LAUREL, Md. — A group of Afghan refugees forced to start their lives over here in the U.S. opened a restaurant in Laurel to foster a welcoming community for other refugees.
It's called My Kabul Restaurant and Cafe, and had its grand opening last week.
“The concept is refugees for refugees," co-owner, Khalis Noori said.
It’s been almost two years since the U.S. left Afghanistan and the Taliban took over.
Close to 80,000 people fled and became refugees in the United States, including Khalis Noori and his family.
“It was difficult. It was traumatic, it was very uncertain," Noori said. "It was either or. Either you get to that airport and leave Afghanistan or you get killed.”
Noori had been working in international development in Kabul when he had to make that difficult decision to head to the airport.
He and his family landed in Virginia in August 2021.
Noori quickly threw himself into helping other refugees, working with the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service.
Over the past two years, he said he's helped 1,400 other Afghans settle in the area.
But that adjustment process is about more than finding a house -- it's about building a home.
That's why he and other refugee families decided to open My Kabul -- to cook up a taste of home.
“[It's] for the people to get connected with your community, and to know that there is someone out there that listens to them and to what they have gone through," Noori said.
He said at least in the Afghan community, you're taught not to openly share your feelings. But, uprooting your life is traumatic, so he wanted to provide a safe space to talk about their journeys together.
"They're all welcome here, to have a meal here, to be with us, to talk with us. And just to have that environment where they can feel free to talk about their journey," he said.
It's a mission customers are already getting behind.
Noori said in its opening weekend, the restaurant hit capacity, and they took about 100 orders each day.
“We’re very supportive, of course," customer Kirk Campbell said. "That’s what America’s supposed to be, a welcoming place for your tired, your poor, for people coming together and rebuild their lives.”
My Kabul is a space for people to rebuild their lives while breaking bread.
“I want those people to just have that great time and have that warm welcome that they deserve," Noori said.
He said the restaurant is offering a 50% discount to any refugee family -- not only ones from Afghanistan.
Their goal is to expand My Kabul to more locations in the future.