Monday, January 12, 2009

"Destinations - 2009"

The NY Times has recently revealed "The 44 Places to Go in 2009"

"From the Aegean Sea to Zambia, this year’s most compelling destinations are awash in sublime landscapes, cutting-edge art, gala music festivals, and stylish new resorts."

Beirut is #1 ... rightfully so, with its picturesque Mediterranean coastline, stunning mountain views, historic architecture, & world-class cuisine ... Beirut is arguably the most colorful & vibrant city of Southwest Asia (and just a short drive away from Damascus) ... I have had the pleasure of staying there many times during my travels back to the motherland ... I have dear family members & very close friends who call it home ... I've tasted some of the most delicious food & seen some of this earth's most beautiful faces in between its bullet-ridden walls ...

I've even written, recorded, & performed some of my favorite tracks in B.C. ... Beirut City ... Mini-Viet ... The Root ... To quote Marshall Mathers:

"Oh Yeah, don't think I won't go there ...
Go to Beirut & do a show there!"

Washington DC is #2 on the list ... again, rightfully so (bias Omz?) ... it is basically a swamp that was paved over to make room for the capital of the United States of America ... Designed with a French sensibility - it is the District of Columbia ... the Diamond District ... the City of Trees ... Chocolate City ... where homeless people can be seen from the steps of the Capitol Building ... where over-qualified cab drivers pick up uneducated ambassadors ... where Duke Ellington & Marvin Gaye composed some of the finest music of their respective generations ... where I learned how to read, write, rhyme, live, & love ... my stomping grounds ... my home-away-from-home thrice removed ... Washington D.C.

From Ethiopians to El Salvadorians, the DC-Metro Area (which includes the suburbs of Maryland / Northern Virginia) is home to some of the largest immigrant communities in the nation. No matter where you're from, I am sure you will find a solid culinary representative in Washington. One unique example is the landmark restaurant known as Ben's Chili Bowl - located at 1213 U Street, right next to the Lincoln Theater, in the Shaw neighborhood of Northwest D.C. (whaddup Bro-Mo!) Founded by Ben & Virginia Ali in 1958, it was frequented by both police & protesters during the 1968 riots. My college friend's father, Kwame Ture (known at the time as Stokley Carmichael), reached out to a fellow Trinidadian when he asked Ben to keep his restaurant open during those tumultuous times - at which point the Alis obtained the necessary permission from city officials to stay open past curfew. The destruction of businesses and subsequent economic decline of the neighborhood from the mid-70s to mid-80s eventually led Ben's Chili Bowl to reduce its staff to one employee. While it has recovered considerably since then, Ben & Virginia's son Kamal recalled that difficult chapter in DC history:

"We stayed and had a following, because the Chili Bowl was like the neighborhood barbershop. People would sit here and chat. There was always a family presence and the locals protected us."

A heartwarming statement, especially as one thinks about how Muslims in America were treated post-9|11. Not surprising though, for to fully appreciate Washington D.C., you have to understand America ... and all these beautiful contradictions it embodies ...

Now I'd comment on #3, but I have yet to visit the Galapagos ... I did watch a fantastic special on the Discovery Channel about them though!

Finally, if you care for the 4th - 44th "Best-according-to-the-NY-Times Destinations to visit in 2009", here's the link again ... Just remember, if these were the Travel Olympics, none of them would get a medal ...


1 comment:

  1. love it! can't believe BC and DC are #s 1 + 2. rightfully so, indeed. and i never saw that clip of you rapping in 961... good stuff! just edit it for the kids, pleaz.

    beace :)