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Zainab Aldos greets guests at the door with a warm, “You are welcome”.
In the living room, a spread of food is set out on the coffee table.
Baklava, shell-shaped cookies filled with dates, creamy yogurt, tabouli, hummus and stuffed grape leaves take up every bit of surface.
It’s just a sampling of the cooking skill she’s putting to use in her new business.
But that's not all.
Aldos’ husband, Medyan, brings in a tray of Syrian coffee. Served in demi-tasses, it's thick and rich and scented with cardamom.
Their home in Syria had a room just for guests, he explained, as he poured the steaming drink into porcelain cups with an air of ceremony.
On special occasions, up to 40 visitors were made to feel welcome with food and hospitality in their former home.
“We put the food out from beginning to the end, and all the people come (sit) around,” said Medyan. “A living room special for the visitors. It should be clean (and have) coffee – always.”
Food and family were a big part of their lives in Syria. Today, Zainab is sharing her cooking skills with Summerside in her new food business.
She caters to special events and offers cooking classes.
Fans of her baking can find baklava and mahrok (a date-filled pastry) at Samuel's Coffee House downtown, on Water Street.
“We thought our customers would really appreciate something new and different,” said Samuel's owner Moyna Matheson. “Now people have such a taste for her baklava I can’t imagine not carrying it.”
Meet Zainab Aldos https://www.facebook.com/zainab.aldos.1 She and her family have made Summerside their home for the...Posted by Samuel's Coffee House on Thursday, January 30, 2020
Aldos used to sell her wares at the Kensington Farmers’ Market, but the two-day commitment was a bit much for the busy mom.
Their home in Summerside, a semi-detached townhouse, is a cozy fit for the family.
The couple resembles any other seated in comfortable furniture, sipping coffee in their immaculately clean and tidy home. It's a weekday and their four children, Hamza, 17; Shaymaa, 15; Hatem, 10; and Shahed, 5; are all at school.
It’s safe to say they have endured more than the average Island family.
“My country not safe, that’s why we left,” Zainab said. “There is war there, you know that. I lost two brothers and my father there.
"After that, I can’t bear anything. I just need to leave.”
'As easy as drinking water'
The government killed Syrians "as easily as drinking water," she said.
So, the couple and their three oldest children, packed up their belongings and fled for their lives.
Together, they walked for more than six hours across a desert at night to the Jordanian border, where they landed in a refugee camp for three months.
Soon, they were able to live in Jordan officially. Medyan got work as a truck driver but ended up injuring his ankle, breaking three bones.
Zainab had just given birth to their youngest daughter, Shahed.
Still, she scrambled to keep the family going.
Camilla Aucoin, a friend and neighbour, admires Zainab’s grit and courage during that difficult time.
“This lady here, who I love, is very brave. Very, very brave,” said Aucoin.
“She did everything she could. Buying and selling clothes, baking. She even sold her wedding band to help her husband, her family. She did what she needed to do.”
“When we came to Canada, it was very hard. We didn’t know anything about the place, or language, or people. We don’t know anything. Like dark."
After five years in Jordan, the family was able to come to Canada as refugees, knowing it would be safer for their children.
But, adjusting to their new life was overwhelming at first.
“When we came to Canada, it was very hard. We didn’t know anything about the place, or language, or people. We don’t know anything. Like dark,” said Zainab.
“It was dark,” added Medyan in agreement. “We had nobody, no culture, no Arabic people, no community, no language.”
Medyan found work driving a truck just six months after arriving in Summerside, but his ankle injury caused him too much pain to continue. He is scheduled for surgery soon to fix the damage.
Once his ankle is repaired, Medyan is confident he will be able to find work again.
Zainab hopes her cooking business will pick up as well.
“Maybe in the future (business will) be good,” said Zainab. “I hope.”
“Inshallah” said the couple. “God willing.”