June 5, 2017

Athens, Greece

We would be sitting in small ‘caravans’ (containers) with 8 people residing on thin mattresses, one hot plate, and no privacy, but every single time we were treated to chai, Syrian coffee, homemade cookies, falafels, juice boxes. There’s no question of asking, it’s simply made and offered with such loving but insistent hospitality that ‘no thank you’ is never the answer.

With our Iraqi Kurdish friends, I commented on the homemade coconut cookies, which were the most delicious I’d eaten. Before I could utter another word, I was given the whole plate to take home, and a second plate to bring home to my family in the US. Their big concern was that they couldn’t offer us a full meal; and for that we’ve made a promise, to visit them in Germany once they’re settled there. Saanya loved the dark, strong Syrian coffee that we were being served one afternoon; the next day, she was given an extra big cup.

There is a lack of so much at these refugee camps. But hospitality, generosity, graciousness overfloweth. Alhumdulillah.

PS: I was just listening to my hero Chobani’s Hamdi Ulukaya’s commencement speech at Georgetown last week, in which he shared this story: he was in Lesbos last year, at a time when boats were coming in in large numbers; a young boy approached him and asked him to come to his tent; he went, and sat with the family in a cold, leaky tent; the family had lost everything, including a son who died during their journey from Syria; a few minutes later, the young daughter approached Hamdi and gave him a cup of tea – “this is for you Uncle,” she said.

[If anyone reading this blog has contact with Hamdi Ulukaya, please share these stories with him; I think he’ll enjoy them. Thank you.]


Photo: Saanya Ali

To support the immediate needs of refugees on the ground in camps and squats around Athens, please donate through the Multicultural Institute at this link; indicate “Greece/refugees” in the designation section. http://mionline.org/donate/

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