Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Top 5 cake shops in Erbil

Helllooooo Loyal Readers!

Searching for a birthday cake in Erbil? That peeerrrrfect cake for that perfect someone, for that very special occasion? Something personalized? A wedding, birthday, New Year, Christmas, graduation or just a gathering, well for the two who asked me via email, this is a special post just for you!
Cake shops in Erbil - This is by Sekercake

1. Sekercake: Aaaah. The number of Manchester United cakes I have ordered from here! You can see pictures of their work on the Facebook page. The two ladies working in Sekercake - Erbil never disappoint. Previously the shop was after Majidi Mall on Kasnazan road, but they've moved to 40 m road if I am not mistaken. Phone them: 0750 850 0201

2. Almond: For Almond- Erbil's Facebook page click here. They are based on Bakhtiary road, contact them on: 0750 777 7408

3.  Chocolate House and Kookh: Both are located in Ankawa. I couldn't find their numbers or Facebook page.

Cake by Sekercake - Erbil shop

4. Ashtar: Facebook page here. Ashtar is located on the 40m road right before Martyr Sa'ad Palace and Martyr Sami AbdulRahman Park. The numbers placed on the Facebook page are: 00964-662576667 00964-7504246667

5. Abu Afif: Their website can be found here. There are two branches one on 60m road and another on the way to Ankawa. Call them on 0770 000 5551. Abu Afif make amazing sweets, but I just never liked their cakes!
Football theme cake, also made by Sekercake- Erbil

These are just my personal rankings and only for cakes, if it was for sweets then it will be completely different ordering. Sekercake has never disappointed me in the beautiful cake and cupcake designs, hence a well deserved first place. Would give it an award if I could.

I hope this answers your query. Let me know if I have missed any other great cake places :)

Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan


Cook with Razaw - Kurdish Kfta

Helllooo Loyal Blog Readers,
I have covered almost everything Kurdish on this blog accept Kurdish Food, simply because I am the worse one when it comes to cooking. Soooo... I came across Razaw's Instagram and couldn't help approach her for Kurdish food recipes for me and the blog. She was very kind to send all you lovely readers her first recipe here for her version of the Kurdish Kfta!
Guest Blogger: Razaw Diako
Razaw Diako's recipe to Kurdish kfta!

Here we go!
600 ml water 40C 
400 ml fine burgul ( brwesh)
100 ml classic burgul ( sawari wrd )
1/2 tbs salt
1 tsp cumin 
Recipe for Kurdish food

250 g beef or lamb mince 
2 small onion
50 g walnuts 
2 tbs tomato paste 
200 ml fin chopped parsley 
1 tbs black peppar
1/2 tsp cumin 
1 -2 tsp curry
1 tsp chilli flakes (more if you like)
3/4 tbs  salt (depends how much your taste of salt is, we are all different when it comes to spices)
1. Start with mixing the two types of bulgur in a bowl with salt and cumin. Pour the water into the bowl and cover it with a plate or plastic until the  burgul has absorbed the water, feel with your fingers if it still feels dry, pour more water and let it stand about 1 hour. Then rub it in at least one quarter so you get an approximate smooth dough.
Wet your hands and form small balls from the dough. about 8-10 bite-sized balls.
Kurdish food recipe

2. start by chopping the onions and parsley, milling the minced meat in a minute and then with the parsley and onion. Season and let it simmer for a few minutes over the stove.

3. Toast the walnuts in a dry pan for a few minutes and then rough chop them, held over the mixture.
Doesn't this look delicious?

4. Milling tomato puree, Swiss chard stems in a deep saucepan, salt and 2 tablespoons meat broth.

5. Pour over 1 1/2 liters of water and let it boil. Then pour in the leaves and let it boil. So while you shape the balls and make an oval pit in the center with your fingers add the filling and squeeze hard so you get all the air out.

6. Roll the balls and add to the boiling sauce. when you are done with all kfta balls let your kfta cook for about 40 minutes until they begin to float. Turn off the stove and let it simmer for a few minutes before serving.
Be your own Kurdish Chef!

