HAVANA, CUBA, APRIL 2017. Prior to my arrival in Cuba, I didn’t think I would meet anyone from the Arab world. I spoke little Spanish, and although I knew an Arab population existed, I didn’t know much about the Island nation apart from its turbulent political past. To my surprise, the very first person I met in Havana was an Arab. I met Mr Jorge Luis Coury del Castillo, my taxi driver, on a wet Thursday afternoon on the way from the airport to my casa. Jorge is very proud of his Lebanese heritage, and told me of his Arab roots as soon as he knew I had just flew in from the Middle East. If you didn’t catch the Arab hint, it’s in his name - Jorge Luis “Coury” a.k.a Khouri (خوري). According to Jorge, his paternal grandfather was a Lebanese immigrant who left Lebanon 1930s, and had settled in Cuba in hopes of starting a new life. Although Jorge didn’t speaking a word of Arabic, he clearly inherited our warm hospitality, because he gifted me a rare Che Guevara Cuban peso (pictured here) and invited me to stay with him and his family next time I’m in town.
This story is part of a series of vignettes I put together from the archives of past trips. To read my New York piece, check it out here.