The Sweet Taste of Syria
Let us enter a little chocolate shop on Andrassy Avenue beside the opera house.
Many Hungarians are puzzled by the shop, my friend who lives in Budapest told me.
When we opened a golden door, the gilt and marble suggested a palace of chocolate of usual kind. But those scents of cardamom and cinnamon, those trays of glistening candied fruits and those extraordinary peaches and roses painted on the walls were surely never seen in a Hungarian sweet shop. Only in the gardens of Damascus.
My friend touched gently the display window behind which jewel like candied fruits packed in silver boxes beckoned to be tasted. A tiny dark young man speaking in perfect Hungarian explained to us that larger fruits were stuffed with Aleppian pistachios and dipped in dark chocolate. Almond from Grouta were ground and blended with chocolate for ganache and flavoured with rose water to make marzipan roses. The tiny perfumed apples and peaches boiled in syrup and sundried grew in Zabadani. The shop was filled in with luxurious touches and a sense of chocolate as art.
The smiling gentle man lovingly picked few examples of each kind placing them gently on silver tray for us to taste. The chocolate pieces looked so delicate and so delicious. While I picked one let it to melt deliciously on my tongue my friend’s curiosity won over her sweet tooth. The shopkeeper bowed to her introducing himself as Sadek Ghraoui. The Ghraouis had been traders since 1805 in sugar, tea, coffee and dried fruits building on an ancient Damascene tradition of supplying Silk Road camel-caravans with non-perishable sweets. My friend’s eyes open wide in amazement. ‘All these sweets come from Orient? Connecting us with the mysterious merchants travelling Silk Road.”
“Well, chocolate and desert seemed not to go together.” Sadek smiled sweetly offering more chocolates for me to taste: “It was my grandfather who had brought some chocolate samples from Paris in 1930s and tested them on my fellow Syrians, to the great success i have to say.”
“And now you are here in Hungary, so amazing.” My friend exclaimed finally tasting the delicacies.
The young man bowed his head in sudden sad retrospection: “Yes, my father decided to settle in Hungary few years back where he had gone as an engineer to look at cooling systems for power stations. He opened this shop in memory of my grandfather the name I bear,” Sadek’s eyes filled up with tears: “He had taken citizenship and if anyone asked, said he was Hungarian although people were not kind to him here, you see, Syrians are not welcome here.”
My friend shook her head angrily: “It is such a shame, such a shame, I don’t know what is happening to us all, I think it is just ignorance, you see people in the Eastern Europe were locked away from the outside world for so long, they do not trust anything and anyone they do not know. Hope your father will be embraced warmly with time especially with this shop, what a treat!” She touched the shop owner’s hand in sympathy.
Sadek smiled sadly: “My father has died just a week ago, from the disappointment and a broken heart, you see his Syria is in ruin and his dignity as a man burie
I remember every evening he sobbed, his Aleppo became a bombed out ruin, it was famous for pistachios. And his Ghouta, now a place of horror and chlorine gas.
I am keeping this place in his memory, you see every time someone tastes the sweet jewels from Syria, my father and my grandfather and Syria they knew is still alive.”
We bowed our heads in respect while Sadek wrapped the silver boxes we bought to taste the sweet Syria, to keep the memory of true Syria alive.
Sadek looked at us with his own sad eyes telling us his own bittersweet story. As a teenager growing up in Hungary he had yelled about any injustice and he stil
He rebuffed it with a friendly smile and a positive spin serving the sweets from his beloved Syria.
Even when dressing down some Hungarian populists who entered his shop threatening him with knives and shouting they burn his shop down, he managed to be more or less polite because those petty racists and refugees' haters were not the whole problem.
The whole world was rotten and unfree driven by greed and injustice and each man and every woman, especially those who lost everything, the displaced refugees have to strive to make it better!
DIGNITY IS WHAT EVERY MAN AND WOMAN DESERVE. THE RIGHT TO RESPECT AND BE RESPECTED. FREE EXPRESSION. FREE ASSOCIATION AND FREE VOTE.
Why should anyone hesitate to ask for these? Because fear had invaded everybody – fear that someone you knew might be killed or you yourself might be killed!
Not only in torn warn Syria but right here in the middle of Europe, in Hungary.