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Ipswich marketstall trader talks about his journey from Syria to Ipswich

PUBLISHED: 09:37 08 November 2017

Business partners Humam Mahrat and Abdul Rahman Mastarin and friend Rifaii Alnayef. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Business partners Humam Mahrat and Abdul Rahman Mastarin and friend Rifaii Alnayef. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

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The key to good falafel lies in its smell says Hamam Mahrat, one of the partners behind Syrian Falafel one of the newest stalls on Ipswich Market.

Serving up a tasty new business in Ipswich.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN Serving up a tasty new business in Ipswich. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

When asked to elaborate further Hamam laughs, his exact recipe is not something that he is willing to share details about.

What he does speak very openly about is his own journey to Ipswich and his life since he came to the UK from Syria.

On the verge of leaving high school Hamam was told that he would have to join the Syrian Army whether he agreed or not.

Finding the idea of doing so against his principles, Hamam realised that he would have to leave and find a new life elsewhere.

He fled to the Lebanon with his family but found that there was nothing for refugees in the Lebanon; no work and no opportunities to study.

“It was really awful there. If you are Syrian and live in Lebanon it will be a tough life for you.”

Hamam and his family stayed in the country for two and a half years unable to move on due to the costs of trying to head to countries like Turkey.

His only was hope was to get on a UN resettlement programme.

“We waited for so long. A year and a half. Then they called us and said ‘we are interviewing for the UK resettlement programme. Would you be happy with that?’ And we said yes.”

A year later Hamam and his family were accepted onto the programme.

“That was the happiest news I have had in my life, ” he says.

Hamam and his family have now been in the UK around 14 months and life is very different.

The Syrian Falafel stand will be open on the Cornhill in Ipswich every Tuesday.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN The Syrian Falafel stand will be open on the Cornhill in Ipswich every Tuesday. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Hamam and his business partner Abdul Mastarin have been selling their Syrian falafel every other Saturday at Woodbridge Farmer’s Market for a number of months.

They recently sold out on their first day at Ipswich Market and were forced to call in for further supplies.

Looking to the future Hamam doesn’t see himself making food indefinitely; “I want to be a communications engineer and go to university.”

Some of Hamam’s extended family are still in Syria and Lebanon but Hamam wants to help those have made it to the UK by opening a Syrian restaurant where he can employ them all, including his mother.

The new Syrian Falafel business.  Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN The new Syrian Falafel business. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

“When you put them in a safe area, you’ll be happy for them.”

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