Scents swirl, long skirts whirl as the two young Syrian women cook traditional meals in this Coral Gables kitchen across the globe from their war-torn homes.
Kholoud Al Shareef, 31, and Yasmeen Zobi, 23, move from one billowing pot to the next, speaking to one another in Arabic as they try to figure out the stainless-steel German appliances in this home that is not their own. Their faces glisten beneath their hijabs — Kholoud’s the tri-color of the Syrian flag, Yasmeen’s an elegant glitter of black sparkles — as each of the six burners and both ovens warm the sleek kitchen of burled wood cabinets, travertine tile and Edison lights.
When the homeowner, Mafe Estevez-Breton, pops in, they pantomime to one another in a mix of their Arabic and her blend of Colombian Spanish and accented English. Estevez-Breton is busy herself, sweating through a T-shirt and shorts as she sets tables in her palm tree- and bamboo-lined poolside backyard for 30 guests who will soon arrive to break bread in support of the two women who arrived as refugees just four months ago.
Kholoud and Yasmeen are among more than 40 Syrian families who fled their country and spent more than a year living in limbo outside the borders before the United States chose them to relocate to South Florida. Here, they found a culture a world apart from their own, with scant services and no family to help them acclimate or rebuild their lives.
What they did find were other women willing to help.