Hope you like My kfta!

Cook with Razaw Diako - Kurdish food!
Thank you to the most amazing Razaw! If you tried the recipe let us know how it went, feel free to request other recipes and don't forget to follow Razaw on her Instragram -- beautifully coloured with all different types of Kurdish food and cuisines.
Lots of love
From My Nest in Kurdistan

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Another Journey in a Refugee Camp...

Dearest Loyal Blog Reader,

I love the feeling of sitting in my dark room writing to you, now knowing who you are and where you are. Tonight, I write to you with gentle music in the background, I write with sadness and happiness mixed together, well blended.

During one of the energizers
Tomorrow is the closing of another training. This was one was special because A.K. and I trained seven hours a day a group of Kurdish refugees from Syria. We trained while we can feel the sweat sliding down our backs under our clothes. For some of the hours the caravan was too hot as there was no electricity. We trained knowing some of these young people come from difficult backgrounds, we trained living some of their stories.

Training is an experience of its own no matter who you train, but when your participants are young boys and girls who have spent the past year living under a tent, and are unsure when they will leave then matters change. 

I often question whether or not what I am doing is worth while, if I am indeed influencing young people and their lives. Am I even making a difference? Today, as I know tomorrow is closing day, I think to myself "if nothing else, these youth smiled, laughed, enjoyed their time and made new friends." Although I hope they take with them more than this.

I feel there is a connection from the participants too. One of the girls said she even dreams of us (the trainers), others tells us they don't want the training to end. This means the world to me. I have come out of my bubble in lala land, it took a while but I feel that bubble I was living in has burst. No, I can't change the world, but I can influence people positively, one person at a time. Right? Yes...? No...? I honestly hope so.
During one of the Peer Education sessions
Someone wrote to me that they are not confident, "Help me" read the little post. during lunch I get to speak to participants sometimes, they share with me their stories, making it sound so normal, but right away I feel pain, I feel my heart sting... so many live apart from their loves ones, the boys feel useless because they don't work, the girls want to go back finish their studies, others have family who have died, are disabled, sick etc.. we also have one girl who is pregnant, soon another baby will be born a refugee in a camp, under a tent....
first day of training- me! 
I go to bed tonight proud of what I have done, at the same time upset. The typical mixed emotions I get every single time I have these peer education training sessions. What's weird is I never get used to it.

From this experience I have learned to appreciate my life, to respect my belongings, and to be thankful to my privileges.  Finally, I admit those I train are much much better and stronger than I am. I respect them for enduring and living the lives they live and the conditions they are in.

Grateful for the people in my life who believe, support and encourage
me to continue, this is with Huda Sarhang!
Until next time
Lots of love from..
My Nest in Kurdistan


Monday, September 8, 2014

Happy Birthday Mandalawi.blogpost.com - 6 years!

Today marks 6 years since I wrote my first ever blog post, it was called "I was born to try." I honestly feel like over the past six years I have raised a child. Six years of stories, experiences, people and adventures.

Sazan M. Mandalawi
Writing a blog post in a teahouse in Erbil
Through the past six years mandalawi.blogspot.com was a getaway for me, it as a place where I shared my thoughts, experiences, introduced people to Kurdistan, answered questions, collected donations and above all through the blog I met people who are an important part of my life now. 

Over the years the blog transformed, it grew and changed with me. The blog inspired a column, the column a book and now I hope a website is in the making. Thank you to every single person who inspired every sentence on mandalawi.blogspot.  

from My Nest in Kurdistan!


Thursday, September 4, 2014

Online shopping in Kurdistan

Hellooo Loyal Blog Reader,

A while back whatever we wanted from abroad we had to wait for a friend to travel or for someone from Europe to come back to Kurdistan to bring it for us. Then we had to think of how much it weighed and face embarrassment of possible rejection.

Bye bye those days. Two new companies in Kurdistan are now making it possible for you to buy things from Ebay, Amazon and get it delivered to your door step.

