Alright, cat’s out of the bag – I’m OBSESSED with New York City.
Just kidding, this is one thing everyone who has had a conversation with me for more than two minutes knows. New York is my jam. To some people, the hustle and bustle, the noise pollution and the over-population are just too much. But as a girl born and raised in the city of Cairo, that populates 20 million people (& that’s an ollld statistic) who crowd the streets till 2 AM – the loudness of NYC doesn’t phase me. It’s actually one of my favorite things about the city. I’ve loved the city, funny enough, before I even went there. Something about the idea of New York attracted me from a young age that London and Paris didn’t do. Also, seeing NYC in Glee drew me in too, LOL.
Lights. Sky-soaring buildings. Global foods. International people. Millions of tourists. This is what New York City is made of. I was that girl looking up overwhelmed and in awe of the city’s height. Ever since seeing Rachel Berry on Glee in the same awe, my life’s dream would be to go to New York. Millions of people gather around in Times Square on New Year’s Eve every year in New York City. But, the rest of the year is not much different. From Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to Manhattan, to Home Alone, tourists flock to the magical city year-round with unrealistic expectations to see a taste of what the excitement is about. Most of them don’t leave disappointed. I didn’t either.
From Breakfast at Tiffany’s, to Manhattan to Home Alone, tourists flock to the magical city year-round with unrealistic expectations to see a taste of what the excitement is about. Most of them don’t leave disappointed. I didn’t either.
So, where do I start?
The first time I went to New York I was predictably blown away. I was that tourist walking bright-eyed through Times Square, looking up at the buildings – just waitin’ to be robbed blind, might I add. My family and I took a cab into the city from JFK, and to this day the view from the bridge coming into the city with skyscrapers at sunset makes me want to pinch myself every time I get to New York.
Everything in the world can happen in New York City – and yes, that means good and bad, but I naively choose to focus on the good. As an artist, the city provides endless opportunities to thrive and flourish. Its setting is perfect to be the background of your photograph, the location of your new YA novel, or the muse for your painting. OK, I feel like I’m writing the copyright for the new Art School in Greenwich Village – I’ll stop with the dramatization. BUT, this city makes me feel things – I’d even say it’s my first love, a long distance, dramatic love. Twelve hours, to be exact, is the flying distance between NYC and my home – and as a gal who dreads flying, that means something.
The first time I went, it was for a couple of days with family, so I knew I had to go back to see more. A few months later I found an opportunity on Facebook to go to a student conference in the city. I quickly jumped on the chance to go and nagged my parents, who thankfully agreed to let me go to the big apple again. This time I got to see the city more, I got to talk to people and take in all the energy. I also experienced my first New York winter, and coming from a country that is basically 40°C desert weather, I was freezing and I loved it! I visited New York in the late months of the winter, which is a great time to be there, because it’s not too cold, not too crowded for the holidays and just the right amount of snow for your Instagram shots.
A good place to start your trip would be Rockefeller Center to see the iconic ice-skating rink that’s known from movies and tv shows. Whether you’re a skater or not, you’ll enjoy the beautiful winter holiday atmosphere that stretches all the way to March. Another prime skating location is Bryant Park, just minutes from Times Square, which is crowded full with tourists, but is a must-do if you flew all the way to the city. Speaking of Times Square, if you don’t want to be overwhelmed with hundreds of other tourists, the best time to go is at night, late at night. As an Egyptian night owl, I was there at 12 AM for a late-night dinner at the Times Square diner, an excellent cozy place to have your midnight snack. At 12 AM, Times Square was so empty that it felt like the world’s most popular tourist destination suddenly belonged to me.
New York is a place for everyone and no one. It’s full of all nationalities, and though it’s ethnically diverse, it’s expensive, excluding anyone who isn’t fortunate enough to afford the luxurious city. However, there are many ways that you, as a tourist, can enjoy the city without breaking the bank. Everyone wants to see the best aerial views of the city that’s known for its skyscrapers. But, instead of paying $36 dollars to get up the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center to see the view, you can take a $2.75 tram to Roosevelt Island and see the city move as you hover over the East River and Queensborough Bridge for a tiny fraction of the price.
You can take a $2.75 tram to Roosevelt Island and see the city move as you hover over the East River and Queensborough Bridge for a tiny fraction of the price.
One of New York’s selling points is the combination of culture and a large variety of museums. While you can pay admission fees for each museum you visit, you can also get free admission to a huge range of locations with a free New York Public Library Tourist Card. This card also gives you free admission to the beautiful New York Public Library establishment where you can study with a cup of coffee or rest in meditation before your next excursion in the city.
It’s not clean, it’s not easy, the subway is a ridiculous maze – but it feels so much like home. Landing in New York after my first time in London felt like landing at my second home. The city is full of energy and, as cheesy as it sounds, makes me feel like anything is possible. The people I meet here are pretty great too.
Ahhh, New York. I’m getting so nostalgic and I’m not seeing you anytime soon! *This is an invitation for whoever wants to fly me to NYC literally anytime*
But, yes, I know many people disagree with me on the greatness of the city, I’ve even had friends come to me after coming back from their first time there, feeling betrayed for not enjoying it as much as I seem to (hehe). NYC is not for everyone, and everyone has their favorite city or town that feels like a second home – NYC sure is the one for me!