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Whitechapel Market

March 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Another visit to Tayyabs in East London today and though the meat was a little chewy this time, it was really interesting to walk around Whitechapel area. It really comes alive at the weekends. Stalls of clothing and nick-nacks are set up along the road, and with half of the pavement closed off for road-works, the people were extra squashed in today. It took a log time to reach the station at tortoise pace behind families with little ones in tow.

What struck me was not how multi-cultural Whitechapel is but how almost 90% of women wore a hijab. Is it possible that the area now is more exclusively Muslim than it was previously?

Tower Hamlets, which is the borough Whitechapel falls in is home to the largest Bangladeshi community in the UK. Wikipedia states that approximately 52% population of Whitechapel is Bangladeshi. That’s more than one in three but that still does not make up the numbers of hijabs I saw today. And last time I looked, I didn’t think that most Bangladeshi women covered their heads and faces. Their heads but not often faces too. I did see a number of stalls selling hijabs in various colours and styles. Perhaps weekends attract other populations of Muslims to Whitechapel too.

There was certainly no tension and it was great to see so many women out shopping as opposed to a largely male population which is what you see in the nearby Brick Lane.

At the heart of Whitechapel and not far from the Royal London Hospital is the East London Mosque which serves the Bangladeshi as well as other Muslim communities of East London. Next door from it is the London Muslim Centre and their combined accommodation can hold 5,000 people, making it the largest mosque in the UK. I looked on the mosque’s website and found that it is involved in all sorts of activities to encourage tolerance in the community and attract young people to its doors to ensure religious learnings but also give them a safe place to spend time.

It was at the mosque’s website that I found a whole lot of information and activities list for Somali community. So perhaps it was the Somali women who had increased the numbers of covered heads I saw this afternoon?

I also read on a website somewhere that the council wants to ‘regenerate’ Whitechapel Road to restore the historic buildings but also rejuvenate business and have shopping districts. The problem is that when there is such regeneration, it pushes out the local businesses to make room for chains and superstores. Wouldn’t this totally change the face of Whitechapel as it is now – a bustling and multi-cultural local bazaar where people come together to buy specific ethnic items?

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