Syrian baker dishes out ‘comfort food’ in Zaatari camp (in Jordan)

by Areej Abuqudairi | Nov 22, 2012 | JORDAN TIMES

MAFRAQ — “When life gets too tough, you should look for comfort food. It soothes your soul,” said Ahmad Naffal, a Syrian living at the Zaatari Refugee Camp.

The 32-year-old, who worked as a baker in the Syrian city of Homs, turned a tent at the camp into a bakery after he constantly heard his compatriots saying they missed “the feel of real bread”.

“They [aid agencies] bring enough bread for us, but it comes cold and lacks taste. It is a problem for Syrians, especially since good bread is essential in our culture,” he told The Jordan Times, adding that he orders his supplies from Mafraq.

“We must have warm and fresh bread with our meals… It is not just about eating. It is about the taste.”

Inside the UN Refugee Agency branded tent, Naffal bakes shrak — flat traditional Arabic bread — on a fire-heated metal griddle called a “saj”.

By selling a loaf of shrak for 100 fils, the father of six earns some money to cover his family’s expenses that aid agencies do not provide.

“I have a family… I need money to buy them things, which they [aid agencies] will never bring here for you. The food they bring is set aside. We need to buy vegetables and fruits for the children,” he noted.

For Naffal, keeping busy and bringing money home maintains his “traditional role” as a man.

“A man is not supposed to be sitting at home receiving food and assistance. If I stay at home watching the desert I will get depressed. I want to be a real man and feed my children,” he said as he flattened a piece of dough.

“In Syria a man is expected to work. There is no laziness or just hanging around no matter how harsh the surrounding conditions.”


Syrian refugee Ahmad Naffal prepares bread at his tent-turned-bakery in the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Mafraq, 80km northeast of Amman (Photo by Muath Freij)

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