When the ex-Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, visited Abu Dhabi and Dubai in 2013, he famously said: "I am amazed to see how many UAE and GCC nationals have made London their home, so I can safely call myself the mayor of the eighth emirate!"
Arabs have been visiting Britain for centuries, but the first significant Arab community in the UK was established when Yemeni seamen settled in London's docklands during the 1890’s.
At present, there are more than 300,000 Arabs residing in London, with more than half a million spread across Great Britain.
These numbers increase during the summer months by up to a million and a half visitors from the Middle East, mainly from the Gulf.
But what is it that draws such a large Middle Eastern crowd to London?
1. London's cosmopolitan nature
London is a multicultural, diverse, and tolerant city. It encompasses more than 200 nationalities and 300 languages. It's a city that proudly celebrates its diversity and inclusiveness by welcoming people from all walks of life. Arabs feel especially welcomed in the capital.
Ah, and London has just elected its first ever Muslim major, Sadiq Khan!
2. Edgware Road
Edgware Road is London’s so-called ‘Little Arabia’. The southern part of the road, located in a very central area of the city, is noted for its distinct Middle Eastern flavor, many Lebanese restaurants, shisha cafes and Arabic-themed nightclubs.
The Odeon cinema often shows films in Arabic too. The area is known for its diverse communities from across the Middle East and North Africa. Edgware Road also has several Maroush restaurants, and many 24-hour kebab and shawarma establishments.
Shopping centers cater well to Arabs. You can find lots of halal restaurants and many public places will have prayer rooms. Department stores in and around central London are flooded with Gulf visitors - most prominently, Qatari-owned 'Harrods' sees a regular influx of tourists during the peak months.
London has a lot of wealth, so naturally, it attracts some of the richest people from around the Gulf. Car owners from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Kuwait will happily pay a small fortune - in excess of £20,000 (AED100,000) to ship their cars over to Europe.
The London supercar season usually kicks off in July. Motorheads meet up in the high-end neighborhoods of London, such as Chelsea, South Kensington, and Mayfair, to show off their impressive Ferraris and golden Lamborghinis, race, and occasionally even have their vehicles towed away.
5. Lastly, escape!
As we all know, the summer months in the Middle East can be extremely unpleasant, with temperatures reaching as high as 50°C! No wonder people can't wait to escape the heat. London's cooler atmosphere, pedestrianized roads, and endless greenery prove to be popular with Arabs.