V-Arabic

Virtual Arabic: Digitized Language Realia Resources for Arabic Learners & Teachers

Arabic London: Find out more about London’s Arabic community

Posted by Mourad Diouri on March 2, 2008

From BBC – London  

It is estimated that around half a million Arabs live in the UK. London has attracted the majority who have settled here largely from Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Yemen, Lebanon, the Gulf States and Iraq.

Migration to the UK substantially began in the 1940’s by the Egyptians. It started up again during the 1960’s. A mixture of the professional and unskilled – they came in search of employment, and mostly from Egypt and Morocco.

During the oil-boom days of the 70s, Arabs arrived from the Gulf to set up businesses in the UK. Civil war in Lebanon during that decade produced a further influx of people from the Arab world and by the 1980’s there was an exodus from Iraq of Arabic, Kurdish and Shi’a political refugees and asylum seekers.

Some have had to leave behind highly skilled careers in their own countries. Unable to resume the same path in the UK, they have instead taken advantage of the growth of London’s café society, opening up lucrative coffee shops and patisseries all over London, including suburbs such as Richmond and Harrow.

The hotel and catering industry in general has attracted skilled and unskilled workers, largely from Morocco and Palestine.

The centre of London, including SW1, NW London, W2 and W1 – particularly around Edgware Road – has a thriving Arab community. The Borough of Westminster has the highest density of Arabic speakers in the capital and is one of the most expensive areas to live. Knightsbridge is another example, with its nightclubs, banks, restaurants and the famous department store owned by the Egyptian Al Fayed brothers.

Associations such as the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) are geared towards the intellectual Arabs who find in these a forum for debate on current affairs, as well as a platform for the arts. This particular association was founded in order to give the Arab perspective of Middle East affairs to the British public.

In contrast, some Arabs, Moroccans amongst them, lead a completely different lifestyle, sometimes in the deprived areas of London – a far cry from the opulence of Bond Street, where it is not uncommon to see chic Arabs adorned in the finest jellabas (an Arabic robe), their princely heads swathed in the traditional ghutra (white Arabic head dress), shopping for high-class goods.

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