Palestinian-born real estate developer Mohamed Hadid does not conceal his deep affection to his original roots and his love for the Middle East despite spending most of his life in the United States, where he became a prominent property developer in Los Angeles.
Born in Nazareth in 1948, following the Nakba Hadid left Palestine for Syria with his father, who worked for the United States Information Agency and Voice of America in Damascus.
The family then moved to Tunisia and Greece before moving to Washington, where his father continued to work as a writer at VOA’s headquarters.
Hadid attended both North Carolina State University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
He eventually moved to Los Angeles and created a real estate development company.
Hadid built several hotels and mansions in Los Angeles and other U.S. cities.
Apart from the United States, Hadid and his company were involved in several property projects in Qatar, Egypt and other countries.
The real estate developer also proudly points out that his mother’s family is related to Zahir al-Umar, the prince of Nazareth and the sheikh of Galilee in the 18th century.
He recalled his family departure from Palestine and the journey which took them to several countries before settling in America.
“When I was 4 years old and after our exodus from Palestine, my family went to Syria as refugees. My father Anwar started working with Voice of America and came to Lebanon for two years. We left to Tunisia afterward. I came back to Lebanon in 1981 for less than two days and never came back. But now I back in Lebanon after getting an invitation from close Lebanese friends,” Hadid told The Daily Star during an interview at the Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel in Beirut.
Hadid talks passionately about his birthplace Nazareth, noting that his daughters Gigi and Bella, who are famous supermodels, are very involved with the Palestinian and Arab cause.
“I decided to visit Lebanon again after [my friends] insisted that I visit this country. I was worried at the beginning that there may be a bit of difficulties here. The minute I came out of the aircraft and smelled the air, I felt like home,” he added.
Hadid expressed his pleasure and happiness at spending quality – albeit short – time in Lebanon.
“I have been around the world many times but I can tell you that Lebanon is one of the most amazing places I have ever visited. The people are energetic, sincere and caring,” he said.
One of the things which impressed Hadid most in his visit was diverse culture and the mixture of modern and old buildings in Beirut.
But Hadid admits that he did not originally come to Lebanon to make any investments in property or make financial gains, although he sees great investment opportunities in the property markets here.
“But now that I have seen the country, I will definitely think about investing or encourage other people to invest here,” he said.
Hadid believes that Lebanon will greatly benefit from the reconstruction of Syria once a lasting peace is established in the country.
“Beirut has always been the center of fashion and fun. So everybody will come here to this vibrant city. Los Angeles has been a tremendous place for me but I think Beirut has a lot to offer,” he said.
Hadid said that during his short visit to Lebanon, he was only able to study the real estate market briefly.
Hadid stressed that if he decided to visit Lebanon in the future, he would consider renovating some of the old buildings in Beirut in order to restore them to their original shape.
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“One of the things I would do here in the future is to preserve and keep the old buildings as they are. If the opportunity comes I would also consider launching new projects in Lebanon,” he said.
Hadid also believes one of the strongest elements which Lebanon enjoys is security stability, which should lure investors and tourists.
“I feel here safer than downtown Los Angeles and many cities I’ve visited before. This is the time for people to invest, and especially in property,” he said.
By Osama Habib
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