Abdullah Al Awayed

From Syria to south London, Abdullah Al Awayed, chef and creator of the popular Levantine culinary pop-up, Damascus Chef, has made Lewisham his home. 

Why did you choose to live in Lewisham?

‘When I think about the culture of Lewisham, I think about the fact that we have people from all over the planet living alongside each other. It’s about multiculturalism that works: It’s a rich mix – a soup of people and cultures. It’s a fertile ground for people to make new types of associations and creative outputs.’

Why did you choose to live in Lewisham?

‘We moved here seven years ago. When we saw Manor House Gardens we were like ‘wow!’ so we decided to stay in the Hither Green area as we thought it was a nice place to raise our kids. The houses are beautiful here, there’s lots of Victorian houses which I love. I also really liked Manor House Gardens, Manor Park and Mountsfield Park. Mountsfield Park has amazing views of London and Lewisham.’

What importance do you place on keeping and sharing your culture here?


‘There are so many people here from different backgrounds, but sharing your culture is another form of language and a way of making people understand you…its a way of communicating without using words.’


How do you feel about food and the food from your home country?

‘Because of the big mix of people here there’s lots of shops with foods from different countries. I’m pretty much cooking as my mum would, I’m almost there! Back home there’s a way of doing things that you try to bring to a big city, but somehow you manage to succeed and people love what you do, because it’s Lewisham.’


How important is food in bringing people together?


‘It’s very important. I work alongside organisations that support refugees that resettle in Lewisham. Food was created to bring people together and having people together brings food. And of course, food is the main thing for your health. If you eat the right food you keep in good shape and mental health, that’s why it’s important.’

What is it about Lewisham that makes you feel at home?


‘When I go outside and wave to my neighbour. I feel that in anywhere else in London people might look at you like you’re weird or they might call the police for you! But since I’ve been living in Lewisham we have a way of greeting people. Also when you have kids you feel like your kids are in safe hands.’

Why do you think people have such good community spirit here?


‘Maybe because we don’t have a lot of competition. We mostly have the same style of life. We all mix.

‘Lewisham is good because we have people that decide to make it good.’

How do you think the people of Lewisham shape the feel of the place and culture here?

‘When I go to Mountsfield Park for People’s Day, each stall I pass has different colours and smells and is from many other regions. Because I work with food when I try other people’s food I feel like I know where they come from, it’s like showing your passport.’

‘There’s a big Muslim community in Lewisham and when we celebrate Eid, I see people with different clothes or with beards or the same dark skin that shows that they’re from somewhere else. But in the end we’re all from Lewisham, so that’s our country…Lewisham.’

Why do you think Lewisham should be London Borough of Culture?

‘Because we deserve it. We need to attract attention to the borough. We have so many facilities we just need to put the right people in these places. We have really amazing venues that with a bit of money would be amazing centres for education, culture, arts…everything!’.

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