NETHERLANDS. Ismail Ahmed El Mazyen or ‘NINJA’ as his customers call him in Amsterdam, married a Dutch woman, has three kids and makes a living out of catering with halal food.
In 1989, after he failed to join the Police University and lost his dream, he decided to travel to Austria, then Czechoslovakia and his final destination was the Netherlands.
He became a legal citizen after one year and enrolled in university to study the Dutch language and started working in a restaurant. Unfortunately, he was not able to do both things at the same time, so he left his studies and concentrated on his job. He put in long hours, working from 2 am to 5 pm for three years.
“I don’t know whether my decision was right or wrong”, Ismail says. “I didn’t leave Egypt to make money, I’m from a middle class family from El Mahla”.
Talking about the obstacles he faced, Ismail concedes that his integration into Dutch society was hard at the beginning but that he succeeded in the end. His main concern now is his kids. He doesn’t want them to forget about their Egyptian identity, which is why he takes them to Egypt twice a year.
Now Ismail has his family, owns a house, a successful restaurant and his own car. “I want to come back to Egypt but I don’t know how things will go, this wasn’t my lifetime dream but it is where I’m now.”I recognized him the first time I saw him parking his car in front of the Goethe Institute in Amsterdam. I don’t know why, but inside me I was sure that he is an Egyptian, maybe his facial features led me to believe so.