As the number of residents in Luxembourg hailing from Arab countries such as Iraq, Syria, Tunisia or Morocco increases, so does the demand for shops selling produce from those regions too.
Luxembourg has recently seen an increase in shops catering to Arabic tastes, as well as restaurants, shisha cafés, and even small markets selling traditional Arabic consumer goods.
I paid a visit to one such shop, “Babylon Mini Market” on route d’Esch in Luxembourg City, to find out from the owner, Wisam, where the idea of a mini market came from.
The market first opened in September 2016 and came about as many people hailing from Arab countries, sought produce from their homelands, “this is why I decided to open it”, explained Wisam.
While the shop has proved very popular with refugees, he was pleasantly surprised that Luxembourgers and other nationalities also showed great interest in the shop and its produce. But what did the locals think of an Arab-produce shop in the area?
While the vast majority of people embraced the idea of Babylon Mini Market, there were a few that rejected the idea of an Arab market in the city.
However Wisam must be doing something right as the shop has proved a success to such an extent, that another branch has now opened in Ettelbrück on Avenue Kennedy under the same name.
Such shops for refugees who escaped war-torn countries like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan or the like, provide a comfort and a connection with their homelands.
Small shops like the mini market take you on an Arabic journey, while still not forgetting you are in Luxembourg. Anecdotally, Babylon’s owner stated that the irony was not lost on him when Luxembourgers came into his shop looking through the shelves as though they were tourists and foreigners in another land.
A reversal of the fact that outside the shop, Wisam is a foreigner in Luxembourg.
When asked about how Luxembourg residents deal with him and how he sees the relationship between them and nationals from Arab countries, Wisam replied that “relations between all humans here is so normal”.
He continued by saying, “there is good and bad, like any country, but as I deal with different people all day long I see the basic criteria here is respect. No interference in the affairs of others, good treatment, and respecting the law, all go to helping you build good relations with Luxembourg residents.”
“Alssalam ealaykum _ marhabaa”, (hello and welcome) is something Wisam says to all customers as they enter his shop no matter where they are from. This often breaks the ice and some Luxembourgers and other nationalities attempt to reply and try saying and learning a few Arabic words, all going some way to help create a friendly welcoming atmosphere.
Wisam is extremely happy with his work at Babylon Mini Market which has quite literally opened the door for him to strike up friendships with different people and help him feel at home in Luxembourg.
ind Alharby is one of two Iraqi journalists working with Iraqi photographer Ali Sahib to share their experiences and those of people like them who are seeking asylum in Luxembourg.