Years after fleeing Syria, Esquimalt family nears opening first restaurant

Safaa Naeman is getting closer to her dream of opening a restaurant.

A Syrian family that began its catering business inside their home is getting closer to opening a restaurant, but now they’re looking for help to cover renovation costs.

Six years ago, Safaa Naeman and her family fled Syria from the civil war. Safaa and her husband found work related to their educational background but eventually quit to work full-time for their food catering business Syriana Catering.

“We found a lot of love around us, support from the community. They say ‘go ahead Safaa, open a restuarant,'” said Naeman.

It began as a passion project, but now Naeman says she was able to secure a lease for a restaurant space in Esquimalt and hopes to open the first Syrian restaurant in the Greater Victoria Area.

“We want to be a good addition to this beautiful community. So the best way to introduce your culture, with love and beauty, is food,” said the owner.

Syriana Catering has been in business for over a year with over 2,000 dedicated Facebook members and along with traditional dishes such as Baklava and Kibbuh, Naeman says her favorite part of serving customers is their reaction.

“Food really means peace,” Naeman said.

The family restaurant is slated to open early next spring, but with renovation and equipment costs, it may get delayed.

“I knew it was always a dream of hers,” said Emily Ryan, a close friend of Naeman.

Ryan, who says she orders from Syriana Catering every other month (dubbing those nights as ‘Safaa night’), started a Gofundme page which has since gained over $3,000 to help cover costs. She hopes everyone can experience her meals in person.

“I’m also selfishly really excited to be eating her food more often,” said Ryan.

Naeman still plans to continue her catering business once the restaurant opens.

Oli HerreraOli Herrera

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