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The Family Meal in Jordan’s Zaatari Refugee Camp: A Taste of Home

Huddled on the floor, Syrian refugee Abu Sayid reminisces about the journey from his hometown of Daraa’ in Syria to Jordan’s Zaatari camp while helping his wife prepare staple Syrian dishes - ‘kubbeh’ and ‘shishbarak’ dumplings. The first consists of bulgur wheat balls stuffed with mincemeat and onions and the other is a thin dough with mincemeat filling cooked in a yoghurt stew.

When shrapnel hit Abu Sayid’s home in Daraa’ two years ago, the father of four knew he had to make the tough decision to get his family out of Syria.

“We left with nothing but the clothes on our back, with just one aim - getting to safety,” Abu Sayid explains.

Arriving in Zaatari, they were struck by the harsh reality of living in a tent in a large swathe of arid land - a far cry from the home they had in Daraa’. Today, life has improved for Abu Sayid as the camp has developed into a city-like site with its own markets and small businesses.

For Syrian refugees like Abu Sayid and his family, cooking is not only a means of survival, it helps them remember life back home.

“WFP vouchers allow us to get any food we need from stores around here,” Abu Sayid says as he seals a kubbah ball while his wife starts frying the first batch of dumplings.

Once the food is ready, the family gathers round and Abu Sayid proudly presents the kubbeh and shishbarak along with salad and yoghurt.

“In Syria, we like to laugh and joke around a meal. It makes the food more enjoyable,” Abu Sayid says with a smile.

  • JORDAN_SLIDESHOW_CAPTION_1
    JORDAN_SLIDESHOW_CAPTION_1
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Abu Sayid’s family found shelter in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, not far from the Syrian border. Today, Zaatari looks less like a refugee camp and more like a city, hosting almost 80,000 refugees who have escaped conflict.
    Abu Sayid’s family found shelter in Jordan’s Zaatari refugee camp, not far from the Syrian border. Today, Zaatari looks less like a refugee camp and more like a city, hosting almost 80,000 refugees who have escaped conflict.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Abu Sayid’s daughter Fatimah stands outside her new home. Living in a refugee camp has turned her life upside down, but she tries to maintain some normality. As well as attending the camp’s school, she also plays for Zaatari’s female football club.
    Abu Sayid’s daughter Fatimah stands outside her new home. Living in a refugee camp has turned her life upside down, but she tries to maintain some normality. As well as attending the camp’s school, she also plays for Zaatari’s female football club.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Early morning in Zaatari - families collect their rations of fresh bread, which are distributed daily by WFP.
    Early morning in Zaatari - families collect their rations of fresh bread, which are distributed daily by WFP.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Syrian refugees in Jordan also receive food assistance through WFP’s EU-funded food vouchers.
    Syrian refugees in Jordan also receive food assistance through WFP’s EU-funded food vouchers.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Unlike traditional food parcels, these vouchers allow refugees like Abu Sayid the freedom to choose the food they prefer in the camp’s supermarkets.
    Unlike traditional food parcels, these vouchers allow refugees like Abu Sayid the freedom to choose the food they prefer in the camp’s supermarkets.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Abu Sayid and his wife Amina prepare kubbeh, a typical Syrian dish, for the rest of the family.
    Abu Sayid and his wife Amina prepare kubbeh, a typical Syrian dish, for the rest of the family.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • "Our family likes to fool around when we cook and gather to eat, because laughing increases our appetite. It is also a nice reminder of home." , says Abu Sayid.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Kubbeh mainly consists of meat and pomegranate stuffed dumplings that are fried in hot oil.
    Kubbeh mainly consists of meat and pomegranate stuffed dumplings that are fried in hot oil.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Amina fills the dumplings with minced meat and pinches the top to seal them. Then the kubbeh needs to be fried until golden brown.
    Amina fills the dumplings with minced meat and pinches the top to seal them. Then the kubbeh needs to be fried until golden brown.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • While waiting to share a meal with his family, Abu Sayid shows a picture of himself in his early twenties. When fleeing the conflict, he left most of his belongings behind, but brought this picture with him.
    While waiting to share a meal with his family, Abu Sayid shows a picture of himself in his early twenties. When fleeing the conflict, he left most of his belongings behind, but brought this picture with him.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Abu Sayid’s son Hassan prepares tea for the entire family. The resemblance between father and son is striking.
    Abu Sayid’s son Hassan prepares tea for the entire family. The resemblance between father and son is striking.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • The kubbeh is ready. Amina also prepared shishbarak, alongside salad and yoghurt.
    The kubbeh is ready. Amina also prepared shishbarak, alongside salad and yoghurt.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • When the family gathers for lunch, it almost feels as though nothing has changed in their lives.
    When the family gathers for lunch, it almost feels as though nothing has changed in their lives.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
  • Abu Sayid and his family live in hope that they can return to Syria one day, once peace returns to their homeland.
    Abu Sayid and his family live in hope that they can return to Syria one day, once peace returns to their homeland.
    © World Food Programme / Chris Terry, supported by the EU
Our cooperation in Jordan

As fighting continues in their country, millions of Syrians are now without homes, jobs, money or reliable access to food. Today WFP is the largest humanitarian organization working inside Syria with the assistance of donors such as the EU. Despite difficulties gaining access and continued insecurity, WFP has supported millions of people in need of food across the war-torn country.

WFP also supports more than 1.7 million refugees in neighbouring countries. Jordan continues to provide asylum for more than 600,000 Syrians, almost 80,000 of whom live in Zaatari refugee camp.

Although the majority of Syrian refugees in Jordan live among host communities, Zaatari has become the fourth largest city in Jordan and the second largest refugee camp in the world.

Where possible, WFP’s EU-funded food vouchers and electronic cards enable refugees to buy their own food, while boosting the host communities’ economies. To date, WFP has injected millions of Euros into the local economies of neighbouring countries via the voucher programme.

As of December, WFP has no funding for its programmes inside Syria. In Jordan, the monthly assistance to around 440,000 refugees living in towns and villages will be halved.