Marrickville Councillors, staff and citizens share their stories about Council's Sister Cities

Clr Mary O'Sullivan meets with Safita's Mayor on a personal holiday to SyriaCouncillor Mary O'Sullivan included olive capital Safita in the itinerary for her Syrian holiday in January 2009. Clr O'Sullivan was particularly interested in Safita's 12th century crusader tower, and its breathtaking views of the coast and snow-capped mountains.

"We were stopping off at Safita as part of a day trip around the crusader and Arab castles in the hills near Hama. The greatest of them all is Krac des Chevaliers, but Safita's tower is part of the network of fortresses," Clr O'Sullivan said.

"I had learnt just before I left that Marrickville had a sister city relationship with Safita. So it seemed the right thing for me to take an hour or so out of my visit to drop off a letter from Mayor Sam Iskandar and small gift to the Mayor of Safita."

But more was in store for Clr O'Sullivan than she had anticipated.

"Imagine my reaction when the first greeting I received when I stepped into the office at the back of Safita Councillor Ibrahim Hassoun's stylish boutique was 'Hi, I'm Rhonda from Marrickville!' Rhonda Habib was staying with her aunt near Safita. Like many of Marrickville's migrant parents, Rhonda wants to give her two young children an immersion experience in her home culture and language. I was further struck by the bonds between migrant communities in Australia and places like Safita when Rhonda told me she had been taught Arabic at Marrickville High School by Mayor Sam Iskandar."

Councillor Ibrahim invited Rhonda to interpret during Clr O'Sullivan's meeting with the Mayor of Safita.

"Mayor Elias al Saegh and Councillor Hassoun were proud of the harmonious and close connections between Christians and Muslims in Safita. The hilltop town and ancient tower overlook vast olive groves and it is possible to see Krac des Chevaliers looming in the distance. As an example of a town drawing on the strengths of its location, history and community harmony to build a prosperous future, Safita is similar to Marrickville. Just as important is the fact that family bonds and friendships exist between the two communities."

Clr O'Sullivan visited Syria on a personal holiday. As Safita was already on her itinerary, she had a short meeting with Safita's Mayor and Councillors to acknowledge the sister city relationship between Safita and Marrickville.