Friday, October 31, 2014

From Erbil to Notting Hill

Dear Loyal Blog Readers,
I love anything that allows young Kurdish woman to be part of activities and events. In particular reading; something very lousy in my part of the world (don't get me started on the bit where we don't even have proper book shops, you know the Waterstones type, nor a decent local library. Anyyyhow). 

This is where Poppy comes in, bringing her book club to Kurdistan, Erbil. 

Poppy Loves Book Club
Two nights back I was online in one of the book club gatherings in Notting Hill, it was a tiny bit past my bedtime (you know, time difference) but I loved listening and watching how they run their book clubs! And it was amazing meeting the lovely group. Lots of ideas for when we meet here.

Me, late night on Skype with the girls
Photo: SK 
Don't you just love how woman- young and older- come together once a month, some don't even know one another to exchange ideas and views on a book they have all read. There is a lot to benefit from this process. And as I learned lots of laughter too. So it's an enjoyable time and something to look forward to.

Lovely girls at Notting Hill
Photo: Poppy 
I love how we can come together despite our background, country we live in, religion we practice and just share ideas and views. 

Thanks Poppy for giving me the opportunity and sending over books for us to enjoy.

Now, I shall go and continue my Friday morning ritual. Cleaning. 

Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan


Monday, October 27, 2014

Children's dreams and women's hope exhibition

To my favourite Loyal Blog Readers,
Last year I attended the Children's Dreams exhibition and it was by far the best exhibition I had ever attended in my life, I loved every piece. The pieces of art were all created by street children. This year it is more exciting as the work of vulnerable women will also be showcased.

Children's Dreams and Women's Hope Exhibition
Rwanga Foundation, Kurdistan Region, Erbil
Bring your family, friends, have a look around and purchase pieces of art with grand meanings to put around your office, home or give as gifts.

This year the exhibition will once again take place in the Shanadar Gallery in Erbil. The organizer and project implementer is Rwanga Foundation, the exhibition will take place on 29 October to 1st of November between 10 am to 6 pm. You have four days to visit!

Just a quick thank you to my friend Bewar Rwandzi who helped organized the event last year.

Until the next blog post
Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan


My Sweet Pepper Land - come and watch

Hellooo Blog Readers,
If you're out and about in Erbil today then do visit the French Institute/ cultural house  (next to the French Consulate) and watch My Sweet Pepper Land.

My Sweet Pepper Land screening tonight


"After the fall of Saddam Hussein, Baran, a Kurdish independence war hero, resolves to accept a position in a godforsaken village at the borders of Iran and Turkey, an illegal trafficking Eldorado .There he meets Govend, a beautiful young woman who has come to work as the teacher in the newly-opened school despite her twelve brothers' hostility to the idea."  - Film Distribution
The award winning film is directed by Hunar Saleem.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Life under a flooded tent - HELP!

Dearest Loyal Blog Reader, no matter where on this very small planet,
I visited the Baharka IDP camp yesterday for a possible future project and also to see the needs of the people. The situation was heart breaking, there were so many pregnant women, orphans, widowed young girls (one was 15 - keep an eye out for her story on Niqash this week).

The rain's affect on families living under tents - Kawrgosk Refugee Camp
Photo: @RudawEnglish

Camp life is harsh when it's summer, but even harsher in winter months. While many of us saw the early rain as a blessing, it was a curse for the families under these tents. Many woke up in the middle of the night flooded, children don't have boots or sox, mothers don't have the right winter clothing. Parents are selling their blankets to spend the money on other necessities.
Baharka IDP camp, yesterday
Photo: Rewan Kakl
Hence, I am asking for your help. The following items will be a miracle for some of these families:
Milk and diapers for babies
warm clothes - jackets and sweaters
boots for children in particular
food items like flour, oil, sugar. Tomorrow's blog post will explain to you why.
Or donate money and we will purchase these needs
Baharka IDP camp yesterday
Photo: Rewan Kakl
Feel free to email, tweet, inbox me or make a comment below and we can find a way you can make a donation. Other than myself there are so many organizations and groups who you can also contact such as:

The Rwanga Foundation, they are doing phenomenal work, you can contact them and see how to donate
(just click on the links. Made it all nice and easy for you)

Facebook page: Rwanga Charity Org

The Hashtag #HelpKurdistansDisplaced went viral on social media after the One Young World Summit in Dublin
Tent of a family in Kawrgosk Refugee Camp, housing refugees from Syria
Photo: @RudawEnglish
Dilvia for Charity are all volunteers trying to make a difference
Facebook: Dilvia

Giving Back for refugees and the displaced
Twitter: @GivingBackInfo
Facebook: Giving Back
After a heavy rain, Baharka IDP camp
Photo: Me!
There are plenty more ways you can help. Anything, no matter how small goes a very long way.

