Manaf Baddar had heard all about the city of Memphis before he even arrived.
It was hospitable, cultured, diverse, and it came with its warts. He heard about the great musical history of the city that’s nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River, and he’d heard about the pitfalls – crime, humidity and a thick racial tension even in the 21st century.
So when he moved from his native land of Jordan to Memphis, and specifically the University District, this fall, he had a firm idea of what to expect.
“I did my research before I picked the place, and school, obviously,” Baddar said. “But none of that told me just how welcomed I would be.”
Baddar, 27, came to Memphis for school – he was intrigued by the business program at the University of Memphis, and his family was already familiar with the campus having also sent his older brother, Omar, to the school a few years back.
“The people are just terrific,” said Baddar, who lives off Goodlett Street. “My neighbors are so friendly. My classmates couldn’t be more understanding and helpful. It truly is the best possible situation I could’ve ever picked.”
The language barrier wasn’t particularly cumbersome, Baddar said, since he learned a lot of the English language in Jordan grade school. But whatever he didn’t understand, his neighbors, instructors and classmates went out of their way to try to help him.
His roommate, Jeremy Abbott, said Baddar transitioned to life in Memphis and the University District seamlessly.
“Manaf is a culturally sharp guy, but Memphis can be overwhelming – there’s a lot of things at play in this city and I definitely can see how someone not from around here could be totally off-put,” Abbott said. “Manaf felt embraced and embraced back from the jump. It was great to see.”
On the weekends, he frequents haunts like Ubee’s and C.K’s on South Highland Street. Though much different than what he’s accustomed to in Jordan, he said Memphis and the University District, for all its generosity and hospitality, will be a part of him long after he returns to Jordan.
“You hear about the warts and stuff, when you come over to Memphis from a different place,” Baddar said. “People almost try to warn you or talk you out of going. But for anyone who’s never been here, especially to the district of the University of Memphis, it’s an amazing place and neighborhood to live. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”