China / Society

New life in a new land

By Lyu Bin (China Daily) Updated: 2014-07-06 11:01

New life in a new land

Mohanad Ali Moh'd Shalabi puts a billboard of President Xi Jinping's speech delivered at the sixth ministerial meeting of the China-Arab States Cooperation Forum by the gate of his restaurant. [Photo by Lyu Bin / For China Daily]

A Jordanianman finds a new life and love as part of a growing Arab community in Yiwu, Zhejiang province. Photographer Lyu Bin captures the merchant's everyday routine in the city.

In a recent speech in Beijing about China-Arab cooperation, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the story of a Jordanian merchant Mohanad Ali Moh'd Shalabi who runs an Arabian restaurant in Yiwu, Zhejiang province. He has not only seen business flourishing but also love blossoming, Xi said.

In Yiwu, Mohanad was so excited at hearing the news that he immediately shared the president's quote on WeChat, China's most popular instant messaging app, and harvested dozens of "likes" within hours. The 36-year-old Mohanad is quite well-known to both Arabs and Chinese in Yiwu. He first came to China in 2000 and worked in an Arabic restaurant in Guangzhou, Guangdong province. He fell in love with Liu Fang from Anhui province, who soon became his wife. The marriage has rooted him in China, he says.

The couple started their own business in 2002 by taking over the Arabic restaurant of his uncle. They gave it a new name "Ward", which means rose in Arabic and symbolizes happiness and peace. A white flower, the symbol of the restaurant, is hung on the bar counter, and the walls are decorated with the image. The business has grown so well that Mohanad now owns a trading company as well.

Mohanad's family is flourishing too, as he has two sons born in Yiwu, who now attend local primary schools. A hospitable man, Mohanad has made lots of friends among both the Chinese and Arab communities, and he is considering purchasing an apartment to live here permanently.

Mohanad is one of over 4,000 Arab businessmen rooted in Yiwu. Famous for producing small items for daily use, Yiwu has business connections with the whole world, especially with the Arab states. The city sees over 100,000 Arab visitors annually, and there are already Arab communities.

"We feel at home here," says an Arab businessman, who hopes that ties between China and the Arab world can expand for the common good of both sides.

New life in a new land New life in a new land
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