An egyptian living abroad in germany
I met Mohamed El-Tabbakh in Alexandria, Egypt when I studied Arabic there on a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship in 2010. He became my closest friend and Egyptian big brother and helped me to safety during the Egyptian Revolution.
I have chosen him as an “Inspiring Person I Know” because his life has changed a lot – he left Egypt and is now living in Germany – but he continues to be a great friend, good person and hard worker. While he has faced a lot of challenges in his life, he always rises above them and inspires me to do the same.
Mohamed left Egypt on the 29th of September, 2012. He’s been living in Germany for almost 4.5 years and is beginning to like it more each day. While now he likes German organization, when he first arrived everything seemed “too strict.” Egyptian culture is probably the complete opposite to German culture in this way. However, as Mohamed became more integrated into society, he has started to see how brilliant it is.
The most difficult thing for him when he first came to Germany was surviving financially. In Egypt, the average monthly salary is around 200 euros, while in Germany the cost of living is closer to 600 or 700 euros. Most of Mohamed’s close friends are also living abroad, in Europe or other Middle Eastern countries, which has become a common trend among young Egyptians.
Mohamed is only able to visit Egypt once every year and a half. And his visits only last two weeks maximum. He greatly misses his mother and girlfriend who are in Egypt, as well as Egyptian food. “Still nothing has replaced the Egyptian food.”
When I lived in Egypt, Mohamed would drive me around in his car, music blasting and him singing along to the songs. Music is a big part of his life. Mohamed’s love for music started when he was 14 years old. He began not only listening to music, but “listening to learn” music. He would listen to composers like Yanni and analyze what he listened to. Around this time he also started to play the keyboard, without any formal lessons, and would play any melody that he heard.
Several years later he started to write Egyptian songs with a few of his friends, and then he began to write songs for weddings. His first professional song was an ad for Lipton. For many years Mohamed had wanted to learn to play the guitar, but it wasn’t until his 28th birthday when one of his friends got him a guitar that he was able to start. He used YouTube to teach himself and continues to learn.
“Music helped me in many ways, as it always does. It helped me to keep connected to my country. It helped at many hard times just by listening to my favorite music. It helped me focus and concentrate, and after learning how to play the guitar, that was another level. It also helped me connect to and get to know another people.”
Mohamed likes rock music (I like to call it “crap rock”) and his current favorite bands include Coldplay and Keane, including lead singer Tom Chaplin. He also like the Egyptian artist Amr Diab and some of the new underground music groups in Egypt.
While he doesn’t have any official professional music yet, some of Mohamed’s covers can be found through his Instagram account “Tabbakheeno”.
What inspires you every day?
“I get inspired everyday by people’s experiences. I always try to look deeper into what people are doing and how they achieve things, and as I look deeper and deeper, I see how people can do amazing things.”
What are your goals for 2017?
“My goals for 2017 are to find a good job, get engaged (and married if possible) to my girlfriend, lose weight again (I lost 25 kgs in 2014, but now I gained some again), and continue learning the guitar.”
During my travels I’ve met some incredible people, and Mohamed El Tabbakh is one of those people that will forever be a part of my life. Living in Egypt was an exciting and challenging part of my life, but it was also a great part thanks to Tabbakh’s hospitality, generosity, humor and “crap rock.”
I met Sara in Madrid, Spain when we were placed at the same school as English Teaching Assistants. As the proud daughter of Iranian immigrants, she has a deep understanding of the conflicts and injustices that people are currently facing as they flee their homelands in search of a normal life for their families. Sara has an incredible heart and is currently raising funds to conduct group research on migration in Costa Rica, a low-profile conflict that desperately needs help.
Sara's Personal Connections to the Current Global Migration Crisis
“The rapidly changing immigration policies in regards to the US has been excruciating. South American friends are worried they'll be sent home, without having done anything wrong. In them, I see an insecurity that they are being seen as illegal people, unwanted in this country that they are always praising to me - a country they fought to get to and stay in, with opportunities that are making their lives and their families lives better.
And as an Iranian-American, the recent travel ban against Iran felt like a personal blow. With no history of Iranian terrorist attacks on American soil, it made little sense and it hurts to feel like you're being stereotyped. I started thinking about my uncle's upcoming trip here for the Persian New Year - will he be okay? When my parents take their annual trip to Iran this year, will they be given a hard time? My cousin, an Iranian citizen, just got married to an Iranian-American and the order stirred up worry. Family members of Persian friends were traveling from Iran to Dulles the day of the order, and what hurt them the most was the humiliation they would face.
