A Syrian Scot living in Aberdeen shares their experience of life in Aberdeen.
Last week I was in Primark buying new clothes. I saw a young woman who looked exactly like my cousin’s wife, Hiba.
I first met Hiba when she got engaged to my cousin, Hamid. Hamid had spoken to her about me and she was excited to meet me. We became friends. On my way to the doctor or to visit my parents, I would stop at her house in South Syria to have coffee and sometimes we had breakfast together. We ate Kiri cheese and the Laughing Cow cheese and jam and olives. And we drank tea. Sometimes my mum would come with me to visit Hiba in the evening. This was usually when there was a special occasion like the time Hiba had her baby daughter and the time she moved to a new house.
So, in Primark when I saw that lady who looked like Hiba, I ran towards her and asked her where she was from. I thought she would say she was from Syria but she said she was from the Maghreb. I couldn’t even understand her Arabic clearly. This is because her accent was very different than mine.
I came to Aberdeen 8 months ago. What I found in Aberdeen was better than anything in Syria. More than I ever imagined. When we arrived at the airport we were warmly welcomed by Ghaith and Alana from the council. They knew all my children’s names and greeted us one by one.
The house we were given in Cove had everything in it. I thought I would find an empty simple home but I found that the house had a washing machine, a fridge, plates, glasses and even the fridge was full of food. There was meat, milk and everything you can think of. I was later told that the food was donated by the mosque.
The people in Aberdeen are quiet and very welcoming. There are not racist and they accept my hijab. There is a playground near my house. I take my children there and they are very happy playing with the other children.
At school my daughter has become very popular. The teachers at Loriston School are excellent and they are kind to my children as if they were guests in their homes. Sometimes my son wants to stay at school all day and not come home. He doesn’t like the holidays and the weekends.
I also go to Beginner English classes at Aberdeen College. Before that, my first English lesson was at a church. It was my first time to go inside a church. In Syria when we were young, we were taught to be frightened of churches but the church in Aberdeen was very safe and welcoming. I learnt that it was a sacred place for Christians like a mosque is for us. In the church there was an old painting of Syria and the painting was about peace.
Truly I found in Aberdeen a lot of humanity and I will always feel grateful because here I feel safe especially about my children. The way my children feel welcomed and safe deleted their sadness and fears about the war. At the end I would like to express my full appreciation and respect for everyone in the council who has helped us to settle in Aberdeen and to feel at home.