Tuesday, November 25, 2014

An orphanage for Yezidi children

Loyal Blog Readers, the kind hearted ones on the WWW
I have always admired and looked up to young people who try to create something in their world. I have never met this young girl, but have heard enough about her to tell you all about a special project which you can help in making possible. It's a new foundation called Free Yezidi, the founder is Pari Ibrahim, the mission is to create an orphanage for Yezidi children who lost their family during the ISIS attack on Sinjar.
Yezidi orphans, in need of an orphanage and post trauma center, urgently
Photo: Free Yezidi
Already Pari has a list of 130 Yezidi orphans. She is on a mission to create an orphanage and a post trauma Center for Yezidis. This will be located in Duhok, the team of volunteers need $200, 000 USD to make this possible. Compared to the hundreds and thousands of dollars that go towards fancy cars, clothes and handbags, this is a little amount that will change a number children's lives for ever and ever and ever (aaahhh if only someone famous or a company manager was reading this humble blog of mine).
Even so, loyal blog readers if 100, 000 of us donated $2 each, we can secure a future for all the children who became victims of the ISIS attack, destroying their homes and killing their mothers, fathers and kidnapping their other siblings.
Please follow the initiatives of the Free Yezidi foundation on their website: https://www.freeyezidi.com/
Follow them on Twitter:
And like them on their Facebook page:
You can also donate by clicking right here!
Let's give these children a home in which they can feel loved, have a home to sleep in, and opportunities to go to school and live their life...
Lots of love from My Nest in Kurdistan


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Buy Art! Help the displaced!

Loyal Readers based in Erbil,
This one is for you.
I love sharing with you the little, special things that take place in my nest. So, here is something exciting. Are you ready to add this to your calendar this weekend? Friday, November 21st, 2:30 pm is your date to make a difference and give a helping hand.
Art auction for IDPs and Refugees
Photo: Mselect.
Some of my favourite organizations are all getting together including Rwanga and RISE foundations and of course MSelect for a charity art auction supporting IDPs and Refugees in the Kurdistan Region.

"Photographs and paintings from more than 10 local and international artists and photographers will be the focus of the event. Proceeds will directly support those most in need."

If you're looking for a gift to buy anyone what better than a special piece or art? I love the idea of something hanging at home, knowing it has a grand meaning and significance behind it.

I hear Farhad Pirbal has donated five of his paintings to be auctioned at the event as well!

Address: Naz City Road off of 100 Meters Street (behind Jordanian Hospital) floor below Esporta Gym.

Friday, November 21 at MSELECT's office from 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
This is an open invitation so feel free to drop by, invite yourself.
Be there!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Dear Me

My dearest, Loyal Reader…

Back then, I used to make time  have time to visit the little children in the orphanage. I used to help with their homework, play games and run around like a child in the garden. Dear Me, how many times I sang songs running in circles holding little children's hands; or the times I drew butterflies and love-hearts on innocent faces.
A day I will never forget. We (Ashna, Bewar, Ruwayda and many others) joined
the children to the airport
Back then, I used to go and visit Pura Gulizard at the elderly people's home in Erbil. I used to take her home-made cakes or cookies (all sugar free) and listen to endless complaints- about her children, life, her deteriorating health… and about her crush. I used to hug her tight and laugh at her teenage heart as she asked me to pluck her eye-brows. I used to sit down and sing along sometimes, or listen to their stories. At times I drove home in tears, other times I was the happiest girl on this planet.

Back then, I went on adventures in my own city. I would walk up the citadel and make my way through the busy alleyways of Erbil's Qaysari bazaar. The experience used to tickle all my senses, I would breathe in the smell of strong spices, the not-so-appetising odour of fresh cheese (with few flies visiting for a taste) and I'd admire the sight of the rainbow of bright coloured material in so many shops for Kurdish clothes (Jli Kurdi).  I would make time to appreciate the poor, but very patient, shop owners laying down colourful pieces of material on the tiles for very picky Kurdish girls to choose from.

Back then, my Loyal Blog Reader, was only few years ago. A lot of these still live in me, sometimes priorities change. Now I dream of the families under tents in refugee camps. I think of how much donations one must collect and try to fit everything in with long working hours. I have nightmares of ISIS. But these aren't adequate excuses, right?

Dear Me, do I put the blame on myself, or let the blame free from within and surrender to believe this is life? C'est la Vie. 

