Rafat Harb hasn’t had a lot of free time since he arrived in Nova Scotia as a Syrian refugee in February 2016. He received a diploma from NSCC, learned the English language, got his citizenship, done volunteer work and launched three businesses. 

The newest is the Syriana Market, which bills itself as the largest multicultural food market in Atlantic Canada. The Halifax business opened in February and sources products from around the world, including India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, China and Syria. 

Located on Strawberry Hill Street in Halifax, the Syriana Market has 14 employees, including people from Syria and Somalia. The business is divided into three spaces — a restaurant, butcher shop and food market — and has plenty of room for physical distancing. 

For the décor, Harb, 23, got help from his father Mohammed, an architect in his native Syria who is working on upgrading his certifications and language skills to work in Canada. 

“All the people, they love the decorations,” Harb says. 

The Syriana Market is essentially a bigger and better reboot of Harb’s previous business, the Syrian Meat Shop, which was located on Gladstone Street in Halifax. For example, that space didn’t have a restaurant, but offered takeout service. That business closed in August 2020 because the lease was up and the building was being demolished for redevelopment. While the plans were to reopen with a seamless transition, something got in the way. 

“COVID came and it made everything late,” Harb says, 

Harb is the oldest of eight kids and his siblings are all in university or in school. He’s worked hard to help create a life for his family in Canada. 

“I didn’t give up,” he says. “I keep going.” 

Richard Woodbury

Richard Woodbury

Richard writes for both local and national publications and his work has been published by Reuters, Metro and Enterprise Magazine.

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