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Travelling Light

Kiki Streitberger crazeebee


Sixty million people in the world today are refugees. That is nearly nine million more than last year and half of them are children. Many are internally displaced or stay in a neighbouring country, whereas an ever-growing number are risking their lives for a better future overseas. In 2015 more than 300,000 people undertook the perilous journey across the Mediterranean to Europe – many of them trying to escape the conflict zones of Syria and Iraq or the authoritarian regime in Eritrea. Others are simply trying to escape poverty and are hoping for a better future in Europe. Syrians call this trip ‘the journey of death’ but having lost everything in their home country it still seems the best option. Staying in Syria, they have to fear for their lives and those of their children on a daily basis; seeking refuge in one of the neighbouring countries, they face ongoing humiliation. Most people who decide to get in touch with a smuggler to take them across the Mediterranean have friends or family who have undertaken this journey before. They know that it is very dangerous and that they could die or drown on the way, but they also know that their chances for a safe and successful life are so very much higher in Europe than anywhere else. Getting in touch with a smuggler then is easy. They have agents all over the Middle East and Africa and their telephone numbers are well known. If you would like to book a place on a boat for yourself and your family, all you have to do is pick up the phone. And then pay. A journey costs anything from 1200 to 7000 US dollars per adult depending on the route and the season. Children travel for free. A single packed boatload packed with migrants can earn the smugglers as much as 90,000 dollars with minimal overheads and little fear of being caught or punished. Most people are promised a ‘private yacht’ or at least a safe, seaworthy ship – always with a lifejacket and often with food and water included in the price. The reality is more often than not a small, rickety fishing vessel packed with anything up to 520 men women and children and no, or


little, food supplies. But once you’re near the ship there is no turning back. Either you get on or you die. And then you hope and wait. You hope that the engine won’t break. You hope that no coastguard will catch you before you’ve reached international waters. You hope that your overfull boat won’t sink. You hope that the captain will know the way (as quite often they don’t) and you hope that a barija – a European coastguard, a naval vessel or a large cargo ship – will come to your rescue before any of the aforementioned situations arise. Because the boats are so overloaded, many people tend to spend most of the journey sitting in the water as the waves splash into the boat from all sides. Often for many hours if not days without any food and drinking water. Seasickness pills are in high demand but often they have little, or no, effect. And often they are still in the bag that got left behind. Luggage is rarely allowed on the boat and taken from the travellers before they get on. So all they are left with are the clothes they are wearing as well as a few small personal possessions they can carry on their bodies. Still, most people are lucky and eventually get rescued. But not all. More than 2,500 people drowned this year on what is referred to as the deadliest crossing in the world and many only narrowly escaped death. So who are the people that risk their lives in the Mediterranean? I wanted to know what items people who leave everything behind to embark on such a gruelling journey manage to take over into their new life and what these items mean to them. As humans we define ourselves not just by who we are but also by what we have. We give meaning to objects that exceeds their face value. I’ve asked refugees from Syria about the objects they had with them on the journey and in the process I met many wonderful people who not only shared their stories with me but also part of their lives.


I bought the kufiya in Syria and I bought it for the journey. It is very important in Palestine, but outside Palestine it’s not. I had it with me to protect me from the sun and the sand. The bag I also bought for the journey to keep the important documents for me and my family, some money and my phone inside. The money is old Syrian money – it is no longer in use, but in my supermarket I still took it because I like it. I brought it because it reminds me of home and my shop and my friends who came to visit me there. My passport I don’t like. It is a travel document for Palestinian refugees but it doesn’t allow me to travel anywhere. Only to Khartoum. Syria to me was like a prison. But it is important. It says who I am. The creams were to treat chafing from the six-day long journey on top of the pick-up truck that carried us across the desert and the pills are against sea-sickness... but they didn’t help. I still threw up even though I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything.

Ahmad, 40, Printer and Shop Owner

The lighter is from my supermarket. I have had it for four years. It’s now broken but I still want to keep it as a memory.