Lots of love from 
My Nest in Kurdistan,


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Sugary Cakes - Sekercake

Dear Loyal Blog Reader,
Imagine, sugar and cake? I know, emmm emmm. Then imagine this: That perfect cake with your favorite character, your lover's favorite football team or even the cover of your favorite book. Then you can eat it all. Two sisters in Erbil, Ozlem and Cigdam, make that possible with lots of time, love and precision. 
Cigdam (left) and Ozlem (right)
One an architect, another a food engineer* (clearly, engineering isn't as sweet of a job). These sisters have started a small business in Erbil that is growing fast. It started exactly a year ago in a small shop in Kasnazan, they have now moved to Italian Village in Erbil, here they talk, laugh and with lots of patience make cakes people request. No advertising, no fancy banners, just word of mouth and all orders are taken from their Facebook page. 

If you are surprised about how great my blog pictures are
special thanks to the little brother who I dragged along
"I like this job more than architecture, it's a form therapy," tells me the cofounder of a architectural company in Erbil, as she uses stencils to create a little yellow duck for the cake. 

I loved watching the sisters talk and giggle as they made the request to a Facebook order, with the iPad at hand to see the pictures the customer had sent through. This time it's a cartoon character. 

Oziem, the former food engineer, did her courses in Turkey and Holland for Sugar Art, the name of that course makes me bounce off my chair. Sign me up please! With her brief English she tells me: "I like my job, people happy, we are happy." Yup, no customer walks out disappointed after ordering their cupcakes or cake. 

With their massive, yet humble success, these two sisters say it was never expected one year ago that their cakes would go such a long way. Hence, they have the idea to open a mini boutique like cafe/ cake shop and if there are any women or girls who are interested Oziem might just be kind enough to offer courses in sugar art... right here, in Erbil. 

Cake icing fresh and ready
Want to know a little secret? in that room, as I was talking to the lovely ladies I felt like a child who wanted to dip her index finger in everything then lick it off. Don't worry. I didn't. Who wouldn't want to dip their finger in that blended cake icing! (Above)

Sazan might just be in heaven. Top left, was sooooo good. Something like
Chocolate coated custard in pastry? 
Usually for an order that has lots of decorating and art involved the ladies start 48 hours before hand.  Never thought a little cupcake can be such hard work to make. 

Sekercake - Erbil

A cake in the making
This was the weekend that I learned all about fondant icing, and met two super sweet ladies who make the best sweets I have tasted so far. 
Everything is made with love
I was eager to ask about why they called their little business Sekercake, the reply? Well, everyone likes cake, and people like sugar, so why not sugar and cake together, hence, Sekercake. And that, my dear Loyal Blog Reader, made perfect sense to me.

The lovely ladies at Sekercake preparing for an order in the afternoon
I loved spending time with both lovely ladies, they were super doooper nice, it was clear they loved what they do, despite the lack of a common language between us, they wouldn't stop smiling and trying to explain things to me (I always need explaining). 

You can contact the ladies at Sekercake on 0750 850 0201. To make an order just inbox them on Facebook with a picture of what you want, or give them a call. 

You can visit their Facebook,  Twitter, or you can see some pictures of their work here (If you see anything Manchester United, it's my order). 

Mention this blog or the iErbil Facebook page and the ladies will give you a sweet discount with your next order. I promise. 

Until next time I find you something just as sweet
Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan


*Food engineer - I Put a link to Wikipedia, in case there are some Loyal Readers, like myself, who went "huh?" when they read that. How cool.
What do you do? 
I'm a food engineer! 

If you have something special I would love to come and see, just drop me an email s.mandalawi@gmail.com

Monday, November 10, 2014

A day... in my life

Dear Blog Loyal Blog Readers,

Have I ever mentioned how much I love you all?

Photo: Olivia Steele
I had a few lovely emails in my inbox from a few of you who read the blog regularly. To address one of the comments, yes, I will create a website and post a lot of different updates. Just bare with me, those of you who have read Mandalawi.blogpsot over the years would have probably realized by now I am not the best of friends with technology. Sadly.

I wanted to do a day in my life (Recap and Rewind) every now and then, just to give a feel of how young (25 next month, I guess I can still call myself young! Yes? No?) Kurdish girls spend their day-to-day life here and also for me to look back on when I have grey hairs and have grandchildren sitting on my lap.

