Born in Iraq, but a Spanish citizen, 62-year-old Fadila Al Ubaidi spent time in Egypt, America and London before settling in the Rebel County and says Cork people are the sweetest and kindest people she has ever met.
Fadila, who moved to Spain at the age of 19 after she finished college in Iraq, worked for almost a decade with the Iraqi Ambassador for Spain in Madrid.
While living in Spain with her then-husband, whom she was married to for 13 years and with whom she has one daughter, Fadila said she very much enjoyed the Spanish culture and lifestyle.
“When you sing the songs of the country and dream in the language of that country, you feel you belong.”
The Iraq and Spanish citizen, who now tutors students across the world online in Arabic, said that this was a very stressful, demanding, intense role.
“It was a very dangerous job, there were bomb threats against the Embassy, three-four times a year and personal threats against me as well. Letters saying they know where I live, they know where my daughter goes to school.”
Fadila worked for the Iraq Embassy in Spain throughout her twenties and said she got used to the mayhem.
“The Ambassador and I would have to go to the panic room and I would be sending messages to the President updating him on the situation, I was used to it.”
Fadila spent nine years working with the Iraq Embassy before moving on to a less stressful managerial role with a food company.
Then Fadila moved to Egypt when she found herself getting ostracised from Spanish society for following her religion.
“I began studying the Islam religion and I fell in love with my religion again. I rediscovered it in Spain.”
Fadila started to wear a head-scarf or Hijab in Spain and found herself losing friends and even her job for her decision.
“There were no mobile phones at that time, but I would check my house phone just to see if it was working because it just stopped ringing. I was the same person, the same Fadila inside.”
The proud Muslim then moved to Egypt with her daughter where wearing the hijab was more accepted.
Discussing her reasons for deciding to embrace the headscarf, Fadila said it was about respecting herself as a woman.
“You think, in modern life, that the women of the West are free, but in my opinion, being free is not doing like the man but respecting yourself and knowing how valuable you are in your own home.”
Fadila said she has no regrets about deciding to wear a hijab.
When her daughter moved to Ireland in 2007 to work with a multinational company Fadila moved to America where she lived for a few years before then coming to Cork to be close to her family.
“I live with my daughter in Carrigaline with my son in law and their two children. Fadila said she made the decision to move to Cork to help her daughter with her second child when he was born in 2010.
The hardworking woman is now a firmly integrated pillar of the local society, helping out with the local Tidy Towns organisation and Age Action, helping older people to use technology.
“I work very hard with the Tidy Towns, volunteering. I love it.”
Fadila also used to help out at the Carrigaline Football Club, feeding families at the weekend after matches.
However, when she was studying Travel and Business at St John’s College she found she did not have the time to do everything and gave up volunteering with the football club.
Fadila and her family are currently doing Ramadan where they abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to sunset.
“Ramadan is very busy, between praying and worshipping and preparing food to eat, it is very busy.”
As well as fasting, Fadila is still tutoring students in California and London and the family are putting in a patio in the back yard at the moment.
“It is a huge project,” Fadila said, “ but we are all pitching in.”
Chatting about her life in Cork, Fadila said that she likes that Cork is quiet and tranquil. “It is not like Dublin, I wouldn’t be able for Dublin.
“I used to be a city girl in Iraq, before the war we had a very modern city, but I like it here now.”
Fadila said she enjoys walking in the local area which is very scenic. “I often walk from Carrigaline to Crosshaven, it is a very beautiful walk.”:
Discussing what is keeping her here in Cork, Fadila has a long list of reasons.
“My heart, my family, a job, my volunteer work, all the shades of green. Home is faraway not in distance but in time, home is in many places I lived, but now home is where my heart is with my family here in Cork.”