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

It’s a privilege to combine two cultures into your life”

(c) Robert Jan Oosterbroek

 

“I see being able to combine two different cultures into my life as a privilege. At SIS Bakery, we serve traditional Dutch apple pie and Arabic patisserie. My character reflects both the directness of the Dutch and the customs of Morocco. In Moroccan culture (certainly in family circles), you behave differently towards people who are older than you.” Imane is sitting at a table at SIS Bakery on Willem van Noortstraat, where her sister Hannan brings her a cup of coffee. Imane runs the bakery with her four sisters, as well as working for Utrecht council as a project assistant. To her mind, SIS Bakery isn’t a typical Moroccan bakery; they sell spelt bread, for example, rather than Moroccan bread. But the shop is still bursting with the Moroccan nick-nacks they used to decorate when they started out five years ago, including several Arabic teapots.

Imane’s father worked in a carpet factory in Amersfoort for several years before his family joined him in the Netherlands. “He had to make sure that everything was in place first”, explains Imane. “I came in 1986 with my mother, two brothers and three sisters. My oldest sister stayed with my grandparents in Morocco because she wanted to finish school there.” The family was reunited every two or three years on summer holiday in Morocco. Imane has fond memories of the boat crossing to Nador. They were allowed to wear their best clothes and were excited about nearly being home. They were loaded with presents for the family; Dutch clothes were particularly popular with her Moroccan cousins.

Focus on the good things
The family home in Morocco still feels like home when she returns, but so does Utrecht. To Imane, the city is colourful and inspiring thanks to its rich history. However, although Utrecht feels like home, Imane also feels like an outsider. The bitter opinions expressed about migrants, specifically Moroccan migrants, still sting. Imane hears them every day at work, in the council offices or in the media. “Of course it hurts. It’s me they’re talking about, my children and my family. But the people who say these things don’t understand our culture. I’ve learned to switch off my emotions before I react in these situations. You’re always hearing stuff like that. The more attention you pay, the bigger it becomes. I prefer to focus on the good things.”

For example: Imane loves living in Tuinwijk, the district she grew up in when she first came to the Netherlands. She has Grift park in her back garden and SIS Bakery in her front garden. Whenever she fancies a coffee, or her sister’s Rocky Road with marshmallows and cranberries (‘unique in the Netherlands’), she just wanders down to the bakery. “My entire life is within arm’s reach, with the shop as my inner sanctum.” But her family is her real pride and joy. “If you can all live together in harmony, you’ve been given the best gift life could give you.”

 

Passport
Name: Imane Alhaddadi
Country: Morocco
Place of birth: Nador
Date of birth: 15 May 1986
Motto: “It’s not happy people who are thankful, its thankful people who are happy”


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.