I was at a meeting (6-hours, so it was more like a workshop), we were planning how to improve the situation of young boys and girls in rehabilitation centers (doesn't sound familiar to you right? How about the prisons? Aha! You knew that didn't you?). This reminded me of the research I did with women in prison. I genuinely hope we can do something to make them positive individuals within their society once they leave the centers, yup, I refuse to call it prison.

Something that I am excited about is that me and a friend might actually train some of the youth that have been 'sentenced' and acquaint them with the peer education program. Nothing confirmed, but very exiting! Having said this I learned a lot about the situation of our rehabilitations for youth in particular, while staff have a lot of training, still we lack in spaces and organized systematic way of working.

So, that was my day yesterday! Oh yes, and the beautiful Huda joined me for a quick shopping in Rhein Mall. Don't you feel the days go pass so fast? Or is it just me?

One last note, if you would like to guest blog then just drop me an email, would love to have more Kurdish girls here!

Until next time lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan



Friday, November 7, 2014

Yoga and a lot more, in Erbil's Fig Club

Loyal Blog Readers,

Imagine in the middle of a hectic week of emails, appointments, work, cooking and running after the children (any mummies reading my blog?) you have an entire hour all for yourself. In a place with candles, flowers, and everyone you see greets you with a smile. A dream in Erbil? Well, no longer. Welcome to the Yoga class at The Fig Club.

Yoga classes in Erbil? Now that is exciting! 
A very sweet, Sophia, from the heart of UK, London, is the founder of the place, she also happens to run the ladies Yoga classes on Wednesday evenings. I speak to Sophia as I comfortably sit at the kitchen bench (did I mention this little place feels like a home), she begins preparing for the evening class while answering my never ending questions (sorry Sophia!).

 Her story on how she ended up in Erbil and what lead her to form this center  is a very interesting one which I will leave you to find out. Ask her when you visit, Promise? 

The big Fig can't be missed right opposite Senses Salon and Holland Bazar,
31 - Vital Village
Inside the big purple house The Fig Club already has more than 300 memberships within less than a month from the officially opening day (there is high demand on the classes, and like any great place you actually have to reserve your place). There are classes like Zumba, Aikido, Hip Hop, Oriental Dance, and Yoga for adults. As for children, it's a full schedule the entire week with arts, music, hip hop, ballet, piano, flute, martial arts, and guitar classes for the little ones and even teenagers. With a monthly membership at a very decent price children can now find something to do for their after school activities, other than the TV or mummy's iPhone.

Little Ballerinas
Photo: The Fig Club
There is also a playgroup for mothers and their youngsters every morning; and oh, so cute, baby yoga! Doesn't the thought of it make you want to have a baby right away? If I am not wrong this is probably the only place in Erbil that provides leisure activities for children and teenagers as well as adults. 

All ready to start Ladies' Yoga on Wednesday
A while back (umm, like two months ago) it seemed like a dream to have a place in Erbil to go do something and enjoy yourself in, instead of sitting at a coffee shop or a restaurant eating (and gossiping). I love how The Fig Club attracts people of all ages and backgrounds, for example during Wednesday's Yoga class I met Asian women, American, British, Kurds and others too. 

I love the decor and small touches, it makes The Fig Club special
The receptionist is wonderful and very helpful. People actually smile in this place. Definitely an evening well spent for the same price as a coffee or fast food sandwich. I came back home fresh, full of energy and above all, calm. Very calm. 

It's all about the little details in this big purple house in Erbil's
Vital Village 
Did I mention it's a purple wonder land?
For the lads out there (if you happen to have read till here) don't be upset, there are different options for you as well. For the comfort of everyone Sophia has kindly set different classes at different times for only women and mixed classes for those who don't mind. 

Photo: Asuda Rwandzi
Make sure you follow The Fig Club on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter they promise to be very quick in their replies, but don't blame them they are super busy Figs! 

You can always email the amazing and talented sophia@thefigclub.com or visit the website

Until next time I find something exciting and fun, sending you
Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan


Thank you to Asuda Rwandzi for joining me and taking the pictures

Tags: Yoga in Erbil, reactional activities Kurdistan, Things to do in Erbil, Hawler, 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

#BuyAblanket this winter for those who have fled the warmth of their homes

Dear Loyal Blog Readers,
Here, I am sharing a message from my friends at RISE Foundation. Please read, reach out and help.

