For 400 years the Alati family textile and clothing store served customers in the world famous La Medina Souq (Market) in Aleppo. Then the bombing started. Iad and his pregnant wife Safa fled with their baby to Turkey as their store was reduced to rubble.
In Turkey, Iad (pronounced Ee-ad) did whatever work he could find while Safa learned to speak enough Turkish to translate for refugees needing medical help. Eventually, Iad was able to open a clothing and textile store in Istanbul, with a long time friend. Still, at that time their refugee status prevented them getting passports for the children, or even green cards in Turkey. The UN helped them to get the paperwork they needed to come to the U.S. They arrived in Chicago the day before the president closed U.S. boarders to all Syrians
They arrived speaking not a word of English. Once again, they had to start over. “We did it in Turkey,” Iad said. “We can do it again.”
Today, with Safa’s eye for fashion and Iad’s contacts in Turkey, along with experience in the restaurant business Iad has picked up along the way, Safa and Iad are in business again. Safa sells Women’s fashions from Turkey. Iad makes Baklava from his family’s traditional recipe and cooks dinners for up to 100 people. Their vision is to have a clothing store and restaurant together, the Alati Souq reborn in America!
Last Saturday, I hosted the Alati Souq for a trunk show in my home.
We served Turkish tea in little Turkish Tea glasses, sampled Iad's Baklava, Yalangi (grape leaves stuffed with vegetables), and Fatayir (pastry stuffed with cheese), and tried on Safa's scarves and sweaters imported from Turkey.
Iad brought their two little girls, Juju (6) and Huda (7). The loving natures of both the children and their parents enveloped us all. When it was over, Juju gave me many hugs while we put things away, and Huda wrote me love notes with first grade spellings.
When I walked into the living room 2 days later, I could still feel the love and excitement of the event, like the fragrance of jasmine perfuming my home.
How can I explain the way this family has become a part of my family, and the joy it brings me?
Inspired by the places where land meets water, and by stories.