A recipe for integration
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A recipe for integration

Asmaa Saleh dreams of one day opening an Egyptian restaurant in Malta.

Asmaa Saleh, 28, has lived in Malta for the past 16 months together with her husband, Mohammed. They have a daughter and a baby boy who was born in Malta.

Asmaa was born in Egypt yet grew up in Saudi Arabia. After 17 years in Saudi Arabia, she moved back to Egypt to study at university and four years ago, she married Mohammed. "My parents, both doctors, still live in Saudi Arabia," she says.

Then Asmaa and her husband moved to Malta. "We arrived in Malta just one week before Christmas. At first, I felt uncomfortable as Malta is very different from Egypt and Saudi Arabia. But now, I have settled down well – the Maltese people are lovely and I have made many friends. I have also met and befriended other Egyptians in Malta. My daughter is also doing very well at school – she goes to a Catholic school and, even though we are Muslim, she has never had any problems and has made many friends."

Asmaa teaches her daughter the Quran and every Friday they go to the mosque in Paola to pray.

Asmaa herself has integrated well in Malta and is even learning Maltese. "Having a positive character has helped me a lot – I am very sociable and get on well with people. I'm like my mother – we both love to cook and to watch other people eat the food we prepare."

Asmaa, a science graduate, loves beautiful things, especially make-up. "It all started when I was living in Saudi Arabia – there, women love make-up. I even did the wedding make-up for my brother's wife and for my cousin."

Asmaa is also passionate about food, especially sweets, and dreams of one day opening an Egyptian restaurant in Malta. She is also studying cake decorating.

"I started cooking when I was in secondary school. My mother would be at work and so I would prepare the food for the family. My mother taught me a lot about cooking. I also learned a lot when I was living in Saudi Arabia – there are so many different cultures there and all prepare different foods. I experimented with Lebanese and Saudi ingredients and cooking methods."

Asmaa's husband was born in Malta. His father was a doctor working in Malta and Mohammed lived in Malta until he was seven years old. His two sisters were also born in Malta. "My family still talk a lot about Malta – they remember it fondly. I decided to return to Malta because of the opportunities it offers. It was difficult to integrate at first and I miss my family a lot. But I have a determined character and a strong wife and together, we have managed."

Recipe

Kushari – A traditional Egyptian dish of rice, lentils and pasta, kushari is so popular that it is often referred to as Egypt's national dish.

Ingredients: 130gr short-grain rice; 130gr macaroni; 130gr black lentils; Oil; 3 onions, chopped finely; Garlic, minced; Tomatoes; Tomato paste; Salt and pepper to taste; Cumin; White vinegar.

Method: Fry one onion until brown and crispy. Boil the pasta, rice and lentils separately. Fry the remaining onions with the garlic. Grate the tomatoes and add. Stir in the tomato paste and some vinegar. Season with cumin, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes. To serve, plate the rice, lentils and pasta. Then add the sauce and garnish with the crispy onion.

Serves 6.

This interview was included in the publication InterAct – A Portrait of Third-Country Nationals in Malta, published as part of the Media InterAct project (IF 2010 02) and distributed with The Times. They are based on the TV programme Minn Lenti Interkulturali, produced/presented by Maria Muscat (PBS), and directed/edited by Godfrey Smith (PBS) and  broadcast on Education22/TVM2 and TVM between January and March, 2012 and on TVM between April and June, 2012. The project is co-financed through the European Fund for the Integration of Third-Country Nationals. The project is led by SOS Malta, in partnership with the Public Broadcasting Services and the Institute of Maltese Journalists.

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