Elie Haddad originates from Beirut, Lebanon, and now lives in Bucharest. He came here for his Romanian wife, but even after their divorce, Bucharest remained his home. He learned Romanian from subtitles, and most of his friends are Romanian. He works as an Art Director, but he would love to fill up his entire time with music. Maybe you know him from Vocea Romaniei.
Interview carried out by Adelita Badulescu as part of the research “New Minorities of Bucharest”
When he took the decision to move to Bucharest, he was working in the Emirates. That’s where he met his wife and they came back together to her home country. “In the Emirates there’s just desert there, so everything is fake; if you spend too much time there, you become fake yourself,’ says Elie. He’s going on seven years of living in Bucharest. The first impression was very familiar. “We landed and as I was getting into the car and driving around town, I felt like it was very similar to Lebanon,” remembers Elie.
The second impression wasn’t so great. The Romanian bureaucracy proved to be a nightmare. During the marriage, everything was fine, but after the divorce, Elie hired a consultant to help him out. The fact that he left Romania a little over three months for another job meant that when he came back, he had to start from the beginning with the documents. Bureaucracy is not something the Lebanese are strangers of. The system is French-inspired there too, but the national post office in Lebanon can take care of all the documents you need, for a fee.
He now lives in the Old Town and works a 10-minutes’ walk away, 30 if he is feeling sluggish:
“I’ll go on Calea Victoriei towards Lipscani, turn right on Lipscani, right again towards the University and then towards Iancului. I love those buildings, they are very picturesque,” says Elie.
He lives in a musicians’ apartment building and he’s happy he can sing even at 2am and no one will mind. Here is where he met one of his best friends, Brad from Louisiana.
He doesn’t know the Lebanese community in Bucharest, he has only interacted with another Lebanese person who works here, and he never gets round to the embassy. He requested the help of the embassy with his residence papers, and they explained that these are the laws; he hasn’t been back.
Romanian food is a bit too greasy for Elie’s taste, but he won’t say no to a portion of mici. In town, he chooses the restaurant in accordance to mood. He likes Mezze, which is Lebanese but only does delivery, Kalif, which is not Lebanese, Beirut, A Thousand and One Nights and Naser, which is Syrian. He cooks Lebanese food home, but with the ingredients that the can find in Mega and Carrefour, the taste is not the same.
He keeps in touch with his family in Lebanon; he is very close to them. They skype or text daily and he visits home once or twice per year. His family has a special way of celebrating Christmas, and he always returns from home with full suitcases. “My mom thinks there’s no food outside of Lebanon; she things I come here and starve,” Elie says.
He has a band that he plays with here in Romania, in clubs or at events; they are working on an album bow. “If I reached that moment when I do only music, I would,” he says. He is thinking about an international career, perhaps the Romanian citizenship would help. For that, he needs to live for five years in the country, without interruption. Due to his three-month job abroad, he took this from the beginning, and needs three years of residence in Bucharest.