The prayer dress is a gift from my mother. I got it while me and the children stayed with her in Latakiya. I had another one in Damascus, but when our house got destroyed everything we had was lost. My mum had bought this some time before we came to stay. It was in her wardrobe and was intended for a trip to Mecca. But when she saw that I had no clothes to pray in she opened the wardrobe and gave me hers. I pray five times a day. Once in the morning, once at lunchtime, once at 5pm, when the sun sets and at night. On the journey I didn’t pray. I kept the dress in a bag – and when I threw the bag away in Italy I put it in another one to keep it safe. It means a lot to me. Not just because I need it to pray – it also reminds me of my mum who is still in Syria. I worry for her. The cream I used for my hands and face, because we travelled on the back of a pick-up truck in the desert for several days and I used it to protect myself from the heat and the sun and the sand. I was black from the sun. It was so hot. I didn’t use the sun cream for myself, I gave that to my children to protect them, so all I had was this. Also, in the desert while looking for a place to go the toilet in the dark I tripped and fell on the stones and I cut myself on the knee. I also used the cream for that cut. The trousers were ripped, but everything else was ok. I kept myself strong for the children. I didn’t want them to see that I fell and that I was scared and tired. I wanted them to see that I was strong and that everything was going to be ok.

Asmaa, 36, Home Economics Teacher


My mum bought the t-shirt for me for my last Eid in Damascus. I took it with me because I love the colours. The book is about Arabic history. It’s an interest I share with my dad and my grandad. We often read it together but I still haven’t finished it. It is full of good stories. Men back then were manly and strong and also intelligent. This doesn’t exist any more today. Today, people are either smart – such as doctors for example – or they fight in a war and die in a war. But back then there were men who fought a war and wrote poems. Today only the idiots fight in a war, the smart ones do something else. The notebook I’ve had for three years. When I grow up I’d like to be a writer or a journalist. I’m using it to make notes about what I should do to become a good man and a good student. The inhaler I took with me because I have asthma and I needed it on the journey. The glasses were with me across the desert and the sea. I love those glasses, they are so strong, they never broke. My grandfather bought them for me.

Alaa, 14, Student

The school report is my last one from home. I brought it with me because I want to show people that I’m not stupid. When I come and ask for asylum, this doesn’t mean I’m an idiot and I want people to know that.


The pink document is my school report. I brought it because I was the best in my class. My favourite subject was Maths. I had so many friends in school. I miss them. I’m still in touch with some of them but not all. Most of them are still in Syria – but one friend is in Austria and one is in Sweden. Nobody else is in Germany. The kufiya was a present from my dad. I got it for the journey. It is a Palestinian headdress. I used it to protect myself from the sun in the desert. We all had one but a few got lost. My brother also lost his hat in the desert. It fell from the top of the pick-up truck. We kept my cap in a bag. That’s why I haven’t lost mine. I got it in Damascus. I like it very, very much. I’ve had it for a long time and I will still keep it when I’m a granddad. I got the two books from a boy who sold them on the street. He asked whether I wanted to buy them, I asked my mum and she said I could. The red book is by Agatha Christie and the other one is called ‘The White Elephant’. It’s a detective story. I haven’t finished it yet. Nezar, 11, Student

I also had a pair of sunglasses but I don’t know where they are.


This doll is from Syria. She is called Aia. She is my friend. My dad gave her to me. I’ve had her since I was one year old. She sleeps in my bed every night. She is so cute. On the journey she was always with me. She travelled from Damascus to Latakiya, back to Damascus, to Khartoum, to Egypt, to Libya, across the sea to Italy and to Germany. The cream is for my face. It is for the nose and the hands. It’s for the sun.

Shahed, 5, Kindergarten Girl


The jeans are from Syria. I was with my wife when I bought them. I didn’t specifically choose them on the day I left, I just happened to pick them. I also had a pair of frayed shorts with me that my wife had made for me. For two days I wore them under my jeans and then I put them into a small bag. In Milano I had the bag and 300 euros stolen by a taxi driver. I didn’t mind the money but I was sad to have lost the shorts. I bought the jumper in a shop in Syria. I liked it as soon as I saw it. I also had a burgundy coloured jumper that my wife had knitted for me but I had to throw it away, together with my bag and jacket. When I got on the boat in Greece and had to put on the life vest I had no space for additional luggage... I came to Italy in October. It was very cold on the ship. I came with only those jeans and this jumper. And the ring. I’ve had it for seven years. It was a present from a friend. It means a lot to me – this is only the second time that I take it off. My friend who gave it to me died during the war.

