Despite the ongoing Syrian war, restaurateurs Saameh and his brother Ahmad Kajaan, both have managed to keep their restaurant Atayeb open in Aleppo. The brothers opened their first restaurant in a suburb named Khaldiyeh but when fighting reached Aleppo, that area became the front line so they were forced to move the restaurant in 2013. “The buildings were on the ground. It was mass destruction,” says Saameh Kajaan. “But when we left Khaldiyeh, we didn’t stop. We took two hours to set up in the new location and started work immediately.”
Before the war, Aleppo was known as the food capitol of the region with a history of “invaders and inhabitants with varied roots who brought their influence to the (dinner) table,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The brothers attribute their love for cooking to their mother. “We were five brothers. My father had died, and so we were all in the kitchen together: One person fries, another person chops. … Her taste in cooking is what she bequeathed us,” says Saameh.
“Our homes are all schools for learning how to cook,” continues Saameh. “It comes from Aleppo’s air, its environment … the four seasons we have here.”