Here at Wales International we love meeting the worldwide Welsh and hearing about your love of Wales and all things Welsh. One lady who has fallen in love with Wales is Latifa, a woman from Syria whose family moved to Wales almost four years ago and believes Wales has brought calmness to her life again. Scroll on to read our interview with her!
Latifa, tell us a bit about where you were born and raised.
I’m from Homs City in Syria, which is in the west. It’s been destroyed in the war, which is why we had to leave the country. My first child was born there nine years ago, but as she was just 2 years old when we left to live in Egypt, she doesn’t remember it.
How did you end up in Aberystwyth in Mid Wales?
We lived in Egypt for three and a half years; my second child was born there. The Red Cross helped us move to safety here in Wales and I’m so grateful to them for their continuing support for my own family and my parents who also live here in Aberystwyth.
What were your first impressions of Wales?
I loved it from the beginning. The people of Wales are so friendly and welcoming; the people of Aberystwyth have welcomed us with open arms and I can’t thank them enough. When we arrived we couldn’t speak much English, so the Red Cross helped us access courses at Coleg Ceredigon, where the teachers have been wonderful and so supportive. The Welsh are so kind! They offered to help us improve our English, so it was very easy to integrate into the community here and make lovely friends.
Do the children enjoy living here?
They love it! My third child was born here in Aberystwyth; the hospital staff and midwives were the best I’ve experienced, and so lovely! The older children go to the local school and the staff have been so supportive and welcoming. It’s a multicultural school so it’s great for both them and us, and the education is fantastic – they now correct my English!
Have they been learning Welsh at school?
Yes, they learn Welsh songs too which is great. As a family we believe it’s important for us to learn Welsh as we think it’s important to learn and share language and cultures. Some sounds in the Welsh alphabet are similar to Arabic, like the ‘ch’ sound, so it makes it fun and easier for us to learn.
Have you attended Welsh classes?
Yes! Before lockdown myself and other members of Syrian families in the area started attending Welsh lessons every Friday. We really enjoy it and hope to continue when lockdown is over.
Tell us about your Syrian Dinner Project
Food is a very important part of our life and culture in Syria. Rose from the Red Cross came up with the idea that myself and two women from two other Syrian families who had moved to Aberystwyth should meet up and share our food with the community in order to share our culture with the local people. The response was overwhelming, people loved our food and told me our cooking was amazing. It really gave me confidence and inspired the Syrian Dinner Project, which is a pop-up restaurant. We work with local restaurants such as Medina in Aberystwyth and Cletwr in Taliesin and host events where people can sample our food and culture. We hope to expand into other areas of Wales, England and beyond in the future.
How has Covid-19 affected the Syrian Dinner Project?
We’ve been fortunate to be able to do takeaway events – our next is on the 29th of August in Cletwr. They are always popular so you need to book! The money raised helps us fund our kids’ activities and we love doing it.
What do you think of our Welsh and British food?
I like the sweet foods! Friends make banana cakes and other sweet treats for me and we were also invited for a traditional Christmas dinner one year which was very tasty. I also love all the soups and cawl you make here.
Where is your favourite place in Wales?
We love all the areas around Aberystwyth and we went to North Wales earlier this year which was equally beautiful. Elan Valley and Devils Bridge are two of our favourite places; we find the views breathtaking and can’t believe these places exist on our doorstep. Wales is a very beautiful country.
Is Wales your forever home?
Yes, it’s our dream to stay here. Since coming to Wales I have felt calm for the first time in many years. Feeling safe and being around such friendly people is something I feel extremely grateful for and I’m delighted that my children are being raised in such an amazing and safe part of the world. I visit friends in England, but when I arrive back in Aberystwyth this overwhelming sense of calm and happiness returns and I can’t think of living anywhere else. My dream is to stay here and open up a Syrian restaurant one day.
Many thanks to Latifa for sharing her story with us at Wales International – we are so pleased to have you here in Wales and wish you and your family the best of luck. For more information about the Syrian Dinner Project, simply head to their Facebook page or Instagram account.
If you would like to share your story with us, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org and if you haven’t joined our worldwide Welsh family yet – well, what are you waiting for? Click here for the full details and exclusive special offers from our business partners!
Heulwen Davies, Wales International.