Emad Lubbad was only three years old when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. His family was forced to flee the Persian Gulf War and ended up as refugees in North Carolina. Through faith and hard work this family says they made the food of their homeland into a successful Durham restaurant, International Delights on Ninth St. Now, Emad is taking over for his Mom and Dad and carrying on the legacy that sustained them.
Emad Lubbad, International Delights owner
Basically we lost everything. My Dad said, ‘God brought us here, let’s roll the dice and see where life takes us.’
Emad Lubbad said he and his parents spend more time at their restaurant International Delights than they do their own home.
“We just fully invested every inch of ourselves into this building, into this business,” Emad said.
International Delights has brought American, Greek and Mediterranean food to Ninth St. in Durham for 25 years, with many regulars counted among their customers. Emad’s family brings their international flavor to North Carolina from Kuwait, their home until they were evacuated during the Persian Gulf War.
“Planes were landing all over the United States, and our plane landed in RDU,” Emad recalled. They arrived without money and without jobs. “Basically we lost everything. My Dad said, God brought us here, let’s roll the dice and see where life takes us.”
For their family, that meant the restaurant business. The idea came from Emad’s mother, Zakie Moukanna. “She’s always been very gifted in the kitchen,” Emad said.
Two years after their move to North Carolina, they were compensated for their house and cars, and put it all into International Delights.
“It was very difficult in the beginning,” said Moukanna, “but we worked so hard, day and night. I believe we worked more than 17 hours a day, me and my husband.”
Moukanna is now invested, in more ways than one, in the place International Delights has become. “We cannot leave this place alone. This is our life, also our home,” she said.
Today, they’ve gained a reputation for flavorful, in house-made food. Their hummus, baba ghannouj and falafel are all made from scratch. One customer said their philly steak and cheese is “second to none.”
Originally, pizza and stromboli were also on the menu at International Delights. But the family split the menu, and Emad’s older brother Ziad Lobbad started Devil’s Pizzeria just down the road.
“People are investing into us, it’s not just buying and purchasing a meal,” Ziad said. “They want us to be successful and they want us to be part of this community. And we feel accepted and that’s the most important thing.”
Moukanna said she is proud of her sons.
With all the hard work, dedication and a dream that started and soon after became a reality, Emad is grateful.
“Every day, I gain more and more appreciation for them, for what they had and what they did. Because I’m living it now,” said Emad. “It feels good as a son to be able to say, I’m carrying on this for my family.”
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