Zahi Haddad is Swiss. Zahi Haddad is Lebanese. He grew up in Switzerland. He was born in Lebanon. He is Occidental. He is from the Orient.
From all this richness was born his autobiographical book, where he recalls memories, exile, familial ties, and pays tame to the Lebanese gastronomy that he discovered thanks to his mother, the dear “‘Yaya”.
And it is about this dual identity that we spoke with Haddad.
What do we keep from Lebanon when we move out and build a life somewhere else?
Very frequently, when the question of my origins arises. I am asked if I feel nostalgic. But it goes far beyond that. For me Lebanon is an incredible strength, so communicating and synonymous of fantasies and intense emotions. My book “Au bonheur de Yaya” (the happiness of Yaya) allowed me to find my own story with my roots and talk about what I kept from Lebanon after leaving it at the age of three.
The pride of belonging to a family of pioneers in the Middle East, the romantic love stories, the hardships of life, the solidarity and warmth of the people, the migration but also the food and the traditions became sacred pan of me.
I discovered all that by returning to Lebanon, first during holidays, then for a professional experience and few years ago for a full sabbatical year that I spent exploring and writing my book and blog (atzahi.blogspot.com).
What is a hybrid identity when you are born Lebanese and immigrate? Where is home? What is Lebanon for you in that case?
The first time I thought about my hybrid identity was while preparing my Masters Columbia University in New York and my cousin prevented me as Lebanese and not Swiss! For me the identity is perceived from a cultural point of view. My love artists such as Fairouz and Charbel Rouhana doesn’t come from my Swiss identity for sure. I understood very early that if I want to be good with my hybrid identity 1 have first to take possession of both cultures. After my several visits to Lebanon I have found the inner peace and today I feel at home whether I am walking in the small streets of Hamra or eating a fondue at Gruyeres.
Lebanon is and will always remain for me the history and tradition that I would like to transmit to my daughters today.