Sharing Cultures – Muna and Samson’s Story

Authentic, friendly, and flavourful are some of the words that come to mind after a visit to ‘One Love African Bar and Restaurant’. Run by an Ethiopian couple – Muna Tefera and Samson Tariku and their Maltese partner, Walter Mallo, this vibrant reggae-themed restaurant at the centre of Msida offers a truly unique intercultural experience.

Muna and Samson at their restaurant, One Love, where they cook and serve Ethiopian and Eritrean food.
© UNHCR/Peter Mercieca

Muna and Samson come from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. The couple met in Sudan in 2008, when they made the dangerous and life-changing decision to cross the Sahara desert and the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better future.

Since arriving in Malta, Muna and Samson, who are parents to two young boys, have worked hard to secure a comfortable life for their family. Before opening the restaurant, both of them had different jobs. In 2015 they opened ‘One Love African Bar and Restaurant’ alongside their Maltese friend Walter from Cospicua, who also believes that food has the ability to bridge cultural divides and bring people together.

“We want to show the local population our food, so that people can understand our culture and traditions.”

The restaurant specialises in Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisine which characteristically consists of rich spicy vegetable and meat stews served on top of injera, a large sourdough flat bread.

“Maltese people love our food! Before we opened we would invite our Maltese friends and cook for them. After a while we decided to open a restaurant,” says Samson.

An instantly noticeable feature of this restaurant is that it serves a very diverse clientele. “Most of our customers are Maltese but we also have a following among migrant communities, particularly Ethiopians, Eritreans and Somalis,” explains Muna. The staff working at the restaurant also come from diverse countries. “We currently have 5 people working here from 4 different countries including Malta, Ethiopia, Finland, and Romania,” says Samson.

UNHCR/Peter Mercieca

When asked about common challenges faced by migrant and refugee communities, Muna responded by saying, “If you are a refugee in Malta you have the right to work – meaning that you are working legally and paying tax, like myself. I have always worked with a permit, paid tax and social security.” Samson adds that “Many refugees and migrants are opening shops, hairdressing salons and other small businesses. Many are also filling up jobs that are not being taken by the local community, for example in hospitals, hotels and restaurants.”

“We need to realise that it is actually a good thing to have people with different nationalities coming and living in a country. We have to accept our differences, and notice our similarities. That is why we named our restaurant after Bob Marley’s hit song “One Love”, because we want to promote collaboration, sharing, and respect, qualities that are far better than fear and hate,” adds Samson.

A Central Bank report, ‘Understanding the Macroeconomic Impact of Migration in Malta’, published in December 2015, supports the couple’s argument and has shown that foreign workers contribute significantly to the Maltese economy, noting that “evidence seems to indicate that the rising demand for labour by Maltese industries is too strong to be serviced by the supply of Maltese workers.” It goes on to show that “dependence on migrant workers amounts to nearly 29% of the entire workforce in entertainment and recreation, 23% in professional services and administrative support and 21% in hotels & restaurants.”

In September 2016, UNHCR Malta launched its first radio campaign on Bay Radio, challenging common myths about refugees in Malta. The campaign, “Flimkien ghal Malta Inklussiva/Together for an Inclusive Malta,” featured One Love African Bar & Restaurant. The campaign sought to challenge some of the common misconceptions held by the local population about refugees, ideas such as “they do not work”, “they are a burden on the economy”, and “they steal local jobs.”

 

This article originally appeared in Moving Forward – UNHCR Malta Magazine, 2018.