Ahmad, 38, Car Parts Dealer

Every morning I get a WhatsApp message from my kids. I have three children. Every day they tell me ‘We miss you’... It’s very hard to be so far away from them. I hope to be back together with my family soon.


I bought this jacket in Turkey. I knew that it was going to be cold on the ship. As we had left Syria in the summer I didn’t have a suitable jacket with me. I really didn’t want to go to Europe but when my husband suggested that he would go by himself and we could follow later, I felt that I had no choice. I didn’t want to be left behind with three small children. The bag is from Syria. I had it with me all the way. I mainly used it to carry baby stuff such as clothes, pampers, a bottle of water... also the deodorant and the white t-shirt. The t-shirt was a present from my husband on our last wedding anniversary in Syria. I like it very much. The jeans are from a modern shopping mall in the centre of Aleppo. I had many clothes at the start of the trip – most got destroyed on the journey. These jeans were my favourite, that’s why I wore them on the boat. The hijab is from Syria. I bought it five years ago in a market in Aleppo. I like it and I still wear it now. It is black because it is customary for women in Aleppo to wear black headscarves as a sign of respect for their husband, their family and their religion. My husband bought me this ring about two years ago. He took me to the market where I chose the ring and two bracelets. We sold the bracelets to pay for the trip, but I kept the ring. This trip was really expensive. We had to sell everything we had to pay the smugglers. My two sisters live in Turkey with their families. They would love to come too but they can’t afford it.

Sara, 28, Housewife


I got the coat in my hometown of Aleppo. I bought it in the market not long before we left. It’s nice and warm. The shirt is also from Aleppo. I like checked shirts and I like the colour. The shirt and the jeans are both Syrian brands. I bought the little bag a day or two before we left Syria. I kept my money and the important documents in it and wore it under my clothes for the duration of the journey. To keep things safe. I got the card from the bank when I opened a new account about three years ago, but I needed all my money for the journey... I have only about 20 euros left in it. We sold everything we had to pay for the trip. We had to pay 200 dollars for someone to take us to Tunisia, then 700 dollars to get to Libya and 4000 dollars for a boat to Italy. In Italy I got beaten up because I refused to leave my fingerprints. In the end I had to. Why I have the card from the lawyer I don’t know... it was just in the bag. The little incense stick was in my bag so my clothes would smell nice. The SIM cards are from Syria, Turkey, Algeria, Tunisia and Italy... all the countries we crossed on our journey. The little papers are entry documents for Turkey. When we get passport photos made in Syria, we usually get twelve at a time in a little envelope. I needed a few photos for some documents I had made in Syria and I gave one to a friend. The others are just souvenirs now.

Ahmad, 36, Painter / Decorator

The woman in the other photo is my mum. The picture is nearly fifty years old. Both my parents died in the war.


“He who depends his livelihood on Allah shall never suffer...�


The dress is called abaya and I got it about two years ago in Libya. We lived there before we came to Germany. It was too dangerous to stay in Syria. I wore the abaya mainly at home or when I went to see the neighbours. I like the colour but it is not formal enough to wear in public. I chose to wear it on the boat because it is light and comfortable. I wore it with a hijab. I had three with me on the boat but this one is the only one I have left. I particularly like the design – it goes with many things. The photos I had wrapped in plastic to keep them dry during the journey. They are of my husband and my children. The pictures were taken back home in Syria. The ‘50-Euro Napkin’ was given to me by my friend Ahlam. She made me promise never to throw it away. It always reminds me of her. The prayer beads are from Sayyidh Ruqayya, a holy shrine in Damascus. One day we visited the mosque and I bought the beads from a small stall by the entrance. We often went there to pray for health and protection. It is a place where you feel good... you feel closer to god and safe. I brought the beads on this journey for protection and used them to pray on the ship.

Iman, 40, Housewife

The journey was very dangerous. We spent two days on a small, rickety boat in the middle of the sea. 520 of us. Then a rescue ship found us and we arrived in Italy safely. Alhamdulilla.