Thank you to your kind hearts
Lots of love
from My Nest in Kurdistan



Photo Exhibition

Dear Loyal Reader (s) hellooooo,

Thinking of something to do?
There is a photo exhibition taking place at the French Cultural Center (next to the French Consulate) in Erbil today, 21 October 2014. Some amazing local talent are showing the world a story through their camera lens.

I am so glad places like the Consulate of France in Erbil give young people the opportunity to showcase their work.

Exhibition at the French Cultural Center/ Cultural House

If you're free, which you should be since it's after working hours then drop by and have a look!

Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Cook with Razaw

We are back once again with the fabulous Razaw Diako and a new meal. Make sure you follow this phenomenal Kurdish girl both on her personal blog, and Razaw's very colourful, mouth watering Instagram page. Are you ready?

Guest Blogger: Razaw Diako

Easy pizza snacks - Recipe
Razaw Diako - introduce yourself to the world of Kurdish food
Pizza dough 
400 ml plain flour 
200 ml water (45 C)
15 g  dried yeast
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp suger 
 2 tbs olive oil 

The tomato sauce 
2 tbs tomato paste 
1 fine chopped tomato
1  fine  chopped garlic 
1/2  fine chopped onion
1 tbs  dried basil 
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbs vinaigrette
1 tsp pepper 
A inch of chili 
1 tbs water
1 tbs oil 

1/2 small aubergine (fine cut k)
1/2 onion (fine cut) 
1/2 paprika (cut in length) 
Little oil for frying 

Friday night Pizza Razaw's way
1. Mix the yeast with sugar and water. Let it stand for about 2-3 minutes.
2. Pour over the yeast water and olive oil into the flour . Work through the dough with your hands, kneed it well until it let goes of the bowl (basin) 
3. Cover it with a plastic or a warm cloth and let it stand for about 40 minutes
4. Meanwhile, get the filling ready. Heat the oil in a small saucepan and fry the garlic, onion and pour over the chopped tomato the tomato paste, and water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring it to boil, add the vinaigrette, chili flakes, basil. Let it simmer under a lid for ... say 5 minutes  
5. heat a pan and Fry the vegetables lightly in a little oil until they are a nice golden color. 
6.  Preheat the oven to 250 C 
Home made Pizza recipe by Razaw
7. Flatten the dough (square) on floury bread board. Cut the edges and in length about 12 pieces (1 mm thick).
8. Place them on a baking sheet and Brush them with the sauce . 
9. Add the vegetables on and sprinkle with the cheese
10. Bake in the oven for about 10-15 minutes
 Garnish with extra cheese, olive oil and little sea salt Serve it with some fresh green salad and enjoy :) 
Thank you Razaw, I always love love love receiving your emails, and I know what I am cooking this weekend! For more recipes in particular Kurdish food don't forget to drop by at
Until next time
Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan,
All pictures by Razaw Diako

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Out & About at Anes


There is nothing I love more than a little hidden away place that is a treasure of its own. A loved one took me here and thought I will like it. Let me introduce you to Enes, a restaurant that is now open on the 100 meter road (towards the Italian Village).

Anes Restaurant in Erbil
It is so rare to find something warm and cosy in this city, this was close.  If I am not wrong the chef is a Syrian Kurd and hence the flavours differ to what we usually find. I liked the simple décor. Small. But simple. The food was good, cost good and staff were friendly.

The menu


My order
If you pass by you might want to taste their shawerma. I guess it's one of the those places you visit once or twice to try out.

Until next time
love from
My Nest in Kurdistan


Friday, October 10, 2014



It's almost 1 am. My husband and I are both wide awake. In my part of the world it's not the best of days. Basically a silent war is taking place against my people. Blood shed, news of all sorts,  you reach a point where you don't want to know anything. your head will explode. If it hasn't already done so.

A pen and paper can change a lot. Believe me. More than bullets and guns.
These days I am concerned, upset and often I feel the pain of the world is on my shoulder. I feel helpless. But today something happened, I don't know how to put it into words, I don't know where to start from. I don't think I have the right words or my brain can function in a way where it can place the perfect words next to each other. I am blabbing right? Let me get to the point. 

