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New local retaurant features Persian cruisine

March 27, 2007|by KAREN HANNA

HAGERSTOWN - In her native Afghanistan, Laila Basharyar said people would serve what little food they had to visitors just to make them feel welcome.

Customers at Laila's Kitchen - a new restaurant on East Franklin Street across from City Hall - can expect the same attitude, Basharyar said.

"If you go to Afghanistan, even one of those poor, poor households, and they don't have anything to eat for dinner, and they have chickens (to lay) eggs, but they are killing their chickens for you because you are their company," said Basharyar, who came with her husband, Sharif Basharyar, to America in December 1985 during the Soviet invasion.

The restaurant opened about six weeks ago, but Sharif Basharyar, 53, said he and his wife plan to celebrate its grand opening Friday, when customers can sample food.

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The marinated meats and vegetables all have a distinctive Persian flavor - garlic.

"We love garlic, honestly, and everything we cook has garlic," Sharif Basharyar said.

As an exchange student, Basharyar graduated from a Montana high school in 1972 before returning to Afghanistan. With his experiences in the West, Basharyar said, he attracted the suspicion of the Soviet-installed regimes in Afghanistan. In 1984, he and his family fled.

"There is no police force to kick us out of the county, but the situation is so unbearable that tells you if you don't get out, something bad might happen to you," Basharyar said.

For five days, Basharyar said, he and his family made the trek to the Pakistan border. He and Laila Basharyar, 48, who are the parents of four daughters, had three children at the time.

They crossed small creeks and journeyed over a mountain range, Basharyar said.

"There are very narrow paths that you look down, there is a valley down there, a gorge, and if somebody falls down over that, that is it. Nobody goes down after them, and we lost a lot of people like that. But, we made it, we survived," Basharyar said.

A student of history, Basharyar said he has followed from afar the news from Afghanistan. He said he would not go back - it still is too dangerous.

Laila Basharyar said she returned home for three weeks in 2003 to see her ailing father, who later died.

"It was a lot of different. It was nothing left when I went back," Laila Basharyar said.

Though both Basharyars have worked in restaurants before, Laila's Kitchen is their first business.

"See America is the land of opportunity, so if you go after something, you can get it, as long as you follow the right and legal path," said Sharif Basharyar.

"And, you work hard," Laila Basharyar said, finishing her husband's thought.

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