I wore these jeans on the boat. I got them last year for Eid. We were in Libya then. We spent one year and eight months there before we came to Europe. It was a bad time – it was so dangerous there, that in the end I wasn’t even allowed to go to school. I also had a t-shirt and a grey jacket but, I threw them away once I got new clothes in Europe. This headscarf was also with me on the boat. I like it very much. The colour and the tassels. I bought it with my mum on the market. The make-up bag is also from Libya. I love it. Pink is my favourite colour. I used it for make-up but my mum used it to carry all important documents and photos in it while we were on the boat. The little girl on the photos is me when I was younger.

Inas, 14, Student

I’m glad to be here now. It’s nice to have friends and to be able to go to school. I like listening to music and I like dancing – and when I grow up I would like to teach Arabic.


I got the striped shirt in Libya. Just outside the factory where I used to work was a little market where I found it. I love its colour. I remember wearing it on days out by the sea with my friends. We spent nearly two years in Libya. We had hoped to return home to Syria but the situation got worse and it was no longer safe to stay. The t-shirt is from Zara. It cost me 25 Libyan Dinar. It was not cheap but it is good quality. I remember wearing it on many bus journeys to my parents’ house. I was staying at the factory, so I only got to see my family at the weekends. The trousers were much darker when I bought them. They were bleached by the sun. I wore them and the shirt and t-shirt on the boat. Not because I decided to wear them – just because I happened to be wearing them when the smuggler came to pick us up. There was no time to get changed or to think about what to take. I only picked up my mobile. I wrapped it in a plastic bag and had it in my pocket during the whole journey. I still use it, but now I have a smartphone as well. I need it to phone my fiancée in Egypt. I’m hoping to be back together with her soon. And the ring? I’ve had it for about a year. I bought it at a gold-market in Tripoli. I used to wear it all the time. It used to have a black stone but I lost that in Germany.

Ahmad, 22, Mosaicist and Stonemason


Me and my sons took turns wearing the jacket – it was the only one we had, so whoever was feeling cold on the journey wore it. I bought it the previous winter in Tripoli. For Eid. My wife said it suited me so I took it. I had many jackets but I couldn’t bring them, so I chose this one – my newest and warmest jacket. It served me well on the journey, but still, I don’t have any good memories with it. When I look at it I can smell the sea and the oil from the engine. I still dream about the waves, how they shook our little boat. I don’t want to wear this jacket any more – one of my sons wears it sometimes, otherwise I would have thrown it away long ago. I used to like those trousers, but not any more. I would prefer to throw them out, but somehow my wife keeps bringing them back. I can’t wear them any more. They have a blue tint from where I sat on the boat and the colour came off. It was freezing cold at night and in the day we got burnt so that the skin on our faces peeled off. We were told that the trip to Italy would only take about six or seven hours and that it wasn’t necessary to take any food... in the end it took two days until we got rescued. I really thought we were going to die.

Nazir, 50, Mosaicist and Stonemason

All my documents are with the Immigration Office. They were in a bag together with those photos of my family.


I bought the coat and the gloves for an earlier planned trip to Europe, which didn’t work out. I like the green shirt. I also got it in Turkey. The colour suits me and I like shirts to be long. The track suit is very old. About fifteen years, I think. When I slept on the boat I put on the hood because the pillows were not very clean so I didn’t want to touch them. And there were cockroaches. I was afraid all the time so I slept with my jeans and shoes and contact lenses on... just in case. Everybody did because you never knew what was going to happen. We were waiting in international waters for the food to be loaded and the remaining passengers to join us – amongst them two of my children who never made it onto the boat. While we were waiting we got into two storms. It was very dangerous and eventually we had to leave without the others. The shoes are very comfortable. They were the only ones in my size that I could find in Turkey. The jumper was in my backpack. I didn’t wear it on the ship. We never really changed our clothes. I also had another pair of jeans, some sweets and a lot of socks in the bag, and a scarf, dates and bread from the Syrian bakery in Mersin. And chewing gum and a bottle of water... some pistachios, some chocolate, Nescafé, two bottles of milk – every morning I had a little cup... In my little bag I carried my make-up, toothbrush, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, hand gel and my hairdryer. And I had the pills against seasickness, which I didn’t really need, and a pen.

