The Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market got a lot sweeter on October 5 when the Syrian Sweets Exchange made its debut.
To be sure, the back story behind these bakers is anything but sweet.
Noor Almousa and Nawal Daoud and their families arrived here in 2016, after surviving devastating events in Syria. Almousa is a graduate of the Agricultural Engineering Institute in Homs. She and her daughter were both wounded when gunfire struck their home. Their property decimated, the family fled to the Jordan border where they spent three-and-a-half years.
Daoud’s family faced tragedy when a rocket hit their car while driving in Damascus in 2013. She lost a child and her father in-law.
But life has been better in the U.S. — thanks in part to the Syrian Sweets Exchange, which has introduced Syrian bakers to the local community and helping them earn money via their sweets-making skills. Most of the bake sales happen at churches and synagogues around town.
One sweet for sale is called namoura. This bulk of this tasty cake is made from the coarse wheat flour semolina, which gets mixed with yogurt, butter, and sugar prior to baking. Once it’s done, and still warm, the cake is soaked in a sweet syrup. The result is a slightly crumbly, sticky delight.
There was also the texturally complex baklava. Buttery sheets of phyllo dough are layered with a blend of nuts, syrup, and butter and then baked to a crisp.
Tan Jakwani is part of the volunteer group that organizes the bake sales. They also facilitate relations between the bakers and the International Refugee Committee of Phoenix (IRC), to obtain the licenses needed for selling.
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Jakwani says she is excited to “watch these bakers become businesswomen.” All the proceeds from the sales go directly to the bakers to help pay for rent, transportation – everyday needs.
The Old Town Scottsdale Farmers Market is just the beginning, Jakwani tells us.
“Bakers from the Syrian Sweets Exchange should be vending in nine area farmers markets by December," she says. There may also be some opportunities for the bakers in the new year. Jakwani mentioned that the city of Phoenix and ASU’s downtown campus are working together to create a pop-up shop for these bakers, adding that no plans have been solidified yet.
Visit Syrian Sweets Exchange to find out where the bakers will be selling their assortments of pastries. The site also has information on different ways you can volunteer to assist the bakers.