WELL-TRAVELLED COUPLE FIND COMFORT IN OLD MONTREAL
Pair grew up in Pakistan, but work transfer brought them from Switzerland to Canada
Fizza Hameed grew up in Lahore, Pakistan, as did her husband Ali Malik, and when she learned he was being transferred to Montreal — they were living in Geneva at the time — she had no idea what lay ahead.
She freely admits she knew “nothing at all about Montreal” and thought it was probably a “typical North American city” — not nearly as interesting as a city in Europe, an area of the world that she loves.
Moving here in 2016 came as a revelation.
Like so many people who come to Montreal from other parts of the world, Hameed loves that the city is “a perfect balance between a European city and a North American one,” with the creature comforts of the New World (such as bigger apartments) and the charm and lifestyle of the Old World.
Hameed, 30, had done a fair amount of travelling before coming here.
As a student, she lived in Wales (she holds a degree in marketing from Cardiff University) and both she and Malik, 31, have vacationed in exotic places, popping back to Pakistan now and again to visit their families.
Malik worked for the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Geneva and when the opportunity for a promotion to its head office arose, the couple jumped at the chance to live in a new country.
After staying for a couple of months in a furnished property, which they found on Airbnb, they moved into their current abode — a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, open-plan apartment on the 12th floor of a rental block in Old Montreal.
Q You said the furnished apartment was just an interim arrangement?
A Yes. We were waiting for our stuff to arrive from Geneva and because we didn’t know the city, we needed time to look around for a place to live.
Q Did it take you very long to find this place?
A About three months. We had certain criteria. Ali wanted to be within walking distance of his office. We wanted somewhere with plenty of light and also a place that had two bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Q Why two bathrooms?
A We often have visits from family and friends and trying to make do with one bathroom isn’t very practical. Our home in Geneva was smaller than this one and at one point, we had six visitors crammed into our apartment, sleeping all over the place and sharing the one and only bathroom. It was crazy!
Q So this apartment solved that problem?
Q Did you have all this furniture in your apartment in Geneva?
A Yes, but our things are from Geneva and also from Pakistan. I nicked a few pieces from my parents’ home.
Q I love your yellow armchairs. Where did they come from?
A We bought them at Ikea in Geneva.
Q And the side table by the window?
A That’s from Pakistan. The top is marble and the legs are made of brass.
Q I like the way you’ve used your dining table as a divider between the living room and the kitchen.
A We were lucky. It fitted the space exactly.
Q Such as?
A This wooden bowl from South Africa and the decorative leather book, which is really a box made to look like a book.
(These ornaments sit on top of a steamer trunk, which serves as a coffee table, in the living room. The trunk is positioned in front of a sectional sofa and two mustard-coloured, retro-style armchairs.)
Q I see you’ve got a lot of paintings. Have you been collecting art for very long ?
A It’s a mutual interest that Ali and I have but we really didn’t start collecting art in a serious way until after we were married.
Q What’s the story behind the street scene in the guest bedroom?
A It’s an oil painting by a Pakistani artist called M. Ilyas. It depicts the bazaar in Lahore, showing how it looked in the past, in my grandparents’ time, when there were donkey carts and so on.
Q What on Earth are those things underneath it? They look suspiciously like tree trunks.
A That’s exactly what they are. I suddenly got a notion that I wanted some tree trunks to use as a decoration and as side tables, so I asked my father if he could find me some. He did and he shipped them out to us in a container!
Q Being on the 12th floor, you’ve got quite the view, but there seems to be a lot of construction going on down below.
A When we first moved here, there was a parking lot next door but now there’s another tall building going up. The floors are gradually rising and eventually we’ll lose our view completely.
Q How long is that going to take?
A Probably another year or so, but at that point we’ll have to move. A lot of people have moved already.
Yellow armchairs bought at Ikea in Geneva help to brighten the comfortable living room in Fizza Hameed and Ali Malik’s open plan apartment in Old Montreal.
Fizza Hameed loves that Montreal is “a perfect balance between a European city and a North American one.”
The dining table separates the open kitchen from the living room area.
A spare bedroom, right, and a second bathroom were a must for when family and friends visit the couple in Montreal.
Souvenirs from abroad adorn the fridge door.
Travelling has inspired some decor.
Decor for the living room.