Ranya, 52, French Teacher

The key is from my car in Turkey. It’s waiting there for me. And the belt is from Damascus. It’s one of my favourites.


The coat, the green jumper, the blue turtleneck and the leg warmers are all from Mersin in Turkey where we were staying for two years. Mersin has a fabulous shopping mall where I spent a lot of time. There was nothing else to do. We had an awful time in Turkey. Nobody had the chance to do anything – be it work or education. It felt like we just sat and waited. Nothing we tried worked out. We just spent all our money. I wanted to study Medicine there, but I never got the chance. I got totally depressed. It was the most awful time of my life. So in the end we saw no other option than to come to Germany. The glove is also from Turkey - I think the second one is somewhere in Karlsruhe. I wore the boots because they are waterproof and the tissues just happened to be in my bag. Probably since Syria. The eye drops were just a precaution as I had had an eye infection before. The bottle opener used to have a Real Madrid sign on it. I used to be a crazy football fan when I was a teenager. I would never miss a match. Until the massacres came. Then I lost all interest in it. The track pants were a gift from my aunt when I graduated from high school and the green sweatshirt is quite old now. It was a gift from my mum. My sister had the same one in brown. The scarf is also from Syria. It’s Adidas. My sister had a similar one that I liked so I simply had to buy it. I had one friend in Mersin. She is from my hometown of Banyas. She travelled with us on the boat and now lives in Sweden. She is an amazing person. She is the only friend I’ve ever had. Her name is Bushra. It was really weird for me to have a friend. She is amazing.

Maha, 21, Student


I bought the coat and the hat and the gloves in Turkey. I got them especially for the journey. People told us it was going to be cold in Germany in January, so I made sure I had good clothes to protect myself. You know, we are not used to the cold. My brother has done the journey before. He warned us about the cold. He lives in Holland now. I was afraid of the journey but we were in danger so I didn’t want to gamble with my family, with my life. I don’t need someone to humiliate me. I’m 55 now. If someone captured me maybe I would die in prison. I’m very afraid. There are many reasons. There is no protection. It’s not safe to stay in Syria. That’s the truth. I also bought the trainers with the journey in mind. I knew that Fila was a good brand which would probably serve me well on the ship. I wore them every day there – even when I was sleeping. We spent twelve days on that boat. The track pants are from Syria. I like them. I bought them in my brother-in-law’s shop. There was not much water on the ship for washing up, so I thought it was a good idea to take my private plate and cutlery. It’s more hygienic that way. The food on the ship was very bad. It consisted mainly of boiled eggs, potatoes and rice. In the first few days there was enough food for everybody but really, with all that shaking, most people weren’t very hungry. The backpack is from Syria. I’ve had it for a long time. I got it once for a trip to Mecca. Other than that I have never really needed a backpack – it’s hot in Syria, so we don’t tend to go hiking. Omar, 55, Businessman

And then there is the Visa card. It’s from Turkey.


I was told that I’d need waterproof boots for the trip. They were the only ones in my size, but I do like the colour. They are a little bit big because I wore two pairs of tights and socks as well. I wore them all the time. People told us that it was going to be cold in Europe so I brought my scarf. I’ve had it for a long time... about seven years. I got it on holiday in Turkey in 2008. I still like to wear it now. The little bag was a present from my aunt. I got it for a school trip to Latakiya some years ago. I kept my personal belongings in it. Also the little perfume, but somehow the lid came off and everything spilled. The mirror was a souvenir my cousin brought back from Egypt. The electronic misbaha is for praying. You’re supposed to put it on your index finger and press the button each time you say a prayer. I used it a lot in Turkey but not since. The Turkish chewing gum doesn’t really taste of anything, but somehow I like it and the pills are for seasickness but they just made me throw up more. The napkin with the spoon and fork is from my favourite kebab restaurant in Mersin. The food there was delicious. Really spicy. The backpack was a present from my other cousin. It is a great backpack. I’ve had it for about five or six years but I don’t use it any more because it has those pink stains. The tissues were still inside from a long time ago. The coat used to be my sister Judy’s. I like it because it has so many pockets.

