A Syrian couple in Lisbon is offering free food to health workers during the virus pandemic. The restaurant owners say they wanted to give back to the country that welcomed them.
While most of Portugal is under lockdown, the country’s doctors and nurses continue to go to work, spending many tiring hours on their feet each day. People like nurse Nuno Delicado are too busy to prepare meals at home, and with hospital cafeterias closed they have been relying on restaurants for food.
Recently, 33-year-old Delicado had a pleasant surprise when some tasty Syrian food arrived at the Lisbon hospital where he works. The delivery turned out to be from a restaurant called Tayybeh, a Middle Eastern eatery run by a couple who came to Portugal as refugees from Syria some years ago.Since mid-March, Ramia Abdalghani and Alan Ghumim, both 36, have been offering free food to those on the frontline dealing with the pandemic in the capital – people like Nuno Delicado. For him, the fact that he and his hospital colleagues were helped by people who had themselves lived through a crisis meant a great deal. “It was a big life lesson for all of us,” he said. “It showed us that as a society we must be there for each other.”
After they moved to Portugal four years ago, Ramia and Alan tried a few different ventures. Last year, they opened the restaurant in Lisbon, where they live with their two children. The couple wanted to show the Portuguese what Syrian food was all about.
They also wanted to let people know that Syria is more than “tanks and guns.” “We have a culture, historic cities, we have so many things – that’s what we try to show our customers,” Alan said.
The two of them had felt at home as soon as they landed in Portugal, so when the coronavirus hit, they wanted to do their bit to help their new community, Alan explained. “When you flee a war, you feel the disaster but you also realize who is there for you,” he said. “So in all things we do here in Portugal we try to give back to the people who welcomed us with open arms.”Hungry health workers only have to phone the restaurant, say how much food they need, and Ramia and Alan get to work. They make everything from the popular Daoud Basha, a spiced meatball dish, to creamy hummus.
The food can be collected straight from the restaurant or delivered, day or night.
Portugal has more than 16,900 confirmed cases of novel
coronavirus and 535 reported deaths.
Based on a Reuters report by Catarina Demony