Syrian singer planning to open a restaurant in Brazil

06 de junho de 2016

São Paulo – Syrian Wael Assaf was a singer in his country. He worked in bars and parties, earning up to USD 200 per day. He used to sing folk and romantic songs and was even featured on a TV show. But his life changed when militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State arrived in Yarmouk, a Damascus neighborhood where he lived. Assaf was forced to escape. He lived four years in Jordan and has been in Campo Grande, Mato Grosso do Sul, for a year, where he is determined to rebuild his life.

“My family had a restaurant in Syria. I learned about the cuisine there, but worked as a singer”, says Assaf, who now uses his culinary knowledge to prepare typical dishes from his country and be able to support himself, his two kids and his wife, who is five months pregnant.

“I put the kibbes in a box and walk the streets to sell to people and shops. I also sell to two restaurants. Each day, I sell around 50 kibbes. I need to buy food to my family”, he says. His income, however, is far from being enough to support a family of four. Daily, Wassaf manages only around BRL 30.

“I want to open a restaurant here. I know a lot about these [cuisine] services. I also want to sing in the restaurant. Here, there aren’t people that sing what I sing”, he says. Among the delicacies that Assaf knows how to prepare are kofta, raw kibbe, kibbe with curd, tabbouleh, baba ghanoush and esfiha, among others.

Assaf arrived in Campo Grande after the suggestion of a Jordanian friend that lives in the city and says that Brazilians have been of great help for him to learn Portuguese. And some of these friends were the ones that started a campaign to collect funds for the Syrian’s future restaurant. People can contribute any amount through the crowdfunding website The goal is to raise BRL 40,000. And it is possible. Talal Altinawi, also a Syrian refugee living in São Paulo with his family, was able to collect enough money through a crowdfunding website and opened his restaurant in the Brooklin neighborhood, in the city of São Paulo.

Another great help for Assaf is coming from Lebanese doctor and business owner Mafuci Kadri, founder of the hospitals Sírio-Libanês (Syrian-Lebanese Hospital) Campo Grande and Hospital El Kadri. The home in which the Syrian has been living is owned by Kadri. “He helps me a lot”, says Assaf.

The Syrian says he is very thankful for the support he’s been receiving from Brazilians, but says he’s living a very hard life here. “How would you look at your life if your previous life was very good and you were the one helping out others and now it is you that needs help”, he says, when asked about how’s his life in here.

Those willing to help improve the lives of Assaf and his family can contribute in the website up to July 28. His dishes can be seen at Campo Grande residents can order the dishes through the phone at (67) 9852-6588.

*Translated by Sérgio Kakitani