None of these people have done anything wrong - on the contrary, they are amazing, hard-working, compassionate people. The political climate surrounding immigration today has somehow contorted the word "immigrant". I won't forget how someone recently told me that they didn't think of my parents as immigrants, because it doesn't seem like a nice word. My parents are immigrants. And they are Iranian immigrants. And I am extremely proud of them for that reason, and for a million more.”
Why Costa Rica?
A lot of refugees and migrants from all over South and Central America are traveling to Costa Rica for reasons like economic opportunities or fleeing gang violence, and many are trying to pass through the country to get to the United States. Costa Rica has always been a migration destination due to its relative safety in the region and its welcoming nature. However, the current situation is quite complicated: a recent influx of migrants and refugees has caused Nicaragua to close its southern border, effectively trapping migrants in Costa Rica.
Current Costa Rican immigration policies only allow the detention of irregular migrants for 30 days, after which the migrants have to be released or deported to their home countries. However, the government cannot legally deport them without knowing whether they will face human rights abuses if they return, and this is an issue since it's been difficult to discern where many have actually come from.
Many countries in Central America continue to suffer intense security crises, and if the number of migrants grows beyond Costa Rica’s capacity, they could threaten the stability of one of the most stable countries in Central America, as well as threaten the well-being of the migrants themselves and the affected local populations.
What will Sara and her research partners do in Costa Rica?
Sara and her group members Cayla Vega, Kelly McKinnon and Stephanie Presch hope to take a closer look at the issues involved in Costa Rica and offer comprehensive policy recommendations that would alleviate them. While there are many different refugee crises at the moment, Sara and her research partners decided to focus their project on what's happening in Costa Rica because they feel that Latin America is an often under-researched and overlooked region, and the migration challenge there right now needs some attention.
On the ground in Costa Rica, they aim to interview some NGOs that have already begun work there, like UNHCR and IOM, as well as government officials and the Migration Agency there (DGME). With their contacts there, they hope to conduct interviews with refugees and migrants themselves, getting their perspective on the situation they are facing. It would be difficult to conduct these focus groups and interviews from Washington D.C., and they feel being able to witness first-hand the situation on the ground is important in pulling a recommendation paper together.
How can people help?
People can help by sharing news about what's happening in Costa Rica, donating to the organizations that have put in work there like the UNHCR and IOM, and by sharing and donating to the group’s GoFundMe link. They want to make sure they are fully in tune with all of the moving pieces going on in-country, as well as honoring the perspectives and thoughts of the migrants and refugees that these policies are affecting the most. “The best way to do this is to get to Costa Rica and talk to them! Everyone can help us get there.”
Inspiring people i know
What inspires you everyday?
My friends and family inspire me daily, as cliché as that may be. I feel extremely lucky to be surrounded by such intelligent, unique, kind, fun people and everyone in my life makes me want to aim higher. Everyone has their own personalities and own interests and it's inspiring to see people I love make something extraordinary out of that. From musicians in Spain, to the travel blogger in Australia, to the comedy writer in LA, to the engineer in Paris and the doctors in NJ, Austria and Iran, and every single person in between making the world better because of the light they bring into it, I am inspired every day.
What are your goals for 2017?
My goal for 2017 is to get involved. There is a lot of negativity that is being cranked out and emboldened by the current US regime, but in response there has also been a lot of resistance and therefore more community, positivity, and political engagement. It's easy to get overwhelmed and want to hide under a rock until it's all over, but if we all did that all the time, it would never be over! Taking care of ourselves is essential, but I think there's a balance to facing reality while still practicing self-care that this year/these next few years will teach us.
To support Sara and her research partners Cayla Vega, Kelly McKinnon and Stephanie Presch, please donate below! Let’s get these passionate and compassionate women down to Costa Rica to help others in need.
Click here to support Sara! GoFundMe
Social media is great, but there's more to be shared
I have some fantastic family and friends. I know people who are working to change their communities, creating beautiful art and music and challenging society's norms.
I see what they are doing on Facebook, but I don't know the details. I was once a part of these amazing people's lives, but now I'm living in Australia, thousands of miles away, and I've lost touch with them.
In this series, I've reconnected with my family and friends to bring you an inside look into their thoughts, dreams, art and lives. I'll share what inspires them and their goals for 2017. While social media is a great way to see what people are doing, it's only once you ask questions and show interest that their stories can truly be shared.
I hope that this series inspires others to catch up with lost loved ones. I also hope that it inspires my readers to pursue their passions.
Follow this series by clicking "Inspiring People I Know" in the blog categories section. I'll be posting up the first article in the series next week.
These are the brilliant, inspiring and amazing people that I know. Who do you know?
About The Author