Souriana, 15, Student

I’m happy to be in Germany now but one day I’m hoping to return to Syria and open a gym in Banyas.


The pink t-shirt is from Mersin in Turkey. I bought it while I waited to get on a ship to Europe. I waited for two months. I paid 6,000 euros to a man who promised to get me on a ship to Italy – but this never happened and so I had to pay again and hope that this time I’d get on a boat. My mum sold all her jewellery to pay for me to go to Europe. I was promised to travel on a yacht, so I took nice clothes with me. The white t-shirt is from Italy. I bought it while I was there for work a couple of years ago, and the blue one I bought on a previous trip to Turkey. I love clothes. I particularly like bright colours. I like to look smart so I even brought this hair gel from Egypt with me. The dark trousers are from Romania, the light ones from France, the shorts from Turkey – I used to work all over the world. I even got as far as Paraguay. I also had the little bracelet with me. My sister Jihan put it around my wrist while I was sleeping. That was six years ago. It‘s a lucky bracelet. I always carry it with me. Also the little shoe. I got it from a girlfriend when I was 14 years old. Her name was Emine. In the meantime she got married and now has two children but we’re still in touch. She lives in Syria. Only the little shoe is still with me. I used to wear it on a necklace, but when that broke I kept it in my wallet.

Samir, 25, Cargo Ship Worker

I miss my friends and family. They are scattered all over the world now. Most of all I miss my mother. I haven’t seen her in four and a half years.


I bought the fabric for this jalaba at the market in my hometown Daraa. Daraa has one of the best markets in Syria and people come from all over the country to shop there. We used to live just by the market so it was very convenient for me. The outfit was made to my specifications. I had this jalaba since the beginning of the revolution in 2011. It travelled with me from Syria to Lebanon, then to Egypt, to Libya, to Italy and to Germany. I also wore the hijab on the ship. I bought it in Libya just before the journey. I like how it looks, with the little beads on the end. It is the correct and traditional headdress for a Muslim woman. The falafel maker is from my kitchen in Syria. I didn’t expect to find one abroad and the phone... that is just a memory now. I kept the books in a plastic bag to protect them from water while we were on the ship. They are hadiths – books of reports of what the Prophet Muhammad did or advised in certain situations. The dark one is about life in general and the red one contains the Prophet’s recommendations on health and hygiene. It is a wonderful book.

Hecmet, 49, Housewife

My son gave me the gold watch. He was in the Free Syrian Army. One day they came across a hidden stash of stolen gold and jewellery. They couldn’t locate the owners so they distributed the items among the people – and he gave this watch to me. This was a bit more than two years ago. The watch is nice, but I was always hoping that I would find the rightful owner and give it back. I’m in Germany now, but I haven’t given up hope that one day I will find her… I feel comfortable here but I feel like it is my duty to be with the ones that are dying and who might need my help. I wanted to do better things for my country but I also have 10 children and a husband who need me here.


The coat is from Damascus. My mum bought it for me on one of her rare visits. I used to study Chemistry at Damascus University. I had a wonderful time there. I shared a flat with two friends in a very modern part of town called Jaramana, not far from the university. Whenever my mum came to visit she brought me new clothes. On this occasion she asked me to come shopping with her but I didn’t want to so she went on her own and came back with this coat. Still today I’m not convinced that I like it. The colour is ok... it’s more the shape I don’t really like. Maybe I should have gone with her and chosen one myself. The hijab is also from Syria. On the journey I kept it in a bag. The one I was wearing was a brown one, but that got lost. While I lived in Damascus I got sick. All the stress from the war was probably too much for me to take. One evening I went for a walk as usual and after about two kilometres I noticed that I couldn’t lift my leg properly. It was so heavy all of a sudden. That happened again and again and a CT revealed that I was suffering from MS. My relatives think that it was caused by the evil eye but I don’t think so. I think it was triggered by the war. I hope it will just go away. When we left Syria my mum and I had intended to take a plane to Libya to meet the rest of the family. We had a stop-over in Lebanon and got stuck there because we couldn’t get the required visa stamp. We had to return to Syria and couldn’t leave the country for another seven months. The riots were unbelievable and as our house was demolished we were relying on strangers to take us in.

