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

Opening the Garoodi Supermarket in Lombok was the best decision I ever made

foto (c) Robert Oosterbroek

“Opening the Garoodi Supermarket in Lombok was the best decision I ever made”, says Rashid Abdi Ibrahim, smiling from ear to ear. His shop at Damstraat 68 has been selling products you won’t find in the branch of Albert Heijn opposite for almost nine years now. He sells household items such as blankets and curtains, food products like Ethiopian coffee and henna and he arranges money transfers. A golden combination, as Rashid puts it. The shop’s range has changed over the years, as have his customers. “You have to move with the times”, he explains. For example, he now sells a lot of sorghum flour to the growing population of Eritreans and Ethiopians currently living in Utrecht.

Rashid fled the war in Somalia in 1998. He planned to go to England, but on landing at Schiphol, the border authorities discovered that Rashid was travelling on a false passport. They took him to Luttelgeest asylum seekers’ centre in the north-east polder. Two years later, Rashid was delighted to be given a work permit and found a job with PPT in Nieuwegein. A lot of the workforce was from Somalia and Rashid soon settled in.

After fleeing, Rashid continued to write to a Somalian woman he had met before he left. She was studying at an Indian university. The arrival of the internet sped things up, they met and finally married in 2004. “Sheer good luck. I never dreamt that we’d get this far.” The couple now have four children.

Working towards success

Rashid likes talking about his children. He proudly puts a brochure from Cals College on the counter, the secondary school that his eldest son attends. “He’s really clever.” Rashid points to his son’s class in the brochure: pre-university education. “I hope the rest of my kids follow in his footsteps.” Rashid is happy to be living in Utrecht with his family. He explains that although the war in Somalia has ended, the country is still struggling with huge problems. “If you work hard here, you’ve got a good chance of being successful. That’s not the way there.”

Rashid runs his shop for eleven hours a day, six days a week. The word ‘Supermarket’ after ‘Garoodi’ is actually a mistake; he didn’t know what the word supermarket meant and now realises that it should say ‘Shop’. Rashid stays at home on Sundays. He doesn’t really venture out much, apart from back and forth between his house in Nieuwegein and the Garoodi Supermarket in Utrecht; he enjoys having friends round to eat and then going bowling. His neighbour takes his wife and children on outings to the park, or to another Dutch city and Rashid is happy to lend her his car and hear all their stories when he gets home in the evening. “It teaches me about the Netherlands.” If you ask Rashid about his dreams for the future, his biggest hope is that all his children will go to university. Because: “They wouldn’t have had the opportunity in Somalia.”

Name: Rashid Abdi Ibrahim
Place of birth: Somalia, Somalia
Motto: ‘Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today’

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.

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