I heart Beirut

by Randa El-Tahawy
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London has been bursting with Middle Eastern hangouts for people from all kinds of culture. 

The famous Edgware road is home to many Shisha coffee shops and Arabic restaurants.  It seems that the Lebanese culture is quite popular around town with many shops offering the many mezza and traditional dishes.

The real growth of the Lebanese community in London started in 1975, with the start of civil war in Lebanon. It also grew more in 1982 with the Israeli invasion.

With the recent unstable political situation surrounding the country, the recent situation in Europe about Islam and Arabic cultures what does it feel to be a Lebanese in London?

Roots talked to Nermine El-Omari, a 22 years old Lebanese girl who has been living in London since she was 13.

Nermine is a doll, with her wide Middle Eastern brown eyes and long lashes she greets customers from the counter and makes conversation with them. Her older brothers own a Shisha shop in Kenton where she regularly goes to help them.

Home and back home

When talking to her, no one could ever tell she is not British if it wasn’t for her Middle Eastern features. “London still counts for me as home,” she says.

Nermine was born in Beirut and moved to London with her family in 1990. Up until she was 13 she had never visited Lebanon.

“My first time back home in Beirut was amazing, I felt I belonged to the country and could relate to everything, it had so much warmth,” she says nostalgically.

She goes to Beirut every summer and has recently decided she wanted to move to Lebanon. “There is not much of a life here, people are not friendly and most of all there is not much happiness.”

Keeping Lebanese roots

Having lived in the UK for almost 10 years now, Nermine doesn’t feel there are any challenges of being a Lebanese in London.

She says she never forgets here culture because this is how she was raised. “My parents always made sure we knew our roots, until now, they keep telling us about our cultural background”.

But this isn’t the case for everyone, Nermine tells Roots the story of the tendency of other Lebanese living in the UK to change and forget about their background. “They change, they don’t have morals anymore and live their life as if they were British”, she adds, “ I follow my culture in every aspect of my life.”

Nermine is a qualified beautician and hopes to open her Salon in Beirut

Her unstable home country

Depsite knowing the fact that life in Lebanon is more difficult than in the UK because of the unstable political situation that many times led to wars paralyzing the country, she is willing to take the risk to discover her country.

“You can never feel stable when you go to Lebanon, we are always afraid that something will be happening,” she says. She adds that with her plans in mind most of her family keeps telling her not to go back to Lebanon.

But Nermine is determined she say: “I left Lebanon when I was 3 years old, I want to go back and know how life is and if it is that bad I want to see for myself.”