A FAMILY has told their story of how, three years after fleeing the war in Syria, they are opening their own Arabic food business on Bury Market.

Seham and Ghassan Makdesi lived very ordinary lives in their village — just five minutes outside of Hama city in west-central Syria; Seham worked at Al-Hallab sweet shop and her husband was a driver.

But caught in the middle of a multi-sided armed conflict, the couple and their 11-year-old daughter fled from their home, leaving behind every single possession they had.

"We cannot go back home", Seham said. "There is a war in my country. There was war everywhere, including in our village.

"We left our friends, our family, everything, even our clothes. And we came to Lebanon at first, and then to England.

"The Home Office gave us hotels so we had somewhere to stay. We came to Wigan, then to Liverpool, then to Bury."

The family was registered with Serco, who provided accommodation and support services for them while their asylum claim was processed. Four months later, they received the papers which granted them "leave to remain" in the UK as refugees for five years, after which — if the situation in their home country has not improved — they can then apply to settle in the UK more permanently.

Three years since finding safety in the UK, the Makdesis have learnt the English language, passed a British driving test, secured their daughter Katrina a place at Bury Church of England High School, and settled in a new home in Bury town centre.

The couple have been volunteering at Bury's PDSA charity shop in The Rock for about 18 months while they learnt the language.

Over the past few months, they have received vital support from a network of friends across the borough.

Now, they are embarking on what they describe as "the dream of their lives" — establishing their own food unit, Falafels and More, on Bury Market.

The couple attend an Arabic-speaking church in central Manchester and attribute their newfound business to God.

"Every time we walked through the market, my husband would look at the same unit and say he wanted a small store like that", Seham said. "We ended up getting that exact one. I think it is a gift from Jesus. It is our dream to open an Arabic food shop."

The 45-year-old is a self-taught cook, using books and carrying out her own research to create new recipes. The mum-of-one enjoys cooking traditional dishes such as tabbouleh rice, kibbeh and sambusas, using authentic Middle Eastern flavours.

Friend Heidi Reiss said: "They look on the positive side. They gave up everything to come here. They have had to work their way up from nothing. A group of people in the area have underwritten their journey. All this is credit to them."

The stall will be open on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays. An official launch celebration will be held on Saturday, November 10. For more information email falafelsandmore@outlook.com.