Thousands of Syrian Kurds who have taken refuge in Iraq's Kurdistan are working in restaurants and cafes specialising in Levantine cuisine. As Grace Pascoe reports they are bringing much-needed service skills to a country far less experienced in the hospitality sector.
TV AND WEB RESTRICTIONS~**NONE** Four million Syrians have fled their homes over the past five years. Forced out due to the escalating civil war. In many ways they're an economic burden on their neighbours. But in Iraq, which is temporary home to nearly 250,000 Syrians, there is an upside. Mohammed Mahdi is a restaurant owner... (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) RESTAURANT AND COFFEE SHOP OWNER, MOHAMMED MAHDI, SAYING: "I choose to employ Syrians because they have the service experience and are currently cheap and available. They also speak Arabic and Kurdish so they can deal with Iraqi and Kurdish people." Prior to the civil war, Syria had an established hospitality industry. And tourism made up more than a tenth of the economy. Now some of the displaced workers - like Azad Ali - are using their skills in Iraqi restaurants, cafes and bars. (SOUNDBITE (Arabic) SYRIAN WAITER, AZAD ALI, SAYING: "We see that restaurants are the best place to work because we've had experience in Syria, working in several restaurants." In Iraq's relatively well-off Kurdish region, being a waiter is also frowned upon. That's created an opportunity for many skilled Syrians, and customers have no complaints. (SOUNDBITE) (Kurdish) ABDUL SAMAD, CUSTOMER, SAYING: "When you ask them for something, they always reply with a smile, respect, and give you what you want." The ongoing conflict means more and more Syrians are having to put down roots and earn a living. If Iraq can benefit too - that's a bonus.