The Elabri Family Story – From Libya to Canada
When Afaf and Jehad Elabri decided to host EdmontonEats’ first event “A Taste of Libya”, it wasn’t just because of their passion for food. They saw it as an opportunity to share their culture with others and build connections within their community, through an authentic culinary experience. Having recently immigrated to Canada, “A Taste of Libya” was an opportunity to give back to their new home and say “thank you” to those who welcomed them.
Jehad had a background in the oil and gas industry. Afaf was the leader at home, raising their children and maintaining the household. Jehad was fluent in English, while Afaf was not. Their children learned English through school.
The Elabri family’s journey was not always the smoothest. Jehad, Afaf and their four children moved to Canada in 2014. They faced challenges finding adequate housing. Many options were in dilapidated homes in neighbourhoods where they did not feel safe. Jehad faced challenges finding employment in his field.
The Elabri family’s journey was not always the smoothest. Jehad, Afaf and their four children moved to Canada in 2014. They faced challenges finding adequate housing. Many options were in dilapidated homes in neighbourhoods where they did not feel safe. Jehad faced challenges finding employment in his field. They moved to a few cities until they found themselves in Edmonton. After several difficult months, the Elabris were met with acts of kindness and a community that welcomed them with open arms.
Their new life in Edmonton began at a motel. Initially the room rate was too high and they didn’t know how long they would be able to afford it. Jehad reached out to the hotel manager. The manager shared a similar immigration journey and he empathized with the Elabris. Their room rate was reduced so they could afford to stay while Jehad looked for work. This small act of kindness was a turning point for the family.
The next act of kindness came from a helpful consultant with a local property management company. She listened to their challenges and worked tirelessly to find the family of six the perfect home in the perfect community.
This community was Bannerman in northeast Edmonton. Almost immediately after moving in, they met a neighbour named Mary. Mary was welcoming, helpful and curious. Other neighbours were friendly to the Elabris, saying hello when they walked by and offering assistance as they were getting settled. As their children started school, the school staff built a close relationship with the family.
While Jehad settled into a new job in retail and the kids attended school, Afaf began to learn English. She built strong friendships with Mary and her other neighbours, where she shared her passion for cooking. Afaf believes food is a universal language and cooking can bring people together. Her new friends loved her snacks. Afaf quickly became known for her talent as a cook.
Afaf learned about EdmontonEats through Mary. Her decision to participate was based on her experiences and beliefs. As many people didn’t know much about Libya, Afaf viewed EdmontonEats as an opportunity to share her culture with others.
In Libya, making a thoughtful, elaborate meal for guests of honour is an act of great respect. It was important for Jehad and Afaf to honour the people who would come to “A Taste of Libya”. This inspired Afaf to create an authentic menu, something one wouldn’t find in North American cooking.
Jehad provided diners with a presentation on Libyan culture and their inspiration for the food they offered. He called it his “little picture of home.” Together, the Elabris put together an experience that was truly “A Taste of Libya.”
Jehad and Afaf’s most valuable takeaway from the event was the social aspect. They were able to mingle with other diners and meet new friends. They found common ground over the food. Many people commented on how their traditions were similar or different. Others asked questions about Libya, which Jehad and Afaf were thrilled to answer. The comments on the food were overwhelmingly positive. To the Elabris, “A Taste of Libya” was a resounding success.
Although their journey to Canada was not the smoothest, the Elabris found a home in Edmonton where their family can thrive and they can share their passion. “A Taste of Libya” was Afaf and Jehad’s way to tell their story and give back to the community they now call home.