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PIZZA DELIVERY IN ZAATARI CAMP

ABU MAHMOOD WANTED A BETTER LIFE DESPITE BEING AWAY FROM HOME

Abu Mahmood, 48, was a plumber and wholesale shop owner in Dera'a province in southern Syria.

Heavy fighting forced him and his family to seek refuge in Jordan in late 2012. Despite having lost his home and his livelihood, Abu Mahmood created his own opportunities in the Zaatari camp.

Only few months after arriving to the camp, he started making and selling orange juice to support himself and his family.

Abu Mahmood wanted a better life despite being away from home, so he decided to start a new business and bring a slice of normal life to the refugees and aid workers in the Zaatari camp.

Having borrowed the money to start the business, in October 2013 he opened Mu'ajanat Esalam – or Pizzeria of Peace – on Za'atari's bustling commercial main street, known by residents as the Champs-Élysées.

Abu Mahmood saw another opportunity while business was going well, he realised there were many potential customers in the camp who were too far away or didn't have time to come to his shop on the Champs-Élysées.

"Nobody else was delivering pizza, so I saw an opportunity and bought a bike. Now we can deliver to anywhere in the camp," he says. He typically makes between 30 and 50 deliveries a day, most often to aid workers who want to eat lunch at their offices or to refugees in distant parts of the camp.

"This shows the spirit here in the camp. People are not just … waiting for humanitarian agencies to create opportunities for them, they are proactive, they are very creative and they come up with new ideas," says UNHCR's Nasreddine Touaibia, a regular customer of the delivery service.

Each morning at 6 a.m., Abu Mahmood and head baker Yahya light the large pizza oven and prepare enough dough for up to 3,000 pizzas. Their bestsellers are classic cheese and tomato margheritas, and small pizzas topped with ground beef, tomato sauce and onions.

Abu Mahmood never imagined that he would be forced to leave his country and become a refugee, he is content with the new career he has made for himself in the camp. "It's a good business, and I'm even thinking about opening a pizza place back in Syria when we go back."

By Charlie Dunmore in Za'atari Refugee Camp, Jordan

Believe in Abu Mahmood


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