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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region.

ORAL HISTORY

Chafik Chamoun


Chamoun’s Rest Haven

Born in small village near Zahlé, Lebanon, in 1932, Chafik Chamoun arrived in the Mississippi Delta with his wife, Louise, in 1954. The newlyweds came to Clarksdale, following in the footsteps of Chafik’s grandfather, who had arrived in the Delta decades earlier.

Chafik worked a variety of jobs to make ends meet, but, like many Lebanese immigrants before him, including his grandfather, he spent years peddling dry goods to tenant families. He eventually earned enough to open a small grocery store out on Friars Point Road in Clarksdale, where Louise often made him lunch: a kibbe patty wrapped in homemade Lebanese bread. Customers began asking about Louise’s “kibbe sandwich,” and soon, picnic tables dotted the parking lot, and Louise was serving traditional Lebanese foods to the people of Clarksdale.

In 1990 Chafik’s cousins, who had operated Rest Haven Restaurant since the 1940s, retired. Chafik and Louise purchased the Rest Haven, added their name to the sign out front, and have been serving Lebanese, American, and Italian favorites to loyal customers ever since.

Chafik Chamoun passed away December 8, 2017.

FILM: View a short documentary film on Chamoun’s Rest Haven, The Rest Haven, that was made in 2010 by Mississippi Arts Commission director Malcolm White in collaboration with Barefoot Workshops.

Date of interview:
2010-08-16 00:00

Interviewer:
Amy Evans

Photographer:
Amy Evans

Download Transcript

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