Here is how.

1. Boomana, the Kurdish word meaning for us is based in Sofy mall, their Facebook page can be found here basically you can purchase a card anywhere between $25 to  $500 buy anything online and it will be delivered to you. I have used this service myself and recommend it. Took two weeks and my things  got delivered to the door, other times you can pick it up from their office in Erbil.

Ship things from Amazon all the way to Erbil

The boomana website is http://www.boomana.com/

Boombeene (bom bena) online shopping to Kurdistan
2. a popular one with some of my friends is Boombeene (prounounded bom bena) meaning bring it for me have an office in Vital, Erbil. It is the same process, you buy a card, sign up, shop and wait for your delivery. Those who have used this service speak highly of it. Of course both websites take their own commission on individual items, you can see how much they take and agree to make the purchase or refuse it... all in the comfort of your own home. Visit the boombene website here.

Boombeene Facebook page click here 
So, my dearest reader long gone are the days where you beg a relative to bring back something for you or wait months till someone visits Kurdistan to bring for you that something special. It's a few clicks away, shipping and online shopping is made much easier now with companies such as these.

Have a great weekend,
don't shop too much :D

Love from
My Nest in Kurdistan


This blog post is not sponsored nor is it advertisement. I received various emails asking about shipping, I thought this might be helpful. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Satisfy your sweet tooth

Helllooo Loyal Blog Reader,

Sweet tooth anyone? Something sugary? Something Sweet? Something a little oily too? (Don't tell me you're one of those who cringes every facial muscle and make wrinkles all over your forehead when it comes to sweets!)
Sweets in the heart of Erbil
Anyhow, I am probably not the biggest Baklawa fan, but there is always a soft side for my sweets. The other day we were walking through the bazaar in Hawler (Erbil) and came across a little shop with a massive crowd. Yup! That's when Saza gets super curious. "Kaka yak kilo, kaka doo kilo lama... kaka niw kilo la wa" was all I could hear.

Kunafa and something else... that was sweet
The fuss was all about sweeeeets!! There is a good three sweet shops in Erbil that rank high when it comes to service, hygiene and taste (note to self: add to list of must blog about) but then again there is nothing like proper street food!

The people who work here, if I am not mistaken are Kurds from Syria. The little shop is located on the outside of the Qaysari bazaar in front of Aswaq Sirwan near the Nishtiman Mall (well, kind of near it).

The view from where we ate
The serve the sweets outside and most people by kilograms of it to take home, although if we want to sit and enjoy a little something inside you also can. At the back there are a few chairs and the staff are lovely. Don't expect 5 star service, but it's one of those experiences where you feel you are living in a normal world where things aren't perfect but you can enjoy every second of the experience.

Variety of sweets
Outside they serve a good five/ six different sweets that they specialize in. We always go for the kunafa. I must say it tastes very fresh, I believe they don't have left overs from the night before (unlike some other places! ehm ehm).

aaaah... the shira
If you pass by the qaysari bazaar or to the city center in Erbil then drop by to this little sweets place and let me know what you thought! Hashtag your pictures with #MyNestInKurdistan

from My Nest in Kurdistan


Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Sleepless and helpless...

Dearest Loyal Reader,

it's exactly 1:51 AM. I can't sleep.
H.S. and I listening to one of the young girls in the camp today

Today, my friend Huda and I met with 115 young in one of the refugee camps in Erbil; that is 115 stories, 115 eyes that write novels, 115 desperate young people who want to make something out of their life. Some we spoke to for 10 minutes, other just two minutes, all for a peer education course we are planning to run in coordination with START NGO very soon. I don't know who to think of, the young girl who has 11 people in her family, one of her sister works and her father is disabled? Or the 16 year old who will get married soon? Do I think of the young boys who over and over said they are bored and there are no jobs or the girls who said their future is over and they dream of going back to their studies?

Anyhow,  life goes on. On a better note one of my good friends gave birth to baby Leen today. Leen means easy. I am going to take life easy.

love from
My Nest in Kurdistan