Buy a blanket campaign by RISE foundation
Winter is coming to Kurdistan, Iraq, where 1.2 million people have been displaced this year by the consequences of the war. A real war. Real people. One province of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Dohuk, hosts more than 820,000 displaced people.
A lot of good work is happening, but the response is being overwhelmed by the sheer number of people seeking help.
We are working very hard to provide blankets to those families who will suffer hardest from the cold. To this end, we are about to launch an online campaign. Every £7/$10 USD you give will provide a high quality blanket to a family in need.

Campaign to #BuyABlanket for IDP/ refugees

Rise Foundation has a small team of international staff, working alongside local volunteers and on-site coordinators. We favour a hands on, field based approach wherever possible, allowing us to respond quickly and appropriately to problems as they develop.

How can you help?
1. We ask for you to help us share this on your social networks both Facebook and Twitter:
#winteriscoming, 1.2 million people need your help. For $10 @RiseFound can deliver a blanket to a displaced family in need #buyablanket
2. Donate on the Rise Foundation website
3. Tell your friends and family.

Thanks to Tom at RISE
You can follow RISE foundation on the their Twitter, Facebook and website.
You can donate to #BuyAblanket by few mouse clicks right here
Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan,
If you are running a campaign, trying to assist people or doing any project voluntarily don't hesitate to email me to feature you on the blog.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

New book for November

Dear Loyal Blog Readers,
November is super exciting since we have the very first Poppy Loves book club gathering. This month's book is The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault. Through my lovely brother MM, Poppy sent over some copies of this book that we are sharing among us before meeting on November 26th.

The Peculiar Life of a Lonely postman by Denis Theriault

"BOOK DESCRIPTION‘A beautifully tragic and thought-provoking tale, The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman is a moving book by a talented new voice.

Secretly steaming open envelopes and reading the letters inside, Bilodo has found an escape from his lonely and routine life as a postman. When one day he comes across a mysterious letter containing only a single haiku, he finds himself avidly caught up in the relationship between a long-distance couple, who write to each other using only beautiful poetry. He feasts on their words, vicariously living a life for which he longs. But it will only be a matter of time before his world comes crashing down around him…’

Denis Thériault weaves a passionate and elegant tale, comic and tragic with a love story at its heart. Philosophical, rich in description and detail, it cannot fail to move.

Poppy Loves Book Club in Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq
Poppy Loves Book Club sees women all around the world reading the same book at the same time.. and then coming together online to discuss it, no matter where they are."The idea you have created: women all around the world reading the same book at the same time is wonderful and empowering..." -Lee Rourke, author of Vulgar Things.

"Poppy's Book Club is a delight. A group of passionate and avid readers who love to talk about books. I can't think of a better way to spend an evening." -Elizabeth Fremantle, author of Queen's Gambit."
The above is all taken from Poppy Love's newsletter- you can sign up here to receive it in your inbox.
Visit the Poppy Loves book club here
If any of you lovely girls want to run another Poppy Loves book club in Kurdistan please drop me or Poppy an email, I can pass on Poppy's Books to you once we are done reading each one. Then, you, and a group can join the hundreds of others around the world all reading the same book at the same time.
Until next time...
Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Hello November

Dearest Loyal Blog Reader,

WOW! November already? 
In part of the world, here in Kurdistan, October has been a month filled with  tears. Tears, because our men and women in uniform are fighting monsters (ISIS) to keep our land safe.. mothers said good bye to their children in the hope they will see them again, some come back safe and sound, and others return in coffins. The harsh reality that leaves a wound in all our hearts. Meanwhile thousands have fled their homes in Kobane, and still refugees and IDPs living under tents this winter.

Let's hope for a great November, 2014
Photo: Me, today
My visit to the refugee and IDP camps constantly remind me how blessed I am for everything and everyone in my life. I can only hope and pray for the best. 

This November I hope to:

1.  Get some sport in my life in addition to continuing the Yoga (blog post coming on that very soon. I promise. Baxwa!) I have started. 
2. Improve my photography techniques so I can treat you Loyal Blog Readers with some good quality pictures that are nice to look at it. 

I am also super doooper excited for our very first book club meeting on 26th of November. 

Then there is two special birthdays and my parents' wedding anniversary which is of course one of the most special days in the year. The union of two of the greatest people in my life, so I have a reason to celebrate! 

I hope I can spend my November nights by the window writing away, and I wouldn't mind few walks under the rain ;) 

Lots of love from
My Nest in Kurdistan