Bless Your Hands

As dusk approaches, Ritsona Refugee Camp is uncharacteristically quiet, but teeming with enticing fragrances and the distant sounds of onions sizzling. In their prefabricated units and on outdoor fires, residents are making magic using the few ingredients that they have, inherited recipes, and the memories of the dishes that represent home. Few things speak more to the resilience and creativity of refugees than the amazing food that they make every day.  The small prefabricated units filling the former airbase offer little in the way of kitchen amenities: a hot plate, a small sink and, thanks to a handy resident, sturdy wooden shelves. Ingredients are usually procured from daily distributions or local NGO's offering supplemental fresh foods.

At mealtime, the small prefabricated units, otherwise known as caravans, are bursting at the seams with warmth and hospitality. Anyone invited to break bread in Ritsona should be prepared to completely redefine their idea of hospitality.  No guest leaves a meal with an empty stomach. More importantly, meals in Ritsona are a communal affair. Old friends and new friends join family, tearing off pieces of shaami bread to scoop up laboriously stewed and simmered reminders of homes across borders. After relishing a bite of food, it's customary to say "T'islam Eidik" or "Bless your hands." Here are a few of the many dishes and stories that have touched our hearts and filled our stomachs. 

"Stuffed" in a Ritsona Communal Kitchen

Sandwiched between caravans and covered by a giant sheet of tarpaulin lies a small, but well-stocked community kitchen shared by several families. Milk, flour and potatoes compete for space among pots and pans, all shared by the residents in one of Ritsona’s many ‘streets’. One of the residents, Linda, is renown for her cooking skills. Today, she dishes up mahshi malfouf, molokhiya, rice, potatoes and meat.

Read Linda's Story...

Photo: Lighthouse Relief/Lucy Spencher


Every Friday in Ritsona, Mostfa Ali's wife makes something sweet. On the menu today, muhallabieh, a creamy concoction that demands few ingredients. 

Read Mostfa's Story...

Photo: Lighthouse Relief/Lucy Spencher


A staple vegetable across the Levant, molokhiyah is comfort food at its best: nourishing and flavorful all at once. 

Learn how to make Molokhiyah...


Shidni, Rice & Chicken With Nama, Zam Zam, Yuruba & Hibo

Text to Come

Read the story & Learn how to make Shidni...

Photo: Lighthouse Relief/MH Rousseau  


Inside Supermarket Abuhamse 

Supermarket Abuhamse is Ritsona Refugee Camp's version of a bodega. Created and managed by an enterprising resident, the shop recently passed into a new set of capable hands. 

Read more about Supermarket Abuhamse...

Photo: Lighthouse Relief/Lucy Spencer

"The most important thing is that our children are happy & health, then food."

Mechwi & A Kurdish Lesson

Nareen, 16, and her husband are from Hasakkah, a town in Syria near the border with Turkey. 

Read the story... 

Handmade Sambousek in Photos