"I moved to Italy for love. I met an Italian girl in Egypt, we fell in love and I decided to move to Sicily to be with her. We got married and now we have three children. Adapting to my new host country was tough at the start, I have always been used to working but, for the first year I was living in Italy, I could not find anything. When I found a job as an interpreter, everything changed for the better. Little by little, I started to feel more integrated. I went back to studying and obtained my diploma that I already completed in Egypt, since my certification was not recognized in Italy. In other words, I graduated twice; it was a bit of a sacrifice but I am proud of it.
In 2007, I started working as a cultural mediator for the International Organization for Migration, right at the landing points in Southern Italy, especially in Lampedusa. My job is very important for me; it is very rewarding. I am the benchmark for migrant men, women and children who arrive completely disoriented, after risking their lives at sea and in the desert, or who went through unspeakable violence throughout their journeys. For them, finding someone who speaks their language and who is there listening to their stories, is a big psychological support. Some of them even think, with admiration, that I arrived by sea, too. It struck me to realize what a relief it is for migrants to meet another foreigner; it gives them hope that one day they will integrate here too.
Being a migrant is not always easy, although I have rarely experienced episodes of prejudice. I remember that one time, I went to a migrant reception center for work but the guards would not let me out because they thought I had just landed too. They did not believe I was the mediator. I was held there for an hour before they let me out. It was awkward but, in the end, also funny. Luckily, that never happened again.
I have to admit that if I think about “home”, I think of Italy. My sons, who have never left the country, also feel partly Egyptian. They often tell me they want to visit Egypt and discover their origins: I am happy they feel this way, we will go there soon. However, the sense of attachment for my country of origin waned with time. The motherland I chose is Italy, Sicily in particular. Whenever my sons watch the news and they see footage of landing points, they call me to know if I am there too. They are proud of me, because they know their dad is helping other people in need. They talk about it at school too! Being a cultural mediator, on the one hand, allows me to help migrants, and on the other, makes my children proud. And it motivates me to do a good job."