News | 19 January 2021
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Behind the Stalls: Hasan Alwarhani

In Behind the Stalls, we visit some of the colourful characters of Wellington waterfront’s Harbourside Market. In the ninth of 10 stories, we meet Hasan Alwarhani of Damascus.

Hasan Alwarhani in his small, red food trailer, Damascus, which sells Syrian food, situated on Wellington Waterfront with the harbour in the background.

Hasan Alwarhani is staying true to his Syrian roots and is bringing a taste of home to Wellington.

“I left home in 2008 and as a young man the thing I missed most was the food, so I started cooking. I’d always be on the phone with my mum while she explained to me how things were done.”

Hasan says his mum’s a great cook and now he and his partner Flora are ensuring his ancestor’s cooking traditions live on, serving up Syrian-style pizza, manakesh, from their food truck.

“When we got to Wellington, we couldn’t find any real Middle Eastern food,” Hasan says.

“All my family are chefs – my partner too. Food for us is very important, it’s a time when family come together around yummy meals.”

The couple moved to New Zealand about seven years ago, and opened their food truck and catering business, Damascus, in 2017. They have a range of manakesh flavours – like beef and tahini, or homemade Syrian cheese – and vegan and gluten free options on their menu.

A Syrian-style pizza, manakesh, topped with spinach and feta, on a paper plate.

“Our most popular is the spinach and feta manakesh which we’re getting famous for.”

Flora is from Argentina and also grew up with food being very much a focal point. She and Hasan have a toddler, and the family enjoy exploring Aotearoa in their van.

Hasan says when they first launched Damascus, their dream was to trade at Harbourside Market, where they enjoyed spending their Sundays, buying fresh produce and tasting cuisine from various cultures.

Now Hasan and Flora and their food truck have been regulars at the Harbourside Market for almost two years.

“Being part of the community is very special. We receive lots of feedback from our customers, and it gives us drive.”