Many Syrian refugees living in the Maritimes are finding it difficult to access food deemed acceptable under Islamic law. A Saint John restaurateur is trying to tackle that problem with an initiative that helps his community and may, in turn, boost his business.
It’s a pop-up market at the Taste of Egypt restaurant designed to serve the newly landed Syrian refugees who now call Saint John home.
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This market, which opens Sunday from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., specializes in Halal items. The word Halal means permissible in Arabic. Halal food has been found fit to serve, sell and eat by Islamic law.
“No alcohol, no liquor in any products,” Taste of Egypt owner Ehab Radwan explained. “For the meat it’s the way you slaughter the animal to be Halal…It’s the same idea of Kosher for Jewish.”
This is only the second Sunday Radwan has opened the market and on March 27 there was a steady stream of people through the door.
Radwan came to Saint John from Alexandria Egypt six years ago. He can relate to the situation many Syrians are facing in Saint John, trying to adapt to a new culture.
“I felt I have to do something for them so I’m trying to help them settle down here as much as I can.”
The service he is now providing certainly seems to be appreciated by his customers.
Michelle Mullett is a welcome team member to Rosem Abzid and says it’s important to give the Syrian refugees a sense of home.
“This allows them to eat the food that they’re familiar with,” Mullett said.
“They’ve had so much change and it’s difficult when the meal doesn’t feel like home.”
Saint John is now home to about 400 Syrian refugees – that’s several dozen families.
Some locals were also checking things out, which impressed Rosem.
“I said to her, ‘In Canada we’re open to trying different cultures’ menus and this enables us to do it,’ but it also gives her the feeling of home,” Mullet added.
Right now Radwan is bringing in products not readily available here with plans to up his inventory if necessary.
“We keep adding more and yeah we’re able to bring in as much as I can.”