Utrecht is home to many nationalities. Every week, DUIC features an Utrechter with a different background. The concept was inspired by ‘180 amsterdammers’.

– article by Annabel van Heesbeen

Kanaalstraat is like being back in Yemen

“I’m happy to say that for the last four months, I’ve been living in a house in Utrecht, the Dutch city where I feel most at home. Walking along Kanaalstraat and hearing the call to prayer from the mosque is like being back in Yemen. And then I feel guilty”, says Faris. “Guilty that I’m safe here on the street, while such a massive humanitarian disaster is unfolding in Yemen. But nobody seems to talk about it.”

Faris arrived in the Netherlands five years ago. He initially stayed in an asylum seekers’ centre in Friesland, where he met his Dutch wife at language classes. It was love at first sight. They are now married and have moved to Utrecht. “The people in Friesland are really friendly and kind. I never felt discriminated against. But Utrecht is more multicultural and I feel less like a foreigner.” Faris particularly likes Oog in Al, the district where he lives. He describes it as quiet, clean and central. He considers the Dafne Schippers bridge across the Amsterdam-Rijn canal to be the most beautiful place, but being new to Utrecht, he admits that he still has a lot of other favourite spots to discover.

No pity

Faris had his own logistics business in Yemen. In Utrecht, he works as a project assistant at the New Dutch Connections foundations, helping people who are new to the Netherlands to build a future. He gives courses in soft skills, for example: how to get on with the Dutch. Faris teaches people that it is polite rather than rude to look someone in the eye when you’re talking to them. And that shaking hands is a normal Dutch custom. Things like this may seem obvious to us, but they are aspects of Dutch culture that Faris himself had to learn.

To Faris, integration means adjusting, not abandoning your own culture. He chairs a group of Yemenites living in the Netherlands, trying to encourage them look for a job as soon as possible. Faris wants the Yemenites to set an example of successful integration. To him, this is sorely needed as not everyone in the Netherlands has a positive attitude to refugees. Without reason, he says. “You flee a country because life is no longer safe there. If war were to break out in the Netherlands, you would flee too.” The main thing is to be positive about your future in a new country.

Faris wants to start a university programme in logistics very soon. With the right qualifications, he hopes to start his own business again here in the Netherlands. Preferably a business that organises logistics between Europe and the Middle East. He is full of ideas to help Yemen get back on its feet once peace has been restored to the country. “I hate what’s happening there; Yemen is such a beautiful country. I hope that life will improve for future generations in Yemen, and that we can play a part in the change.”

Name: Faris Alqubati
Place of birth: Sanaa, Yemen
Motto: ‘Build bridges to make the unknown known’

Allemaal Utrechters is a series of interviews with people who moved to Utrecht from another country. We ask them about their background and their impression of Utrecht, revealing the true diversity of our city. The ‘Allemaal Utrechters’ series is a collaboration between DUIC and Culturele Zondagen, and has been made possible with help from Stichting Dialoog and the Municipality of Utrecht. We hope to showcase every nationality in Utrecht.

Click here to view the other articles.