Damascus Rose Kitchen

Damascus Rose Kitchen

Damascus Rose Kitchen is a social enterprise that runs a cafe and catering service, led by refugee women. Their story began with a few women based in Oxford, who decided to unite and share their culture by preparing Middle Eastern dishes for their community. In doing so, they were able to preserve a part of the story and identity that they had to leave behind.

Together, they form a close-knit community that aims to empower other refugee women to make social connections, improve their language skills and develop their independence in the UK. The way to their new home was not paved with roses, but by supporting them each of them contributes to seeing the Damascus Rose in bloom again.

In their early days, the group was supported by a community-owned hub called Flo’s in East Oxford, where they were able to trial their catering service. By being a part of the Owned by Oxford partnership, the Damascus Rose Kitchen was able to establish connections with other local institutions, including an arts centre in central Oxford. Owing to their success, it was agreed that the group would take over running the cafe in the arts centre. 

While this was an excellent opportunity to grow the business, scaling up proved costly and left the group with very little in the way of finances. The group received a £4,000 grant from Owned by Oxford, which helped them with cashflow during a difficult time. 

These days, the business is going from strength to strength. Their cafe at the arts centre is now open five days a week, and they have been delivering catering services for a host of local organisations, including Oxford University and Oxford City Council. 

In future, the group would like to set up a community cafe offering Arabic storytelling and catering for families, back in East Oxford which is where they feel they belong. As the group grows they would like to donate their profits to supporting charities that support women, asylum seekers and refugees. The group also hopes to acquire an office, but as is the experience of several of the grant recipients, access to affordable workspace is a challenge. 

Despite this challenge, founder Nuha Abdo sees a

“very, very good future” ahead. “The ladies… they are really a part of it, invested in its success. They feel it supports their lives, their families. They work so hard. They want to do their job with a lot of love. They say: we are praying for it to be successful!”