Where are you from?

I was born in Morocco, then I went to France, then Germany then to Russia former Soviet Union for 7 years. I got my degrees there and those years gave me the opportunity and the chance to travel all over central Asia – and Europe- and that’s where I learned cooking.

What is your occupation?

Owner and Chef of MoMo’s Kebab

What brought you to Cleveland?

I came to Cleveland from Washington DC to open a small business. I came in Sept. 1990 to visit my friends then I went to school to learn English in DC and decided to stay. I’m a former teacher I use to teach foreign languages in Europe and when I first came to the states. I worked in restaurants part time. But my dream was also to open a business but that was too hard in DC. I came to Cleveland because I came to a wedding here and I liked the weather so I said this would be nice.

What were your first thoughts on coming to the United States?

My first thoughts, I was not even thinking about coming here. I wanted to finish my PHD in France but my friends convinced me and I said America is too far and it’s too expensive. They told me I didn’t need a hotel I could stay with them and that America was nice. It wasn’t hard to get here academically. So I came I thought it was interesting, I learned English and I learned the society. That made me stay. Every year there is change there is something new. Going back to Morocco would be hard to find a job.

It was my dream to be successful in life. The 80’s in Morocco were very tough for my generation. I moved to Europe to finish my school and I got 2 degrees in linguistics and education.

What challenges did you face as an immigrant transitioning here?

My challenge in DC was English my challenge in Cleveland was the economy – in 2008 it was bad. Financially it was hard so it made me feel like I made the wrong move. Then things started changing and then I started looking for a place to open my business. That was in 2015 but I started working on it in 2014. I also bought a house so it took some time. It was a good and bad experience – I reached my goal but it was very hard to deal with the bureaucrats and banks. It took me 6 months to find a loan. They looked at me like I was different, now I’m looking for something bigger.

What customs or traditions do you continue to practice?

Except holidays nothing big.

What do you love about Cleveland?

People in Cleveland are friendly. I love the weather, I don’t care about winter but this weather here where can you find it. Winter is only here for 3 or 4 months.

Why is it important to welcome immigrants and refugees?

If they are good people it’s nice to get their work ethic and their talent to the contribute to the economy and community in Cleveland. It’s universal. Everyone practices his or her customs at home but in the streets we are all the same. It’s the history of the United States, it’s the only place you can see so many faces and looks. You can eat different foods. In Morocco we don’t have Japanese or Chinese cuisines. Only here in America can you have all that.

Why is it important to travel abroad?

To get more experience and learn about people