Menu Filter

Erbil Find all the typical products of Middle Eastern cuisine - a variety of rice, beans, lentils, chickpeas and spices


92 Tsar Simeon Str., Sofia
+359 88 271 3874
09:00 – 20:00
(Mon – Sat)
10:00 – 18:00
  • Kind: Shop

Tags: erbil, kurdish shop

Salar Sharif is a young Kurdish journalist. Some time ago he was the director of the economic section at the news of a Kurdish television in Kurdistan region. Speaks excellent English and is very knowledgeable and friendly.

4 years ago he married a Bulgarian in Greece, but they decided to finally come to live in Bulgaria in 2012 and open a grocery store and his life turned 180 degrees. “However, for me it is important to be yourself. In the Middle East it is impossible,” Salar said. “And now in the Kurdistan region you can say whatever you want, you can sling mud at the authorities, the president and the government, no one will even listen. But you have some cultural restrictions. You can not smoke anywhere, you can not drink anywhere. My wife and I were on a vacation in another city and they didn’t let us sleep in the same room because she is Bulgarian, and not Kurdish. When we got married, my name was written on her identity card and hers – on mine. And I could not convince the receptionist that we were married and in the end we slept in separate rooms. Furthermore, the temperature is 52 degrees in the summer, you know. The air is dusty and heavy. So we decided to live in Bulgaria.”

(scroll down and read more)

23_ Erbil_47x67

What he likes the most about Bulgaria is the climate. “Also, people are not racist. I’ve been in Germany and Switzerland – I don’t like it there. Bulgaria is in the middle between two cultures – European and Middle Eastern, and has the features of both.”

He has no favorite Bulgarian dishes, but likes homemade lyutenitsa, yogurt and honey, as well as homamade rakias and wines.

What he misses the most from his homeland is his mother. “Sometimes I get angry and try not to be sad about my family because I’ve explained to them how they can live well and be free in Europe. They have the opportunity, they have the money but they don’t want to. But I must say that I miss my mother.”

His favorite childhood Kurdish dish is dolma – similar to Bulgarian vine-leaf sarmas, but filled with lots of onions, beef or lamb mince, rice, peppers and spices.

The store was opened in 2012. Erbil is the capital of the Kurdistan region, now an autonomous region in Iraq. Salar Sharif was born in Erbil and loves his country, so he gave this name to his shop. “Thus every Kurd who passes by, will know that the store is owned by a Kurd,” Salar smiles.

That is why the most of his customers are Kurds, about 80%. The rest are equally Bulgarians, Arabs, Turks and other foreigners. Because Erbil is fluent in several languages ​​and can easily communicate with everyone, all kinds of people come to his store.

Products that can be found in the store are the basic ingredients of Middle Eastern cuisine – rice, beans, lentils, chickpeas. “These are mankind’s first crops found in Mesopotamia, the land between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers – where we, the Kurds, some from. These are foods that are the most natural, most healthy for humans,” Salar says. “We import these products directly from the places where they were first discovered. They have a different flavour and taste, much more natural and authentic. Importing is very difficult, because there’s a war going on on these lands. No one is engaged in farming at the moment.”

Interview and photos: An Fam
Translation from Bulgarian: Boyan Boychev
Illustration: Ivan Bogdanov for Compote Collective
November 30, 2013