In 2017, Hamid Kerim was living in XinJiang, in the Eastern Turkestan region of China, as a successful owner of fifteen jewelry import and export businesses when he learned, through a friend, that he had been blacklisted by the Chinese Government. Afraid of the implications of being blacklisted, Hamid, his wife and their two young children fled the country and moved to Chantilly, VA. With his family settled, he set out to explore his options in this country with very little money and without the ability to speak or understand English.
Hamid spent time exploring Los Angeles and New York City as potential homes. He attempted to purchase a grocery store in Brooklyn but without money or the ability to speak English, the owner deemed him too risky. Hamid returned to Chantilly in September 2018 and saw a life changing advertisement in a newspaper he found in H Mart – a Uyghur restaurant in Cleveland Park was for sale. The fact that Hamid did not actually know how to cook did not deter him. The owner was a very kind man and agreed to sell the restaurant to Hamid. Hamid arranged for the owner to spend three months teaching him how to cook traditional Uyghur dishes. In the scarce hours he was not in the kitchen, he was at home, writing down recipes in his notebook for any Uyghur recipes he could find on Youtube.
Once Hamid was fully responsible for Dolan, he hired a crew of hard working immigrants from around the world and taught them how to cook Uyghur cuisine in only two weeks. In those early days, Hamid would talk to every customer in the restaurant using his staff to interpret. Over time, Hamid learned enough English to be able to hold conversations on his own. During the pandemic, Dolan Uyghur donated food to local hospitals as Hamid worried about the difficulties medical staff were facing taking care of covid patients. He provided food to the US Army to express his gratitude to them for keeping the District safe.
Dolan Uyghur is not simply a business to Hamid. Its existence is a chance to use his voice to change his home nation. In his lifetime he would like to 1) End the Genocide that is happening to the Uyghur people, 2) Assist his Mother and siblings who still live in China, and 3) Advocate for and assist the Uyghur diaspora. Hamid is grateful to be in America and especially for the community in Cleveland Park. He appreciates that elderly members from the Adas Israel Congregation support him and the restaurant and even once protested against the treatment of the Uyghur people in front of the Chinese embassy.
Hamid is full of energy, an energy that comes without stress from his heart. His vision is to make a beautiful life for his family in the United States while creating jobs for people. He opened a second location closer to his home in Chantilly, VA with an eye for opening a third in the area. He appreciates the support from the Cleveland Park community and hopes the existence of Dolan Uyghur brings an awareness to the uniqueness of the Uyghur culture. which can be seen on handmade artifacts scattered throughout the restaurant, and the persecution of the Uyghur people. Next month, Hamid will have his citizenship interview with the United States Government; something he has waited six years for as an asylum seeker. It is truly remarkable how much he has accomplished here in that time.
To learn more about the Uyghurs, please visit: Uyghur Human Rights Project
Dolan Uyghur Restaurant
3518 Connecticut Ave NW
Open Every Day 11:30am – 10pm