FOR Khaled and Claire El-Jabi, a couple who shared a passion for an eco-friendly lifestyle, the grass in Walmer was greener when they moved to the quiet suburb three years ago from Kuwait’s hustle and bustle.
Khaled is a developer for Fusion Properties and is planning a complex in the Baakens Valley to incorporate various “green building” principles, including green roofs and sustainable building materials.
Claire, who studied at an agricultural college in England, runs the Green Business Guide – an online directory for green products and services in South Africa. The couple recently returned from the Green Building Council convention in Cape Town.
Khaled was a developer and manager in Kuwait but decided it was time for a change.
“I had had enough of Kuwait. I liked the development side more and I was looking for a challenge. So I came to Port Elizabeth to start developing ‘green’ buildings.”
Khaled and Claire practise what they preach and have conservation measures in place at their Church Road home such as heat pumps, LED lights and a water collection system.
Claire was born in Zimbabwe but grew up in England with her British parents who now live in St Francis Bay.
Khaled was born in the small Middle Eastern country of Kuwait, but his family is Syrian. Interestingly one of the seven gates of Damascus, the capital of Syria, bears the family name.
The pair have been married for 12 years and met in Kuwait while Claire was visiting her sister, Allison, who was there travelling.
“We met our husbands on the same night at the same party,” Claire said.
“We got married there but had our wedding celebration down here two days after my sister’s celebration.”
The El-Jabis have two children – Gemma, 7, and Zach, 9, who attend Theodor Herzl Primary School. Both were born in Kuwait.
When the family get to spend some quality time together, they enjoy being outdoors either walking their dogs on the beach or going to the Addo Elephant National Park.
Khaled coaches U11 soccer in his spare time, having played in his home country.
“All we had was a ball and sand then,” he said.
Being from different religious and cultural backgrounds does not faze the El-Jabis.
“We have no clashes, we are just two people. I am Christian, Khaled is Muslim, and the children go to a Jewish school,” Claire said.
“The important thing is that you respect people around you and they respect you. That is how we raise our kids.”