Trade between Arabic-speaking countries and businesses in the Manchester area goes back to at least 1798, when there were 4 Arab trading houses in Manchester.
In 1838 the Anglo-Ottoman Treaty was passed, which allowed free trade between the 2 empires. In the years 1820-22, the Ottoman Empire exported goods worth £650,000 to the United Kingdom and by 1836-38, that figure had reached £1,729,000. The number of Arab Trading houses in Manchester grew to 400 in 1890, as the city, being the centre of cotton manufacture, traded with countries all over the world.
During World War I a number of Manchester-born Arabs joined the British Army. Some were employed as translators during the Arab Revolt of 1916-18, which was supported by the British Army. The British wanted to tie up Ottoman troops who otherwise might have attacked the Suez Canal. The fighters’ aim was to secure independence from the ruling Ottoman Turks and create a single unified Arab state stretching from Aleppo in Syria to Aden in Yemen. The Manchester Syrian Relief Organisation was also set up to help fellow Arabs and to support their efforts to break free of the Ottoman Empire.
After World War II a further wave of immigrants from Arabic-speaking countries settled in Manchester, and the most recent census in 2011 reported the number of Arabic-speaking Manchester residents was 10,914. Manchester University estimates that this may be a big under-estimation of the number of people who speak Arabic at home, because the census asked for people’s “main language”, which may well be English, rather than “home language”.
The city still continues to trade with the 22 member states of the Arab League, with Dubai in particular employing Mancunians and the University setting up a study centre in Dubai. La Academia is providing support to people working in Arabic-speaking countries with language lessons – if you’d like to learn Arabic contact us for a free taster lesson!