Saskatoon grocery store offers Syrian refugees a taste of home

Petra Market in Saskatoon's north end is becoming a local hot spot of the city’s new refugees, owners say.

'They're finding a kind of a connection of what they used to have back home,' owners say

Zafer Bashi browses the colourful aisles of Petra Market. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

A grocery store in Saskatoon is becoming a local hot spot of the city's newest refugees.

"In the past few months we have been seeing more and more of the Syrian newcomers coming to our store," said Petra Market co-owner Nour Dabbour.

"It's the products that go into our diet and our day-to-day life [as Middle Eastern immigrants], whether we're here or back home; they're finding a kind of a connection of what they used to have back home."

Nour and his brother, Nabih, immigrated to Canada from Jerusalem in 2000.

After living in Ontario for almost a decade, the pair settled in Saskatoon about five years ago. That's when they noticed the prairie city was missing something essential to their lifestyle.

Nour and Nabih Dabbour opened Petra Market in Saskatoon's north end four years ago. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

"We used to travel about four and a half hours to get these products," said Nour. "We were a bunch of families and we used to make regular trips to Edmonton because that was the closest store to have our food, our spices, our meals and it wasn't a fun trip to go to," Nour said.  

"Every couple weeks, I'd have to make a trip because it's my food that I'm used to. So that's what started the idea of [us] needing this store in Saskatoon," he added.

Four years ago, the brothers opened the Mediterranean grocery store at 234 Primrose Dr. Since then, the brothers say they've been welcoming refugees on a daily basis.

"Most of the newcomers don't speak fluent English so we have been translating here and there, not heavily but here and there to some of our clients," Nour said.

'It makes us feel like home'

MarwaFarag, a regular customer, came to the store toting her newborn baby.

"I'm from Egypt and my husband is Palestinian so we always buy our things here because I find supplies that I don't find anywhere else," she said. "For example, there's a type of smoked fish that we eat in Egypt that is not available anywhere but here, and I happen to really like it."

"It makes us feel like home when we come here because we find the things that we need," she added.

Marwa Farag says the store's contents makes her taste buds feel at home. (Victoria Dinh/CBC)

Zafer Bashi, another customer wandering the store's colourful aisles, came from Syria and has been living in Saskatoon for the past 10 years. 

"The first five or six years, it was really difficult to find ingredients [in Saskatoon]," said Bashi. "You get a bit of everything [at Petra Market] — some Syrian, Lebanese, some Turkish, some Iranian, a lot of different products."

"I really like the olives here," he added. "They are very good and they are from Syria too, so I get to taste some of the olives from back home."                                     


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.