By Yusra Jasim

My name is Yusra. I am from Baghdad, Iraq, where my late husband, my four children, and I all lived a beautiful and happy life together. My husband and I had many hopes and dreams that we wanted to achieve for the future of our children. But, alas, on a dark night, the war on Iraq began. My husband was killed, and danger surrounded us from every side. Our lives were changed forever.


I decided to leave Iraq and go to Syria in search of safety. My children and I lived in Syria for five years, but life was not suitable for us there, so I decided to seek asylum in America, the land of opportunity. We moved to the States at the end of 2009. At first, I was afraid and worried about this new life, as I had no friends or acquaintances in the U.S.


We arrived in New Haven, Connecticut, first, where the organization Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) welcomed us and provided us with everything we needed. They helped me register my children in local schools. My children learned English quickly, but I did not have time to go to school to learn English because my children were still young and needed my care.


Through the organization, I met a very nice American woman named Karen, who frequently came to my house and helped me practice my English. We went to beaches, parks, and even New York City for my first time together! My English started to improve.
Then in 2013 we moved to Maine, where I enrolled in Portland Adult Education to continue improving my language skills. I graduated in 2021. In time, I hope to study at the university in order to become a teacher for children. After my graduation from Portland Adult Education, I met my friend Nahla, who is affiliated with In Her Presence, which I had been a member of since 2019. In Her Presence has several programs, including a cooking program that I have participated in, and where I showcased a few Iraqi dishes. Now I would like to present an easy and famous dessert dish from my country, where it is often served during Ramadan.

Halawat sha’riyya

a traditional Iraqi sweet dish made from fine vermicelli and crushed nuts

1 cup fine vermicelli
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 Tbsp. butter
1 Tbsp. rose water
Walnuts and cardamom

Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the vermicelli noodles and cook in butter until brown.

Add 1 cup hot water and stir on high heat, then reduce the heat and let the noodles simmer until they soften. Add sugar and rose water, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Cook on low heat for 5 to 10 minutes until the water is completely absorbed.

Spread the delicious sweet dessert on a plate and garnish with walnuts and cardamom.

Halawat sha’riyya can be served cold or hot.