Syrian refugee brings the taste of home to Gaza

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) – Anas Qaterji fled Syria when civil warfare broke out in 2011 and snuck into Gaza, a land with its personal historical past of warfare and poverty, the place he has gained a big following amongst foodies loopy for the spicy cooking he introduced from residence.

Qaterji, 36, crossed into Gaza from Egypt via one of many many tunnels used to smuggle items into the enclave, which is residence to 2.3 million Palestinians, about half of whom dwell in poverty.

Life within the first few years was robust.

“I used to be sleeping on the street in 2014, I used to be homeless till a household took me in. I labored and I did not succeed, so I labored more durable to get to the place I’m now,” Qaterji informed Reuters because the United Nations marks world refugee day.

The United Nations say round 5.6 tens of millions of Syrians have fled the civil warfare because it started in 2011. Most discovered refuge in neighbouring international locations, like Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt.

Solely 30 or so Syrians fled to Gaza, itself a spot the place most individuals are refugees, or descendants of refugees, from the 1948 warfare of Israel’s basis, which Palestinians nonetheless regard as a disaster.

“It’s possible you’ll say insanity, journey or playing, however I got here right here to seek for life amid loss of life,” Qaterji mentioned.

Ultimately he acquired a job in a kitchen and started working his manner up within the native meals scene, gaining acclaim for 2 specialities specifically: a Syrian model of shawarma served on a mattress of rice and sprinkled with toasted nuts, and his well-known garlic cream.

After working as lead chef at a lot of eating places, he determined to open his personal place in 2020, naming it “Al-Halabi” in reference to his residence metropolis of Aleppo which has suffered main destruction within the warfare.

Posters of Aleppo from earlier than the battle cowl the partitions of Qatarji’s restaurant within the coronary heart of Gaza Metropolis. He hopes to return for a go to at some point when it’s protected to return, and to introduce his Gazan spouse to his household.

Throughout his absence the warfare has taken its toll.

“My aunt died, so did my uncle, kinfolk and other people expensive to me. I needed I might have been there for even just a few moments to pay my respect,” he mentioned.

However having entered Gaza illegally Qaterji has no legitimate journey doc, that means he’s unable to depart the enclave dominated by Islamist militant group Hamas. Israel and Egypt keep tight safety restrictions alongside the border.

“I am unable to transfer from right here. I miss my mom, I yearn to kiss her arms and toes, I yearn to take her in my arms and introduce her to my spouse, the Palestinian lady who stood by me and supported me,” he mentioned.

“On the world day of refugees I ask all refugees around the globe: Be a phenomenal ambassador of your nation … construct your private home wherever you might be,” mentioned Qaterji.

(Writing by Nidal Almughrabi; Modifying by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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