Bourj Hammoud – Every Tuesday morning at the Frans van der Lugt Centre in Lebanon, women gather with Chef Dalal, a Syrian refugee from Aleppo famous for her delicious cooking. They have cooking sessions together, but sharing recipes is not the only thing they bond over.
“We love to gather here, it reminds us of Syria,” Fatima* says.
Gathering and spending time together helps them forget the war, the distance, and the nostalgia. “We met new people, we learned new recipes, and sometimes we put our input in famous dishes we used to cook in Aleppo,” Noor* says. “We also fight, more like disagree, over the recipes because in every village we cook it in a different way. At the end, we laugh and enjoy the food, just like family!”
The JRS centre helps refugees come together, make friends, and feel welcomed in the host country. “We felt so lonely when we first arrived to Lebanon” Rania* said. They found shelter at the centre. It is filled with people who’ve experienced the same circumstances and have the same culture. Now they are learning to cope and understand the Lebanese society.
“The Mahashi (a famous dish in Syria) takes time, so we take breaks, drink coffee, and then continue before the men return home hungry. We do the same here, but without worrying about having the food ready for our husbands!” says Fatima.
Chef Dalal has helped refugee women relive their traditions and culture. “From time to time we play music, dance, and sing together classics and oldies despite our horrible voices”, they joke. “We really don’t feel like we are strangers anymore. Food and music truly bring people together, and here at JRS it brought us home.”
See more photos from the cooking session here.
*All names were changed for the privacy and safety of those involved.