Baraah, 20, Student


This is the traditional costume in Daraa. It’s called jalabiya. It’s cooler and therefore more comfortable than other clothes. I bought the fabric in Saudi Arabia, in Mecca, when I was there with my wife on a pilgrimage called Umrah in 2009. We had travelled 1960 km from our house in Nawa to Mecca by bus. It took around 24 hours. It was the best trip of my life without a doubt. The minute you arrive in Mecca everything changes. Everything that is wrong with you turns right. It is a weird feeling that I could never explain… you suddenly feel better just by being there. I felt like a new person. I felt better and this feeling is still with me until now. The outfit was made by a tailor in Nawa. It is a memory from this holy place that made such a deep impression on me. I brought it with me because it indicates my culture, my own traditions, my historical background, my family, my surroundings. It means so much more than just clothes. It’s a sign of my identity. On the boat I wore this shirt and some trousers, but they got lost. The shirt is very important to me. It is not just an item of clothing – it’s a piece of my heart. It is the only thing I own that is originally from Syria. It feels like home. When I switch on the TV, all I see about Syria is destruction, when I look at this shirt I remember my home where everything was ok. My wife got it for me as a present on our wedding anniversary six years ago. I hope that this war will be over one day and that I can return to my home. Without that hope I wouldn’t be here now. Hope is what keeps me alive.

Mohammad Said, 52, Furniture Shop Owner


The dress was a present from my friend, Sahra. She is the sister of a friend of my brother. I like the dress very much. On the boat I carried it in a bag. I was wearing a normal top and jeans but I don’t have those clothes any more. We threw them away in Italy because they were very dirty. The jeans are from Libya. I remember the boat trip 100%. It was awful. I was throwing up the whole journey long. I was clutching a sick-bag the whole time. I was sitting by the side of the boat and whenever I looked out into the sea I was throwing up again. I wasn’t scared. I was just hoping that we would arrive quickly. It was really loud on the ship. The engine made this terrible noise and the whole boat was so wobbly. I’m glad that we’re here now. I like it here. I have two friends called Malak and Marian. I miss my friends back in Syria though. And our house and my bedroom and our shop where I used to play. That was very nice. Afnnan, 10, Student

When I grow up I would like to be a doctor for children.


The burgundy coloured book is from the library at the University of Damascus. I tried to get a copy of it but it was impossible so I kept this one. I love this book. I saved it from two house fires – I lived in a flatshare with some friends and our oven exploded... The red book was a graduation present from my friend Maher. He is still in Syria. The perfume was also a present. I got it from my friend Hlal in Saudi Arabia. I brought the computer programs because I need them for work. In Libya it was difficult to get anything and when we left I didn’t really know where we’d end up so I took them with me. The military ID is an important document even though I wasn’t in the army. My dad paid for me so I didn’t have to go. It cost around 2,000 euros – about the annual income of an average worker. The white outfit is called dishdasha. My uncle made it himself in the UAE and gave it to me. My uncle died in the war last year. I brought it mainly as a memory of my uncle, not because I want to wear it. My university diploma means a lot to me. It reminds me of my time at uni... we usually hang this up. It is really very important.

The guy in the photo is my friend Yamen from Damascus. We’re regularly in touch via WhatsApp. I miss my friends very much and hope to be able to return to Syria one day. The little calendar is a present from my cousin Mohammad in Lebanon and the business card was from a travel agent where I booked a flight. The three notebooks are my notes from university. One for each year. They contain all the important things I need to know. The money is from Libya. This money would buy me thirty baguettes or ten litres of petrol... but just one litre of milk. It’s crazy. The Lycamobile card was my SIM card from Italy and the wallet is now just a memory from Damascus. The suit was a graduation present from my mother. I only wore it twice at work but I like it very much and maybe I’ll wear it at my wedding one day. My fiancée is still in Syria but I hope that she can come over soon. The soldering kit... well... I used to repair everything at home. Particularly TVs. It usually worked... just one exploded after I had finished with it. The pen was my first ‘teacher’s pen’ and I used the little lighter for physics experiments at school. I never thought that one day it would become a memory.

