Mallakeh Jazmati, a member of the group “Exile's kitchen”, and his friends pose with German chancellor Angela Merkel.
Mallakeh Jazmati, a member of the group “Exile's kitchen”, and his friends pose with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Rita, a Syrian refugee living in Germany, has launched a Facebook group called "Exile’s kitchen" with the goal of bringing together the Syrian diaspora around traditional dishes. Syrian refugees use the social media platform to share recipes and tips for finding ingredients from home.

Cooking and sharing food holds an important role in Syrian culture. However, it’s sometimes hard for members of the Syrian diaspora, spread out across Europe, to recreate the meals they were used to back home, because the ingredients they need may be missing from grocery store shelves in their host countries. The Facebook group, "Exile's kitchen," helps address that gap.

Rita Bariche created the Facebook group "Exile's kitchen”. She left Syria as a refugee in 2013 and now lives in Germany, where she now works.

When I arrived in Germany, I suffered from extreme loneliness. I spent most of the time at work. Cooking started as a hobby for me-- I wasn’t a good cook when I was living in Syria. "I learned my first words of German in grocery stores. When I started to make the dishes that we used to make at home, in Damascus, I started to feel better," Rita said.

"One day, I posted a photo of a dish that I had made on Facebook and that gave me the idea to build the page “Cooking in Exile”. My friends loved the idea so I started the group and, in no time at all, people living all over the world started sharing photos of the Syrian dishes that they had made," she explained.

Ptisserie syrienne Photo prise du groupe Facebook  cuisine dexil

Angel hair. A traditional Syrian pastry 

Sharing this photo helped get rid of her loneliness. "I didn’t feel like I was eating alone anymore. It was as if I was sharing my food with other people. The effort that I put into this group frees me from my loneliness."

According to Rita, the Facebook group has transformed into a glimmer of hope for many people. "It’s also a source of learning-- and not just about cooking. We also use cooking as a way to promote Syrian culture. This little gathering has turned into a space built on the principles of freedom of opinion, respect for others and even democracy-- something that doesn’t exist in our home country," she says.

Uniting people

"Exile's kitchen” has managed to unite all Syrians, despite their political differences. The page also has cooking competitions where participants create a recipe and upload pictures. Members then vote for the best one. 

Syrian refugees may be living far away from friends and family, sometimes in communities that don’t have large Syrian communities. Now, Rita's page has more than 8,000 followers and each day, members post photos and recipes of the traditional Syrian dishes that they are making.


Sharing ideas and food

The members of the Facebook group hail from different parts of Syria and have a wide range of political beliefs. Their aim is to keep traditional Syrian food alive in their host countries, but also to experiment with new recipes inspired by food in their host countries. This results in a lot of friendly competitions over who has the best variation of a traditional recipe.  

Other members share advice. For example, it can be tough to find certain traditional ingredients in host countries. One refugee named Entesar who lives in Germany wanted recommendations on a good substitute for semolina flour, a common ingredient in traditional Syrian food.

Other people ask for advice on where to find fruits and vegetables that they ate in Syria.

Les membres du groupe change des informations sur comment trouver des fruits et lgumes typiques de leur pays dorigine

In this post, members talk about the new food that they’ve tasted since arriving in their host countries.

Rim concocted a Syrian-Japanese meal in Jordan with a Japanese friend who used to live in Syria. As they ate traditional food, the two shared their memories of Damascus. Rim says that the kitchen is "the best place to express my feelings."

Table nippo syrienne

Syrian refugee Malakeh Jazmati has been living in Germany since 2016. She is also a member of "Exile's kitchen." This is what she said about the Facebook group:

Honestly, the group sometimes feels like a competition of artists. When people post photos of the Syrian dishes that they’ve prepared, they often write a little poem about the food as the caption. Participating in this group has also helped me branch out-- before, I used to be a food snob-- I believed that food from Damascus was the best. However, now I’ve grown much more open to recipes from different parts of Syria.

Recently, I participated in an event organised by the German parliament and I met German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mallakeh et ses amis avec la chancellire allemande Angela Merkel

Syrians in Germany pose with German chancellor Angela Merkel.

'A consolation in exile'

Some members of the group post recommendations of restaurants that specialise in Syrian cooking. Hadeel says that this restaurant, which specialises in Syrian pastries, is her "consolation in exile."


Karmel shared a photo of the homemade cake that she decorated with the Norwegian flag.

 Gteau au couleurs du drapeau norvgien

"Cooking is an escape from social pressure”

Meanwhile, Rita is trying to help other women find a means to support themselves. "I’m currently working with several organisations to develop a project helping Syrian women integrate the labour market. We are working on setting up several fully-equipped kitchens where we can hold workshops to introduce women to jobs related to the catering and restaurant industry," she says.

"I met a lot of refugee women who want to work, but their conservative environment doesn’t allow them to. In those cases, cooking is a way to escape from that social pressure. It also saves them from the isolation that many new refugees experience and allows them to escape the constraints that they might feel within their own families," she argues.

"In the reception centres where many refugees live upon their arrival in Frankfurt, Germany, there are no kitchens. We worked with several associations and churches in Frankfurt to set up a kitchen for Afghan and Syrian women," she adds.

Rita Bariche's goal is to provide opportunities to women refugees who want to integrate their host countries and get a foot in the labour market. Learning to cook can lead to job opportunities and create path to integration for women and is an alternative to becoming isolated or only socialising within the Syrian community. Importantly, cooking is also an acceptable job even for women from conservative families, she explains.


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