Sudden storms or long rainy days are always an excuse to grab a cab, and I do so in the hope that I will land another interesting story. Such was the story of Lutfi that I discovered last week, and due to the recent developments in current events, decided to bump up the list.
Born in Damascus, Syria, Lutfi’s father worked for the then East German (GDR / DDR) Embassy as a local staff. Lutfi and his siblings basically grew up on the embassy grounds and were hence exposed to German culture from an early age. In the course of his 30 years of service to the embassy, Lutfi’s father was granted a coveted unbefristite Aufenthaltserlaubnis (unlimited residency permit), which came in handy when the embassy closed down after Unification. The family did not have to think long about migrating to Germany, and subsequently did so soon thereafter. Lutfi was 16 at the time, and enrolled in one of the local schools.
So what does a migrant Syrian family do for a living in Germany? Open up a shop in the heart of the Neu Köln area and sell middle eastern products.! The extensive network back home supplied all the items, and Lutfi’s family soon discovered that shisha pipes could sell like hotcakes. Lutfi, who then adopted the German version of his name, Ludwig, trained to become a gas and water mechanic and eventually landed the trade for a while. When civil war broke out in Syria in 2011, supplies were cut off for the shop and this led to as series of unfortunate encounters with the tax office.
The family shisha shop in Neu Köln no longer stands, but Lutfi and his family remained in Germany nevertheless. Realising that gas and water installation was a dull job, Lutfi turned to taxi driving, finding it far more rewarding and entertaining. He considers himself one of the lucky ones, not having been held up or been forced to drive at gunpoint. The current turn of political events has of course made him sad, knowing that home is no longer Syria.
Still a bachelor, Lutfi claims marriage is not his cup of tea, although he still hopes that true love will one day get into the car as a passenger!