Since both the economic repercussions and lockdown restrictions have limited the operational ability of homelessness charities, many on the streets in Berlin were left in even more troubling situations.
Syrian street-food and catering service Bab al-Jinan have been working to resolve this issue by cooking up to 70 hot meals a day - 7 days a week - and distributing them to Berlin’s homeless population in partnership with Kreuzberger Himmel and Be An Angel.
We spoke with Ghayth of Bab al-Jinan to find out a little more about the work they’ve been doing and how it all started.
Bab al-Jinan was founded by former Syrian refugees, with the intention of bringing Syrian cuisine to Berlin. “Since we were newcomers from Syria, we needed to introduce the locals of Berlin to our culture.”
The name itself represents an important part of their cultural identity. “Bab al-Jinan means in Arabic ‘the gateway to paradise’. Bab al-Jinan is one of the nine gates of Aleppo that once led to gardens on the banks of the Queiq River. The gate was built between 944 and 967 and it has since become one of the main gates of Aleppo. The area around the gate is now very well-known in Aleppo as a street-market selling various kinds of food."
“I fell in love with Berlin. It’s cultural and ethnic diversity, it’s cold and warm weather. Even with the housing problems, I love Berlin as a home. As I put my mark or fingerprint on every corner of Berlin, the city has become a source of memories of successes and development for my business.”
Sadly though, as much of their regular work involved catering large events, the lockdown made business particularly difficult for them. “All our catering orders for three months were cancelled and all our street food and festival events for six months were cancelled. Since we serve our catering for events like workshops and conferences, the [lockdown restrictions] cancelling these activities has affected everything.”
But rather than do nothing, they found a way they could help. “Social work and volunteering are very important to me personally and to Bab al-Jinan, so why not... In this difficult time, many organisations helping the homeless have been forced to shrink and it’s not been possible to help enough people in need. On the other hand, we had sufficient time and resources to produce warm-food, as well as the ability to distribute it.”
And Bab al-Jinan don’t intend to slow down any time soon. “As long as we have enough time and as long as the donations allow us to do so, we are going to continue.”
If you’d like to support them you can donate here.
Thank you to Ghayth and the Bab al-Jinan team for your amazing work. You can find links to their pages below.
The HUNDHUND Team.
Words by Ewan Waddell.