‘Peace and love’ overcomes hate – as vandalized York restaurant finally opens

Upon entering the paradise of Yemen, the first thing that strikes you is not the fragrant scents of Yemeni spices, but love.

Muna Al-Maflehi is a woman who loves her children, her country’s culture and the people of York.

Muna and her family had spent weeks converting Walmgate’s former Spread Eagle pub into a restaurant when it was robbed and ransacked in December.

Yemen Heaven was vandalized in December 2021.

Vandals tore off wallpaper, smashed windows and smeared paint on walls. The crime left the family heartbroken.

But now, thanks to their tenacity and the incredible support of the people of York, the restaurant has opened its doors.

Muna said: “When the burglary happened, I felt like I was back in Yemen. It broke my heart. Not for me, but for my children. My children worried about me, but I worried about them.

After the devastating incident, Muna’s children, Tom and Zaineb, set up a GoFundMe page to help raise money to cover the cost of repairing the restaurant.

Incredibly, it brought in £21,238 – and since then Muna and her children have put in hours of work preparing their restaurant for its opening.

‘Beautiful’ first night

Muna with the flowers that a benefactor brought

Yemen Heaven finally opened its doors to the citizens of York last night (Monday).

Muna said: “It was beautiful. It was lovely. It made me really happy that a lot of people came. Everyone came to bring us flowers and wish us luck – people I didn’t even know.

Muna even received a bouquet of flowers from a friend during our interview. She and her daughter beamed with pride as they accepted this generous gift.

Following the ordeal of the family, Muna collapsed. However, since the burglary she has found strength in the support she has received from her family and the people of York.

“I want to get stronger and not give up. The people around me give me this energy not to give up.

A bright corner of the restaurant

Yemen Heaven is the only Yemeni restaurant in York.

“When I moved to York, I visited a lot of restaurants here. The food was not the same as in my country.

“I studied English at York St John and there are lots of teachers and students who wanted to learn more about Yemen and the types of food we eat.

“I have always loved cooking. Whenever I visit people, I always bring sweets, cakes, coffee and meals from Yemen.

“People like my food and wanted a place to eat it. I always dreamed of opening a restaurant serving Yemeni cuisine.

The tables of Yemen Heaven

She said: “I want to inspire people here in York to visit Yemen. I want people to know about Yemen, its food and its culture, not just the war that is going on there. I ordered a book on Yemen so that people can read about my country if they wish.

Muna and her family are determined to bring the culture of Yemen to York.

Even interviewing her for a short time left us feeling warm and welcoming. It felt like experiencing a piece of Yemeni culture when we drank the Arabic coffee offered to us.

Muna described Yemen Heaven as a place for everyone.

“All I want to spread is peace and love. I love people of all cultures, of all colors – we are all the same.

Yemen Heaven is now open in Walmgate, York. Find out more on his Facebook page.

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