Dia Ghazi (Abu Said) is a 60 year-old Palestinian from Syria and he lived in Damascus the first 17 years of his life. He is from a family that gained its wealth in commerce. He then moved to Beirut and completed three years of political science at the Arab University but could not stay in Lebanon or return to Syria for security reasons. He was granted asylum in France, moved to Paris at age 21, and attended an intensive language school in the North of France for 18 months at the expense of his family. He became a French citizen 6 months after his arrival.
He moved to Marseille after visiting friends there. He opened a restaurant for one year to learn French administration, and then a store. Ever since, he has engaged in successful commerce and trade. He experienced immersion in France through language study, commerce and what he describes as his own openness. As I interviewed him in his shop, he spoke Arabic, French and English with various clients and employees, and he is even competent Russian, which he learned in Beirut from a Chechen trader.
He is a believing Muslim but not conservative and has always mixed freely with other religions and nationalities in love and friendship. He has always had approximately equal numbers of French (of various cultural origins) and Arab friends. He lived with a French woman for five years, then married and had three children by a Moroccan-French woman. In recent years, he has divorced and remarried a Lebanese Christian. He visits his family in Syria less often since the war and his mother visits him. He has two brothers in the USA.
He lives in Aix-en-Provence and commutes to work in downtown Marseille. He is not engaged in civil society activities but avidly attends both Arabic and Western music concerts and festivals in Aix, Marseille, Cannes and Paris. In Aix, he continues his Syrian family’s tradition of inviting friends over at the weekends and visiting people. He remembers the enormous gatherings in their farm outside Damascus (his mother told his father she had had enough of the work involved).
From his life in France he has adopted the habit of tending to financial issues immediately and not putting them off. He says of the French state that it is a fair exchange of rights: they will respect yours, and you must respect your obligations (tax payment, etc.).
He is grateful to Syria because at the time of his family’s flight from Palestine the state at the time allowed them to live and work freely. He is also grateful to France for opening its doors, and hopes he contributes in a modest way to the advancement of French business.