National Geographic : 2000 Jun
past while reinventing itself for the future. As if clocking the minutes of a new age, the world's largest observation wheel now spins on the wrist of the Thames. Rising 443 feet, it offers the highest public perch for viewing London's timeless architec ture. Views are more traditional from Bank Restaurant (above). But the menu's blend of French, Asian, and "modern British" fare typifies the city's graduation from the overboiled pub grub of the past. chapel. In the 1890s it was converted into a synagogue. Today it is used by Annas and other Bangladeshis as a mosque. Bangla Town has also had a recent influx from the world of fashion, art, and pop culture. Jarvis Cocker, the lead singer of Pulp, lives nearby. So does Chris Ofili, the young artist of Nigerian descent whose painting "The Holy Virgin Mary," depicting a black Madonna embellished with elephant dung, caused a firestorm of contro versy at the Brooklyn Museum of Art last year. Alexander McQueen, the fashion designer, has his workshop on Rivington Street. The result is a fusion of cultures unique to London. Annas Ali himself is eclectic. With his dark skin, raven black hair, and lustrous brown eyes, he reminded me of Mowgli in the Jungle Book. But his hair was cut in the latest London style: short in back, long and slicked back with gel at the front. He is a devout Muslim, an Asian Londoner who talks Cockney English. The gold rings on his fingers were from India, his stylish, midnight blue cardigan-"pure wool," he told me proudly-from Prohibito, a clothes shop on Oxford Street popular among teen agers. "I want to go into fashion," he said. "I want to go to the London School of Fashion."