After fleeing the conflict in Syria with his family, Ahmed has rediscovered his roots on the Greek island of Crete.
CHANIA, Crete Syrian refugee Ahmed Tarzalakis has been in Crete for just a few months but he feels right at home in the Mediterranean island known for its rugged landscape, cuisine and hospitality.
At first residents joked aloud that Ahmed, with his bushy moustache, wiry frame and gaunt face could pass for a native of the Greek island. They were stunned when he answered back in the Cretan dialect that he had learned from his parents and grandparents in the Syrian enclave of Al-Hamidiyah, set up for Muslim refugees from Crete about 120 years ago near the border with Lebanon.
Ahmed, 42, grew up speaking Greek and Arabic, but he can neither read nor write Arabic, the main language in Syria. Now he has set foot for the first time in a land he knew from stories and songs shared by his elders at family gatherings. This is the land of our ancestors, he says, although he still feels nostalgia for pre-war Syria.
A stonemason by trade, he fled to Greece with his family to escape the approaching conflict. They made their way by boat to the island of Lesvos and then to Cretes second largest town, Chania.