After I completed the peer education training in one of the refugee camps a few of the girls kept calling and texting me. Sometimes in the worse timings, sometimes I'd feel they get upset when I don't reply. When I looked closely at their texts it seemed they were alone and loved that Sazan is there to listen or reply. The girls at the camp seemed to be depressed, feeling lonely and they each loved to write and express. So, I spoke to a few friends and my amazing cousins with a simple idea. Are you ready to know what happened? 

With me I had the most precious things to pass to previous people
 Two days later my Facebook and email was filled with beautiful words of encouragement, support, inspiration and it was all written with love. Letters. Letters written to the girls in the camp by my cousins and friends. I printed and sealed each in an envelope (except Ashna's which she had sealed herself and hand passed it to me) I delivered them today. 

words, nice words, can change everything

Four girls randomly in one of the refugee camps received their letters and in a matter of minutes they felt like their unknown friend was a lifetime best friend. From these girls I heard the most amazing words, a simple letter made them happy. Extremely happy. Their expressions, the way they read each word and how serious they took the words. 

I watched these girls giggle and tear slide down their faces. I saw these young girls whose future is frozen for the time being smile. They felt loved. They felt they're being heard. They felt someone cares. I don't know what else they felt (do you realize now what I mean by not being able to put the perfect words next to each other?) but that energy in the caravan, that atmosphere...was pure happiness. 

What worries me is these girls have been living under a tent with their family for over a year fleeing the violence in Syria. There are no schools for them at the moment, being 15-18 year olds means a possibility for them is to get married, have a child and... well, live life. I worry that they no longer believe in their dreams. But the letters... these letters seem to change a lot of things.

I think of the girls at the camp often,
They have become part of my life,

Letters, words... can plant a smile. Good night. 

Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan,


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Hardees came to Kurdistan

Dear Loyal Blog Readers,
I think I am becoming a foodie, a trait that I never had but seem to have picked up very well recently I'm having cravings for different foods and finally ordering something other than the plain brinch w shla (basically rice and stew).
Hardees - Erbil
If you're in Erbil, every now and then you drive past that very nice building and you hear rumours of what it will be. I had the same thought about the above building in Bakhtiary* for a very long time. Rumours were true. Hardees came to Erbil. And it was it is talk of the town!

I had never had Hardees before, so I didn't know what all the fuss was about. Being a Kurd you have that urge to go and see what all the fuss is about. The entire world was checking in on Facebook.

 Oh dear. I think my weight gain story will finally begin. I must admit the service in this place is unbelievable. The staff are the friendliest I have seen in any restaurant in Erbil and the food, aaaah the food. It's amazingggg. The type of amazing where as you eat you don't feel you're getting filled, but once nothing is left on your tray you feel bad for gobbling down so much.

When fast food came to Kurdistan
 The atmosphere reminds me of any typical fast food chain around the world, McDonalds type of design, a nice outdoor seating area outside and Pepsi refills too.

Pepsi with refills, I think Pizza Hut was first to introduce this scheme here?
I am against feeding our kids junk food and one of the main reasons we were still slim without having any sports routine in our daily life was because places like these never existed in Kurdistan. I still don't know what I think of it. Considering local people's salaries I also thought it was a little over priced as well, then again, most of the shops and restaurants now days in Erbil have sparkly prices.

Thank you. Come again.
Service. This place has exceptional service and staff that SMILE. Hopefully others will learn. Most of  employees I saw appeared foreigners and some refugees too. Maybe soon local Kurds can be taught and employed too. I hope.

So, if you're around in Erbil, feeling like a doze of junk food, Hardees is G. G. Goood. Oh and did you hear the recent rumours? The building next door is going to be Fridays. And so I am told.

Until next time
Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan


*Hardees is located behind the Gulan tower, the big Abu Shahab intersect on the way to Ankawa on Gulan street. Opening hours 12 mid-day to 1 am.

