Edward Haikal came home one day in 1967 and asked us, his five children, who would like to live in Australia? The answer was ‘I’ unanimously, not just from the children but also from his wife and mother-in law.
Edward who worked at Amlevco an American-Lebanese tourism company, had come across Barry Redmond a Lebanese from the BouRemmane family who had lived in Australia for years. He had come back to Lebanon for a visit and took one of the bus tours with Amlevco. As Barry was waiting to get on the bus, Edward started talking to him, telling him he had five children and he was looking to leave Lebanon because tourism in Lebanon was dying due to the political situation. Barry suggested he should think of coming to Australia as they need children, the country is empty and he’d act as his guarantor.
Marie Haikal, Edward’s wife, worked as a dressmaker in Lebanon to make ends meet and help pay the school fees. She was eager to leave Lebanon too as she had lost a brother and a sister to cancer within a period of three months and she wanted to escape the atmosphere of death and mourning.
Within a few months Edward asked his mother for his inheritance, a piece of land in Iktaneet. He sold it, bought a ticket for himself to Australia. He told his family he would go for a year, prepare a house and find the schools for when his family would join him.
He landed in Sydney the city of Barry Redmond. He stayed there for a week and decided before settling fully in Sydney that he would visit a childhood friend and neighbour from Saida Najib Corban who had migrated to Melbourne.
Once in Melbourne, Najib insisted on his friend staying telling him Melbourne was much better than Sydney. Edward stayed with Najib and his family for a week then through Father Paul Khoury, he moved to a guest house run by a Lebanese lady in Carlton next to the Lebanese church . He got a job in a factory, found the conditions very difficult, having had an office job in Lebanon where he was first accountant for the company. When he said to Najib he wanted to try Sydney again, Najib got him a job at Myers Melbourne. Then unhappy there too, Dad found a clerical job at Gadsden, Pure Pak, a new company that made cardboard packaging for milk.
In the meantine he was sending his family money back to Lebanon and lots of pictures of the houses and animals of Australia. A year later, he managed to save enough money to bring his five children, wife and mother in law to Australia.
The family including Nour Assaf, Marie’s mother, boarded the Angelina Lauro at the beginning of August. The Suez Canal was closed and it took fourty days to get to Australia. The trip was exhausting due to high seas and the ship that had some damage done to it due to the rough weather. Noor ended up with a broken arm and Marie was in the cabin suffering with sea sickness for the whole trip.
The family arrived on the 15th of september 1969. The coldest winter apparently for fourty years. Najib Corban was waiting with Edward to pick the family up. Najib drove everyone to Dandenong, Heatherton rd, where Edward had rented a house with its owner Jaleele living in it. She was a Plaestinian widow who needed a bit of extra cash. However, that arrangement didn’t last long, and the landlord evicted Edward and his family after six weeks.
With the Help of Chris Thomas and Jim Dix, his bosses at work, lending him the deposit, Edward bought a house in 18 Esther St Lower Templestowe and moved there with his family and lived there until 1984.
Edward kept on working at Pure Pak and Marie worked at Le Louvre and Shoppers paradise as a dress maker. On arrival the three oldest children went to work as well and the two younger ones went to school.
Nour, Marie’s Mum found it difficult to settle in Australia. She returned to Lebanon but missed her grand-children. So she returned to Australia but died in a car accident soon after.
Through friends and Marie’s good cooking, Nadeem and Linda Nabbout owners of Abdul restaurant in Malvern, offered to hand over the restaurant as they needed a holiday and were sick of working. Nouhad, Marie’s sister, and her three children had come from Lebanon to escape the war, so Marie and Edward agreed to take over the business. In 1978 Marie and Edward took over Abdul Lebanese Restaurant, and transformed it from a sleepy little business to the most popular Lebanese restaurant in Melbourne at the time. Soon after they moved to Almazett in Caulfield, and Edward introduced a new menu called ‘Insurance against hunger’ where for ten dollars customers had all the mezze plates and a sample of all the main courses. It was all home made food with fresh produce and the Lebanese welcome, a recipe that insured success and launch many other restaurant with a similar format. Marie and Edward with the help of Nouhad, and many Lebanese men and women helped set up a place that promoted not only the food but also the culture and the Lebanese traditions. Almazett Restaurant is still there. Bachar Haikal and his wife Laila are running it.
Edward Haikal went on a holiday to Lebanon in 1984. He said before he left that he had accomplished his mission. The day before he returned to Melbourne, he had a heart attack and died aged 54 yrs.