Islam’s holy month of Ramadan proved particularly challenging for Safaa Naeman and her family this year, fasting from dawn until sunset and working during the night as they put the finishing touches on a food dream that’s become reality.
But Naeman, who came to Canada just six years ago as a refugee fleeing civil war in Syria, said all the effort will be worth it when Greater Victoria’s first-ever Syrian eatery – Syriana – opens at 1258 Esquimalt Rd. this Sunday (April 23).
Naeman began selling baklava at Moss Street Market before starting a catering business in early 2021 with the help of family members and sponsor Lynda Raino, who encouraged her to sell her cooking as a way of introducing Syrian cuisine to a wider audience.
“It was a surprise for us – just how much people really liked what we made and how many people were ready to support us,” Naeman, who had worked as an accountant for 15 years prior, told the Victoria News in an interview.
She said that within only a month of launching her Syriana Catering page on Facebook, she was struggling to keep up with the number of orders for fresh kebabs, kibbeh, shawarmas, falafels and baklava that were coming in. It was around that time, she said, that she knew she was one step closer to finally opening the brick-and-mortar restaurant she was dreaming of.
Naeman said she is now looking forward to working alongside her husband and two sons to give back to the community that gave her and her family a new home.
“The war destroyed a lot, destroyed a lot of dreams, a lot of homes and relationships. But Syria can regenerate itself and its beauty, and we hope to give people a sense of our country’s beauty when they come to eat here,” she said.
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