Dear little boy

little Kurdish boy struggles to protect his two canary birds at Turkey border - MiddleEastEye

Dear little boy,
I wish they were all like you,
I wish they cared for one another as much as you care for your two birds,
I wish they had a soul as loving as yours,
I wish they had a mind as thoughtful as yours,
I wish I can build a huge cage for your canaries in the garden of your own home in Kobane,
I wish they can fly freely inside,
I wish you can come back everyday after school and see them,
feed them,
look after them,
I wish to see them fly freely, just as I wish to see you be free of pains
Little Boy, I wish everyone's heart was like yours,
filled with love, affection and care
I wish us humans loved one another as much as you love your animals,
I wish we treated one another the way your treat your pets,
Innocent little boy,
I wish you grow up in a time and place where humanity matters
where kids like yourself are well looked after,
I wish I knew till when you and your canaries will be homeless,
I wish I knew when you will both fly back to your home
I wish I saw your smile when you receive the first bottle of water
I wish I saw you as you empty it out for your canaries to drink,
then you will drink what's left...

I wish I could help you protect your canaries from the winter coldness
that is to come very soon,
If only we were all like you.
If only I can do something for you.

Please support and #SaveKobane from ISIS.

Friday, October 3, 2014

It's Jezhn!!

Helloooo Loyal Blog Readers,
Tomorrow is the first day of Jezhn (Eid), I decided for a guest blogger to tell you how the prepraration is done in my part of the world. One hint, if you're in Erbil for Jezhn (or Eid) then get ready to gain a few kilogramssss.

Guest Blogger: Huda Sarhang

Kulicha in the making in the Sarhang household in Erbil
In my house jazhn is no different to other houses in Kurdistan. My beloved mother loves to keep the tradition of making sweets and pastries that we call kulicha. Some might say why putting all this effort and wasting time with making them while you can get it all ready from bazar? The answer is perfectly simple, making kulicha brings the real spirit of Jazhn to our house. Mom loves to prepare everything for Jazhn with her own hands, what makes it special is that we (the kids) all gather to help. My younger sister and brother join us as well. We all have different tasks. I am usually responsible to sit close to the oven and watch the kulicha till it's cooked.
Pari wishes you all a happy eid, as she helps her mother make sweets (Kulicha)

Small confession, yesterday I burned some of the kulicha because I was checking my Facebook and I got punished by making another type of sweet since I wasted a lot. Anyway... eh, going back to the task list. My two little siblings are responsible for helping mom with small things she asks them to bring, sometime they prepare the nuts for making kulicha. While my other sister is responsible for putting the kulicha in two big trays. We usually make big amounts of kulicha. I still don't know why!! But we keep doing that. Every. Single. Year. Over and over again.

Kulicha in Kurdistan is a family fun activity before Jezhn (Eid) festivities 

For us, Jazhn can not pass without making kulicha and sweets,because it brings the amazing, cozy spirit of old Jazhn days we had when I was much younger. Since we have two little Angels (you know, the brother and sister) in my family,Jazhn spirit is still safe, we still get our jazhnana (money from the older to the kids in the fmaily) and we take my sister and brother to have some fun out with new clothes. Even me, I still get my jazhnana (errmmm, yeah, I am 22) It's one of my legal rights and I am not intending to give up on my jazhnana at all. Uncles and other family members each give us with the amount they desire. It has become a habit and a childhood favorite memory that our family hasn't let go of

Kulicha ready to be put into the oven
New clothes, kulicha and jazhnana are the most important three things that makes Jazhn a real Jazhn.

Happy Jazhn beautiful people

Thank you Huda for taking us into your home this Jezhn. Reading this made me smell the Kulicha and sweets at your house. Sadly, the spirit of Jezhn is not as it was before. But it was nice walking through the heart of Erbil yesterday, around the Qaysari bazaar, and sense a Jezhn atmosphere. I hope these traditions never fade.

Tomorrow morning, the house of Kurdish grandparents will be filled with children and grandchildren and little kids in their new clothes. Families then visit one another, try some of the sweets and if there are any problems among people it's an opportunity to ask for forgiveness.

I take this opportunity to wish you all a very happy Jezhn. I pray that Kurdistan can celebrate in a much better way next year. It's hard to celebrate considering so many of our greater families are in refugee camps, fleeing their homes or fighting against a brutal enemy. Meanwhile, I wait for Huda to visit me (fingers crossed she brings me some of these sweets she's been busy making for the past two days).

Lots of love from our
Nest in Kurdistan

Huda & Sazan

All photos by Huda Sarhang 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

5 'Business' Ideas for Kurdistan, Erbil

Dear Loyal Reader,

You know those times where you feel you have some amazing ideas, based on your own experiences, then you talk about them to family and friends only to persuade you that your idea has no place in this society. But I swear it does. If you have a heavy pocket and willing to do something in this society without expecting billions in return the first year then please consider these five ideas. And if I can help, then I am just a tweet and an email away.

