Malika and Mohammed (Mo) cherish the Arlington home they purchased in 1992 in the Alcova Heights neighborhood; it is filled with beautiful furniture and artifacts, some from Morocco but also from China and other exotic locations. They built a life together in this home -- working hard, running a business, and raising children and grandchildren.
Mo left Morocco in 1958 in search of a better life. He found his way to Arlington, landing a job as manager of a new Holiday Inn that served visitors to the U.S. Patent Office in Crystal City. Mo muses about how much he loved Arlington’s trees, green and wide-open spaces at that time. After his first marriage ended, he wanted to be near his two children in Northern Virginia and lived in a rooming house with other single professional men until he had saved enough money to buy his first apartment in at River Place in Rosslyn.
Malika arrived in Arlington from Morocco in 1978 with her first husband, and within a few years they welcomed a son at Virginia Hospital Center. Malika found Arlington a welcoming community and families eager to employ her natural skills in childcare. Since then, she has worked with several families, taking great pride in the kind and thoughtful children she helps raise.
By the time Malika and Mo met, they were each entrenched in Arlington. They wanted to stay here, to raise their children, work hard, practice their faith and be a part of this community. Both Mo’s and Malika’s sons joined the military when they turned 18. Malika’s son served in Iraq for 18 months; Mo’s son is now an attorney in DC. Mo’s daughter is raising a family in North Carolina. Malika and Mo tell stories of family tragedy and sacrifice but also of resilience and great joy. Mo became a citizen while living in Kansas before he arrived in Arlington and Malika became an American in November of 1991. Malika fondly remembers the special Thanksgiving feast the family celebrated with the week after her naturalization ceremony.
Mo’s hotel management career came to an abrupt end in 2006 when he developed stenosis in his spine and underwent a series of operations that have left him with pain and little mobility. He uses a scooter to get around. Not one to hang around the house, Mo bought a Liberty Tax franchise and now provides tax preparation services to families in South Arlington. More than half of his customers are low-income, and he helps them take advantage of programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit to save their hard-earned dollars. He also uses his business to train students each year for the tax commissioner of Arlington.
Malika and Mo love Arlington because it is convenient, welcoming, green and has been home for 35 years. While Mo dreams of one day going back to Morocco to live out his years, Malika teasingly reminds him that she is not going anywhere, Arlington is home.