Juggling Books and Coffee Pots

(Photo: 9-year-old ʿAdil recalls the beginning of the protests in 2011 in his city, Aleppo, when he was only five years old. He did not understand what was going on, but he memorised revolutionary slogans like “The Syrian people will not be humiliated” without really knowing what they meant. Ariha – Idlib – 7-11-2015 (Ghazal/Good Morning Syria)).
(Ariha, Idlib, Syria) Nine-year-old ʿAdil is determined on working and pursuing his studies despite the difficulties he endured over the past years.
ʿAdil prepares coffee and serves it to customers. I visit his stand every day around noon, and he always greets me and asks: “You’d like your coffee black, right ʿammo (1)?” Then he smiles and goes on saying: “I have many things to do every day, like making 200 cups of coffee for the customers. This (the coffee stand) is how my dad makes his living and I help him after school; while he goes to the store to buy vegetables for mom to prepare lunch, I prepare these cups.”
ʿAdil was born in Aleppo, in the Bustan al-Qasr neighbourhood. His family was displaced over two years ago due to the increasing airstrikes in the city, so they settled in Ariha. The young student does not remember much about the day his family left, except for a few details. “I was afraid. All I remember is dad saying: ‘We’re okay. We’re safe. It’s nothing. It’ll all be over soon.’ Then a shell hit our house and that is how the story began. It was a dark night. My mom gathered a few woollen pieces of clothes and some of the bread left at home, and we left… We did not know where we were going. All we wanted to do was to get away from the frightening sounds of clashes and bombs,” he said.
Although ʿAdil has adjusted to his new life, he is certain that his love for Ariha does not diminish his love for Aleppo in any way, even if the only memories left of his hometown are those of rocks falling on his head that night.
“May God be with you,” ʿAdil said dismissing me, after he had handed me my cup of coffee. “Be careful! It’s very hot!”