My Montreal: A taste of Baghdad in Cote des Neiges
MONTREAL - With sweets, pickles, teas and so much more, a traditional souk market recreated in Cote des Neiges not only offered a taste of Iraq to outsiders, but united the Iraqi community in Montreal.
Called Darbouneh, a Baghdadi Neighbourhood, the marketplace brought together the often divided Iraqi community to revel in fond memories of pre-war years and share experiences.
Not all memories are happy, said McGill University professor Amar Sabih.
"Some people, they started crying, because it's tough to remember before – back home," said Sabih.
There are about 36,000 Iraqi immigrants in Canada, some finding a home in Montreal during immigration waves 10 and 20 years ago.
A new wave of Iraqis is now fleeing the Middle Eastern country, coming to Canada as refugees.
Though they're from a diversity of ethnic and religious backgrounds, the Iraqi community is working together in Montreal, said Moayed Altalibi, from the Iraqi Community Centre, where the souk market was held.
"We are trying to send a message that here the community is united, there's no difference between their way of thinking and any faction," said Altalibi.
Those at the Iraqi Community Centre said they are seeking to help new arrivals who may feel isolated.
"I see people who don't speak English and French -- of course they're not languages we speak in Iraq… and all the troubles that they had. It affects them a lot," said Iraqi Community Centre board member Halah Al-Ubaidi.
Enter volunteers like Amira Elias, who offered free English lessons to 22 refugees this summer.
"The program of teaching them English was really about just bringing them together and making them feel good about themselves," said Elias.
The community's efforts to recreate a little piece of its homeland in Montreal also helps link Iraqi-Canadians to their roots, said Mohammed Kadhin, who is of Iraqi ancestry but was born in Canada.
"There's something that connects me with that land. It's all about the history, and my ancestors," said Kadhin.