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You are in: London > Faith > Communities > A - G > Arabic London

Arab women in London

Arabic London

Where is the heart of London's Arabic community? Find out more about about the historical contribution Arabs have made to the capital and the part they're playing now.

It is estimated that more than half a million Arabs live in the UK, with London attracting the majority who have settled here largely from Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Yemen, Lebanon, the Gulf States and Iraq.

Britain and the Arab world have been conducting business since medieval times. From the mid-19th century, Yemeni sailors lived around the docks and Iraqis began settling in London in the 1930s.

Moroccan mosaic floor

A Moroccan mosaic floor

Migration to the UK substantially began in the 1940s by the Egyptians. It started up again during the 1960s. A mixture of the professional and unskilled - they came in search of employment, and mostly from Egypt and Morocco.

During the 1950s and 1960s, general Arab migration to Britain increased as the Arab world struggled to emerge from the era of colonialism.

Arabs in London

Arabs began emigrating to the UK in the 1940s
Most arrived in search of employment
Many have established careers in the hotel and catering industry
The centre of London has a thriving Arab community, particularly around Edgware Road

More Arabs arrived from the Gulf during the oil-boom days of the 70s to set up businesses in the UK. Civil war in Lebanon during that decade produced a further influx of people from the Arab world and by the 1980s there was an exodus from Iraq of Arabic, Kurdish and Shi’a political refugees and asylum seekers.

Some have had to leave behind highly skilled careers in their own countries. Unable to resume the same path in the UK, they have instead taken advantage of the growth of London’s café society, opening up lucrative coffee shops and patisseries all over London, including suburbs such as Richmond and Harrow.

The hotel and catering industry in general has attracted skilled and unskilled workers, largely from Morocco and Palestine.

Mohammed Al Fayed

Mohammed Al Fayed, owner of Harrods.

The centre of London, including SW1, NW London, W2 and W1 - particularly around Edgware Road - has a thriving Arab community. The Borough of Westminster has the highest density of Arabic speakers in the capital and is one of the most expensive areas to live. Knightsbridge is another example, with its nightclubs, banks, restaurants and the famous department store owned by the Egyptian Al Fayed brothers.

Associations such as the Council for the Advancement of Arab-British Understanding (CAABU) are geared towards the intellectual Arabs who find in these a forum for debate on current affairs, as well as a platform for the arts. This particular association was founded in order to give the Arab perspective of Middle East affairs to the British public.

Nigel Chapman, Director, BBC World Service

Director of BBC World Service announces BBC Arabic

More recently London has become a centre for communications with the Arab world.  The news channel Al Jazeera broadcasts in English from London and in 2008 the BBC launched BBC Arabic, a news channel broadcasting in Arabic from Broadcasting House in Central London.

In contrast, some Arabs, Moroccans amongst them, lead a completely different lifestyle, sometimes in the deprived areas of London – a far cry from the opulence of Bond Street, where it is not uncommon to see chic Arabs adorned in the finest jellabas (an Arabic robe), their princely heads swathed in the traditional ghutra (white Arabic head dress), shopping for high-class goods.

last updated: 30/04/2008 at 13:05
created: 27/05/2005

You are in: London > Faith > Communities > A - G > Arabic London

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