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'I want people to accept the differences'

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'I want people to accept the differences'
Khaled Khoshdel. Photo: Negina Pirzad
09:59 CEST+02:00
A native Afghan who fled his homeland in 1994, Khaled Khoshdel immigrated to Vienna for a better life. He came with optimism and a culture he wanted to share with European people, which led him to open the only Afghan restaurant in Vienna, called Noosh.

He also works with the local non-profit organization Caritas where he helps refugees and immigrants from around the world transition into their new lives in Vienna.

He spoke with The Local, to a reporter who is also ethnically Afghan, about his experiences in Vienna since his move and his memories of Kabul.

Why did you leave Afghanistan and come to Austria?

I left because of the war, as do most Afghan refugees. Life in Kabul was getting harder and harder. When the Mujahedeen extremists entered Kabul, that's when the real war began. They started fighting each other, and I knew I had to leave and go west. Moving to Austria was never a fixed plan for me, but it has worked out.

What do you miss from home?

My happiest times from Kabul was when I was a kid and in school, and I could be with my friends whenever I wanted. The way I grew up is different from how children here grow up. Kids grow up on the streets in Kabul - we didn't have toys to play with from stores. We would make our own toys out of wood or from rocks, and that's one memory I like. And the fresh, open air and the delicious fruits!

Why did you want to bring Afghan food to Vienna?

In the news, most people only hear about the war in Afghanistan and the corruption, so a lot of my guests come because they are curious and want to know what Afghan people are like, what kind of foods we eat, what we look like, what type of music we listen to.

This is why I wanted to share my culture, through food and other entertainment, with people in Vienna. Before, there wasn't any Afghan food in town, and in my opinion, it's some of the best food in the world. At first, business was good, but I think this year has been the best - people are usually coming with open minds and an interest in Afghan culture.

The food I serve is very traditional and authentic since everyone working in the Noosh kitchen is Afghan. You can find dishes like pallow, mantu, oshak, and bolani on our menu. But it's not only the Afghan food that I bring to Vienna. I invite musicians, poets, and writers from all cultures to come share their work at Noosh so we can all be aware of each other and our traditions.

How do you interact with other Afghans here?

I see them around and I have my friends and those who come by the restaurant, but I mostly see and meet Afghans through the non-profit organization that I work for, Caritas. I've worked with them for seven years now - I started before opening the restaurant. It's a group that is connected to the church, and we help refugees and foreigners with things like doing paperwork, getting them into language classes, finding housing, things like that.

I wanted to do this sort of social work to help other Afghans because I could. I have the language abilities and translating is very hard. I speak the Afghan languages and I speak English, German, and Russian, and also, I know how difficult life can be when first coming. When I first got here, there were people from the local Evangelical Church who really helped me when the government wouldn't. They gave me a place to sleep and other necessities. And it's not just Afghans that I work with - it's foreigners from all around the world.

How do you deal with the mix of cultures?

My goal is not to combine the Afghan culture with Austrian culture. I think it's important for them to be kept separate, and I'd like people to know the differences and respect them. We all live individual lives and have individual traditions, but acceptance must be there.

By Negina Pirzad

Noosh is in Vienna's 7th district, at Zieglergasse 29. 

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