garlic and Shots in Soho, the founding “Olson Brothers” are from a one-horse village in the darkest end of Sweden, try the blood shot if you dare

What’s your experience of Sweden in London? Tell us in the comments below.

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