ASSEM Allam is the new owner and chairman of Hull City Football Club and managing director of Allam Marine Ltd, the largest independent generator company in Britain. He came to the UK in 1968, escaping an Egyptian dictatorship that tortured him for his opinions.
What’s your first Yorkshire memory?
I came to Hull in 1968 to stay for one month and stayed for 43 years. The people are so nice and genuine. Being a family man, that’s what I liked. They also have a very good sense of humour.
What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?
Anywhere in East Yorkshire is my favourite. I am extremely loyal and proud of it. I have had a good life in this part of the county and went to the university. My children have been educated here and my son Ehab was born here. I am biased towards all of East Yorkshire – it doesn’t matter whether it is the city of Hull, Beverley, the seaside towns or the country villages. I have always been very happy here. The main reason why I bought Hull City Football Club was as a present to the city and the people who live here because of what this area has done for me.
What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?
I enjoy sitting with the family at home and being with our grandchildren, then going out for a meal.
Do you have a favourite walk – or view?
I love the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors, the Lake District too. The scenery is fantastic. We sometimes go over as far as Kirkby Stephen in Cumbria through the hills and dales of the county.
Which Yorkshire sportsman, past or present, would you like to take for lunch?
Of course, I would take Nigel Pearson, our manager out to lunch. I see him every week.
Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, past or present, would you like to take to dinner?
Sir Tom Courtenay. He is an excellent actor and a Hull City fan. When he comes back to Hull we meet. I knew him before my involvement with Hull City, through Omar Sharif. They are close friends and were in Dr Zhivago together. They rented a flat together in London when they were young men. Omar is also a good friend. I would also have Maureen Lipman with me. We have attended receptions and functions in Hull.
If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be?
I like the history in Hull. It is a very historic city going back to the days of King William many hundreds of years ago, but the real hidden gem is I believe the University of Hull. I like the university and what they do. Unfortunately, not many people even in Hull itself know of the university’s achievements. Liquid crystal technology, which has changed the whole world, was invented at the University of Hull. They are also becoming very strong on medical research. The Hull University Business School is also now one of the best in the UK and I am proud to be involved with it. I am in admiration of what they are doing.
What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?
The people and cricket. I associate cricket with Yorkshire. I’ve been watching cricket for 40 years and I still don’t understand the rules.
Do you follow sport in county, and if so, what?
I follow squash. It’s my favourite sport. I played it at a high level in Egypt. My brother, Galal Allam, was a professional squash champion and won the Greek Open. He was a regular name in the British Open at the time when Jonah Barrington and Jahangir Khan were around and is known in the squash playing world. I am trying to encourage the sport in Hull and looking to sponsor a squash academy. And of course I now follow Hull City.
How do you feel about Yorkshire’s cultural life?
I am actually badly claustrophobic so I’ve been deprived, since my younger days, of going to the cinema and theatre with all my friends. Unfortunately, I cannot go into places like art galleries. Because of my love of Hull’s history, I have been in some of the museums but you will find me in and out very quickly.
Do you have a favourite restaurant or pub?
My favourite foods are French followed by Italian and then Lebanese. I go to Medici in North Ferriby and Saffron in Willerby. Medici is Italian. Saffron is Persian and Mediterranean.
Do you have a favourite food shop?
I don’t go shopping, once again because of my claustrophobia.
How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it?
We are more accessible to the rest of the UK today with the M62 motorway. I have been here so long that I was here before the motorway was built and also a long time before work on the Humber Bridge started. That has been better for business. On a personal side, over 30 years ago you couldn’t get food such as aubergines and other imported fruit that was different to the foods everyone had always eaten here. There has definitely been a change in tastes for food, towards foreign foods. The attitude towards travel has changed too with more people flying from Humberside airport for holidays. Around 30 or 40 years ago, they would have gone on holiday to Bridlington or Scarborough. I think all the changes have been for the better.
Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?
There are many. Amy Johnson and William Wilberforce would certainly be two main ones for their achievements but also many businessmen who have done a lot for the community in Hull. Reckitt, De La Pole. I also admire all of those involved today. Businessmen and women in East Yorkshire are very professional.
How has Yorkshire influenced your work?
I don’t think it really influenced my work other than giving me a feeling of being happily settled. Being comfortable probably helped me concentrate on business ideas and development. Had I stayed in Egypt, I would probably have ended up being a politician. Things definitely changed when I came here. My English was not that good and my second language was German.
Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer?
David Whitfield who was number one many years ago with Cara Mia. My daughter and her family live in what was his house, which is called Cara Mia.
If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?
The University of Hull.