1. The books café
Nothing fancy. Just warm and cosy. The Cultural Capital, Sulaimaniya, has plenty of these in every little street corner. Come to the business capital and there is nothing. Not a single place where you can go and read a book or write a few words without choking on the smell of Hookah (alternative names argeela, nargeela). There is no warm and cozy here. I know there is Pages Café in Ankawa but here is what I am thinking of...
2. Handmade Souvenirs/ gift House
This idea is inspired by when I was visiting the prison in Erbil for my research. The women there were making handmade jewellery, very pretty ones too. We have women in shelters, at home, girls in orphanages or those in villages who make beautiful things. Why don't we have a souvenirs/ gift shop with everything Made in Kurdistan, let it be Kurdish souvenirs. Everything you buy has a tag on it. The little tag includes information when it was made, by who and how long it took. In the end half of the money of every product sold goes back to the person who made it.

You can also purchase a wrapping paper and a little card as well to wrap your gift with - all a Kurdistan theme.

In the main shop you can also have a woman making Jli Kurdi (traditional clothes), making Kulicha, nani tiri etc. then you can have stands in the airport, malls, hotels too.

I no longer will have to take Kurdish souvenirs to my friends abroad with 'made in china' written at the bottom.

3. Mother & child edutainment
This idea is inspired by my neighbour's kids and their stay-at-home mother. She doesn't have a schedule for them, and their enjoyment is watching TV or they fight over their mum's iPhone for games. Why don't we have activities for the kids in malls where mother and child can go together.  Story telling, puppet shows, drawing or even a mini farm for mummy and her little child to see/ feed little animals? Something for average mums, not the wealthy who can afford prestigious day cares. This will be like a shop located in the middle of a mall, but let's say free of charge? The core of this idea is edutainment - education and entertainment.


4. Book shop
Can you believe the capital of Kurdistan doesn't have a decent public library with new books, nor does it have a proper book shop? You know, the Waterstones type. Yup. I am mad.  As a matter of fact it's shameful that we have a good dozen malls and not a single book shop like this in any of them.

5. Recreational Kurdish Gallery
what about a café with a Kurdish theme? Something like the teahouses in the bazar but somewhere more appropriate for girls to visit (and smoke free). Somewhere to take your laptop and finish off work while you are served with chai in an Istikan. Or even better, you can sit on the floor in a kurdawari décor with a samawar in the corner? This, my friend, is the dream café my three friends and I are dreaming to open -- but if you have the money to do so now, then please go ahead and we will be your best customers. This place will also have space for artists, poets and song writers to go and spend time in while practicing their hobbies. The focus, don't forget, is a Kurdish culture theme.
Jamal Penjweny has created something similar to this idea in Sulaimaniya's Café 11.

I couldn't find exactly what we have in mind no matter how much I asked Mr. Google, but similar to these pictures except add the Kurdish theme.

6- Boutique and courses
I promised five, but there are a trillion other ideas including a bridal boutique (not a single nice bridal dress in all of Kurdistan. Unless you search till your back, eyes, and legs hurt so much that you're no longer fit to be a bride. Even if you find something you kind-of like it will need a million alterations). And finally my favourite idea: A training courses company that provides training for cheap prices in little simple things like photography, cooking, makeup, personal styling, dieting, healthy lifestyles, confidence building, public speaking etc. Something like The Agenda Beirut, but in Erbil.

Let me know what other ideas you have in the comments below.

Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan,



Book Club opening

Helloooooo Loyal Readers

I am so excited to finally announce.... are you ready??? Da-Da-Dada

Poppy Loves book club in Kurdistan - Erbil

... a book club in Kurdistan. Sadly we are the last ones to have a brand new book in our book shops (there are only a few anyway with one billion year old dusty books) and there is never a reading group. I got in touch with Poppy Loves, a lifestyle blogger based in London, who also runs the Poppy Loves Book Club. In November the first book club meeting will take place in Erbil (Hawler). What's even more exctiiiiitttingggggg than this is that we are getting the books from the publisher. If you are a book lover in Erbil you would know this is a HUGE deal.

So, without further adoooooo as I am waiting for the arrival of the books we are forming the members of the book club, if you are interested email or tweet me. Will let you know the title of our first book soon.

I will keep all you lovely Loyal Blog Readers updated! For Kurds based in London, I know the lovely  Ruwayda Mustafa is running a book club there, don't hesitate to contact her for more information.

For now
Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan