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Emessa – Orient in the Middle of Prague

“A person who is healthy and has a good family does not need more. It’s already rich!”

Cozy shop with Syrian and Lebanese specialties. At Emessa, they offer Lebanese wines, coffee and tea sets, Arabic candy and coffee, dates, beverages, spices, soaps with olive oil, etc.

Sixty per cent of the things you can find are imported from Syria, and thirty-five from Lebanon. Emessa is a shop on Politických vězňů street, where we can spot Mr. Murhaf, originally from Homs, and on their shop Sweet Palace on Vodičkova Street, his wife, Mrs. Wafau. Initially, Mr. Murhaf may look shy, but once you talk to him, you can look forward to having a pleasant chat over cardamom coffee about various treats, recipes, or Arabic spices. You will learn, for example, that caraway tastes excellent with cheese.

And what does Emessa mean? It is an old Greek name for the Syrian city of Homs, which is in the Midwest of Syria.

Mr. Murhaf and his family have lived in Prague for thirteen years. He first visited Prague in 1986 when he attended a course of X-ray welding. Two years later, he returned to another course, and since then he traveled to the Czech Republic with his family for the summer holidays. “My profession is a businessman, so I started importing water pipes, sinks, and sanitary ware into Syria. I represented several Czechoslovak companies in Syria and Lebanon. I remember times when a cutlet with a side dish and two beers only cost 28 crowns. But the average salary was also 1800 crowns,” says Mr. Murhaf.

In 2007, the family opened the Sweet Palace Confectionery and Delicatessen in Vinohrady, which was very popular among customers. In addition to incredible goodies, the guests appreciated the homely atmosphere that Mr. Murhaf and his wife managed to maintain in their stores. “A person who is healthy and has a good family does not need more. It’s already rich!”

How do Czechs react to your shop?

Murhaf: There are not many Arabs in Prague, so often Czechs come buy to my shop.

Have you ever been affected by any attitudes that Czech society has had towards Muslims over the past few years?

Murhaf: “You know, in Syria, we have lived side by side with Christians, Muslims, Jews. Mosques stood right next to the churches. No racism or religious problems occurred. I help other families who move to Bohemia from Syria and advise them to respect the Czech and traditions.”

Photography © Alžběta Diringerová

 

Photography © Alžběta Diringerová

 

Photography © Alžběta Diringerová

 

Photography © Alžběta Diringerová

 

Photography © Alžběta Diringerová

 

Photography © Alžběta Diringerová

 

Photography © Alžběta Diringerová

 

Photography © Alžběta Diringerová
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