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Edgware Road: The Arabs’ capital in London

As an urban tourist in the heart of London, you would be interested to know that there is a place considered to be the capital of the Arab community in London: Edgware Road.

The origin of Edgware Road goes back to the 1970s, when the Middle Eastern communities started to gather in London.

Its beginning is based on various historical events which led to the formation of its Arab community, such as the gulf war in Iraq, the Lebanese civil war of 1975, the Palestinian uprising of 1987 and many more.

Here you will find a variety of Arabic language speakers from different countries around the Middle East, which is hard to find elsewhere in London.

These dialects can not only be heard on the streets, but also when you go shopping in its busy local Arab off-license supermarkets as well as its renowned Arab restaurants, which offer cuisine from diverse backgrounds around the Middle East.

Arabic culture

Arabs seem to be unable to change their culture of showing and expressing their profound love for women. In the Arab world, Arabs living in the west are stereotyped as being open-minded and civilised, but as a woman living in London, you will uncover the underlying truth when walking down Edgware Road.  

The funniest thing happens when a woman walks by a Shisha cafe: the heads of men snap around and their jaws drop to the floor. And do not be surprised if you walk into a public phone cabin and find yourself surrounded by posters of women in bikinis!

In Arab countries, people may feel ashamed of seeing these posters and may get rid of them, but in London, they do not give any cause for concern to Arab residents.

Unlike any other place in London, you will also find plenty of women covered in the Hijab or burqas, as you would find in any Arab country.
As an Arab living or touring in London, visiting this area makes them feel at home. The busy Shisha cafesenhance the Arab experience altogether, as it is the most common hobby adopted by the youth of this world.

Just like home

The gathering spectacle of different men and women is similar to that of people chatting and smoking throughout the night in the Al Hussain area of Cairo, Al Shaikh Ejleen cafes in Gaza or Abdoun cafes in Amman.

However, the difference is the wider diversity of Arab nationalities present in Edgware Road cafes than in any other country. You can see Palestinians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrians, Egyptians and many others, all gathered in one area, taking you back to the era of the 1001 Arabian Nights.

Recommended places to visit

As you step out of Edgware Road station (Bakerloo line) and start walking to the left, you will find renowned restaurants such as: Al-Arez Lebanese Cuisine, Slemani Iraqi Cuisine, Abu-Zaad Syrian Cuisine, Maroush Lebanese restaurant and many more.

You can also find handmade Labaneh, Baba Ghannouj, olives, Arabic spices, Halal meat and chicken. All of these Arabic specialties come with a special exotic taste that you cannot find anywhere else in London.

It is also one of the few places where you can find London’s tastiest Arab sweets. Some of the best selections of Knafe and Baklawa are available at Green Valley supermarket and Maroush Deli.

Words and images by Lina Musallam

Visit Edgware Road, London, W2.

Nearest tube stations: Edgware Road (Bakerloo, Hammersmih & City, Circle and District lines), Paddington (Bakerloo, Hammersmith & City, Circle and District lines) or Marble Arch (Central line).

More articles by the author:

Women and the spirituality of Islam

Busking in London: The sound entertaining Londoners

An Arabic night to remember

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