Locals aim to share their Lebanese roots, culture

George Azzam, president of House of Lebanon, with his wife Suzy.
(Copyright of George Azzam)

Rancho Santa Fe residents Ghada Kadri and George Azzam are passionate about sharing their love of their Lebanese heritage through their involvement with the House of Lebanon San Diego. With the all-volunteer organization, they are working to represent and preserve Lebanese culture, customs, traditions and language for generations to come.

The House of Lebanon is a patriotic and cultural group, non-political and non-religious. They are looking to grow their membership in San Diego, raise awareness about the great community they have built and work toward having their own space among the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages in Balboa Park.

Azzam has been involved with the House of Lebanon off and on for 12 years and is now serving as the board president. He lived in Lebanon until he was 24, coming to America for his education. He lived in Chicago for several years and came to San Diego seeking warmth and sunshine, starting his own business. He still has lots of family and friends in Lebanon and enjoys meeting members of the large Lebanese community now living in California. A fun fact he likes to share: Did you know that the founders of the well-respected Daou Vineyards in Paso Robles are Lebanese?

Mike and Ghadra Kadri
(Copyright Ghadra Kadri)

Kadri was born in Lebanon and left when she was three years old. While she was raised in Canada has lived in San Diego a long time, and she said Lebanon is in her heart. She was 18 when she first went back to her home country and when she got in touch with her roots she felt that strong connection.

“Lebanon is a magical place, it makes your heart smile,” she said. “We are known for our hospitality and generosity and we want to bring our deep love for Lebanon and share it with all at Balboa Park.”

Kadri first got involved with House of Lebanon a few years ago and in February was appointed to the board. The group is always looking for new members to add to their diverse community— one of their board members found out he was Lebanese through 23andMe genetic testing and he is dedicated to learning more about his heritage: “It’s an amazing thing,” Kadri said.

The House of Lebanon San Diego is one of the newer members of the House of Pacific Relations. Within 34 historic cottages at Balboa Park, a set of countries get a chance to highlight their heritage and foster understanding with weekend open houses. Countries without a cottage, like Lebanon, can host in the shared space in the Hall of Nations on a rotating basis—House of Lebanon will next host on Sunday, March 18 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Azzam, Kadri and the rest of the group’s major goal is to have a cottage all their own where the Lebanese community can display, promote and share their history and culture with the community.

It is their biggest mission and it might be a lengthy process, but they are determined. Nine new cottages were added in 2021.

“Our goal also is to get the youth involved for they are the future,” said Kadri Her son Zakariah, a Torrey Pines High School sophomore, started volunteering at the host events. Kadri is also a grandmother of two: “I hope one day to have them all standing next to me while we cut the ribbon on a physical cottage for Lebanon.”

House of Lebanon will be participating in the big Ethnic Food Festival at Balboa Park on May 7. Countries in the House of Pacific Relations will join up for an event with food and entertainment. Expect House of Lebanon to bring the traditional “mezze” such as tabbouleh, spinach pies, kibbeh, sfouf (turmeric cake) and namoura (semolina and almond cake).

“The Lebanese always like to have fun,” promised Kadri.

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