Marseille has been voted the European Capital of Culture for 2013. The city is one of the oldest settlements in France, positioned on the Mediterranean waterfront two hours south of us. In its bid, Marseille themed its city as les ateliers de la mediterrannee, the melting pot of the Med. Among its planned celebrations will be the centenary of the birth of Albert Camus, a philosopher who saw Marseilles as the 'gateway to the east'. In these times of multiculturalism and terrorist threats from the east, the judges chose a place which can host the major cultural questions Europe will be called on to address in the future. Immigration, clashes of cultures and religions, gender relations are all top political priorities. Makes me think of our home city of Birmingham in the UK! A walk down Soho Road in Handsworth gives you a flavour of the West Indies, a walk down Ladypool Road with all its balti restaurants and you could be forgiven for thinking you were in Pakistan, or Belgrave Road with its magnificent central Mosque, not to mention the Sikhs and Hindus....the list goes on. And are we better for all this multiculturalism in our cities? In theory it should help to bring all the different faiths of the world together. But in practice? The key word is integration. We must learn to separate culture from religion. Pray at home in private, but on the streets of your chosen city live as the locals do. Then, whether we live in Marseille or Birmingham, we can all live happily together. Hallelujah.
P.S. Don't miss tomorrow's final episode of 'How to buy a dream home in France with little money'.