oPPosite Left: Black sea salad, with arugula, red onion, tomato, shrimp, mussels, octopus and spicy orange dressing, at the
gundis Kurdish Kitchen.
oPPosite right: at Kubeh, fried kibbeh filled with sweet pea and dill.
aBove: Breakfast for two at the gundis Kurdish Kitchen.
Nashville is home to the largest Kurdish population in America. Born in the village of Nizdori
in a mountainous region, Hamid Hasan, a Kurd from Iraq, moved to Nashville in 1993. Back in his
village, the family grew corn, rice, tomatoes, green peppers and eggplant. They had apple trees,
peaches, pomegranates, pears and plums. “We had a nice house in the country with lots of land, goats
and corn. We were shepherds and were doing well,” he says.
Then, in 1988, as the government’s policies changed, the family moved back and forth between
Turkey and Iraq. “They destroyed everything we had. We were always at war. We were barely
making it,” Hasan says. From 1991 to 1993, the family lived in a refugee camp in Turkey. “The
winters were so hard. At first we had lentil soup and bread, sometimes rice. Since couscous was
cheaper than rice, we ate lots of couscous and lots of cornbread. Once a month, we got a whole
chicken and were so happy.”
In 1993, Catholic Charities offered the family refuge in Nashville, where Hasan now runs
the Persian restaurant House of Kabob. He estimates that Nashville has 13,000-16,000 Kurds,
with Kurds from Iraq making up 94%-95% and those from Iran, 6%-7%. He adds that 15 Syrian
families moved there several years ago.
Meanwhile, when not working at House of Kabob, Hasan retreats to his 200-acre farm in
the mountains of Tennessee “I built Nizdori in the United States,” he says. “It’s like going back
to my village.”