The purple card was from my work in Libya, the next one is my ID card and the other one is the residency permit for Libya. On the right is my driving licence. The piece of paper below is the residency permit for Lebanon.

The black book is my motorbike licence. I used to have a black Honda 125cc.

Mohanned, 26, Physics Teacher

These pliers were my first ones and they are such good quality. You don’t find tools as good as that easily.


These were my clothes on the ship. I got the jeans last year for Eid. The holes in the knees are from skateboarding. My knees are full of scars. The t-shirt was a present from my oldest sister, Rim. She is still in Syria. I would like her to come over too because I miss her. Most of all I miss my house and my friends and also my cousin. I love my cousin... and I miss the doorbell from our house. Whenever anyone pressed it, it made a chirping sound like a bird. I loved this doorbell... On the boat to Italy I wasn’t scared. Whenever the noise changed or something seemed unusual I asked the captain whether everything was ok and he said yes, so I wasn’t scared any more. He said the engine is always that noisy. It’s normal. He was a nice man from Egypt, but he was working in Libya. He was about 46 years old and his two helpers were around 25 and 26, I think. I was feeling sick all the time. I hadn’t eaten anything for the whole day and still needed a sickbag. We didn’t have any pills for seasickness, they were all sold out. Once we got rescued by the big cargo ship they gave us food. That was great. I was also playing with some friends on the ship. The captain told us to stop running around, but we did it anyway. It was cool, but one day would have been enough. We were on the big ship for two days until we arrived in Sicily. That was very nice. We also went to Milano before we came to Germany. When I’m grown up I would like to study Physics like my brother.

Salahdin, 14, Student


The coat is from Syria. It used to belong to my sister but she gave it to me. It is about five years old. I like it very much – it’s got such a cool cut, the collar is beautiful and the colour suits me. My favourite colour is white. It’s good for the soul. I also love white houses and furniture... My room at home was very colourful though... pink and orange walls and white curtains. I miss my room. I used to share it with my little sister. The hijab is from Damascus. My sister got it for me while she was studying there. I’ve never been to Damascus myself, even though Daraa is not too far away. I wanted to go and study there too but now I don’t know. I’m soon to marry my brother’s friend and then I’ll be moving to Sweden... I had another coat and another hijab and some spare trousers with me on the ship but I gave them away to people who had nothing. Many people were completely wet and needed dry clothes. The waves kept splashing into our boat and for the whole journey I had two children sitting on my lap even though I was feeling terrible myself. At times I wished we would simply drown. I felt so sick and exhausted, I just wanted to die. I had a place near the toilet so everybody kept walking over me. We were all squeezed together – there were more than 100 people on a twelve metre long boat. I wasn’t scared – just so, so tired. I’m happy here in Germany but I miss my friends. I’ve lost touch with all of them, so I have no idea how they are.

Bilsan, 17, Student


I bought the trousers in the market in Ajdabiya where my family now lives. I spent four years in Libya myself but we had to leave because it got more and more dangerous there. I travelled with my pregnant wife and three young children for five days across the sea. I wore the trousers on the boat underneath a pair of jeans. The little bag is the one my mum made for me to keep all our important documents and photos safe on the journey. The health certificate is from Libya. I needed it to work there. I bought the SIM card the first day I arrived in Libya. It cost me 35 dinar... which is about 60 euros. The business card is from a jeweller’s shop. I used to buy a lot there, but we had to sell it all to pay for the trip. The black book is my military ID. I spent two and a half years as a mechanic with the Syrian army. The blue book is my passport. I also brought my voting card. I need these documents for when I hopefully will go back to Syria one day. The photos are of my son, my parents and my wife’s relatives.

Mohammad, 33, Car Mechanic

The Surah Yasin is part of the Quran. I got it when my neighbour back in Syria died eight years ago. It is very important to me.


The photo is from Libya. It was taken on the last day of school in my first year. I like going to school. My favourite subjects are PE and German. And I like Arabic. I’m good at writing in Arabic. I got a photo even though I hadn’t been in that class for long. It was very dangerous in Libya so I had to stay at home in the afternoons. We lived alone in a house and there were no children to play with. I liked to play computer games on the laptop, but my little sister broke it. Sometimes I’d be allowed to go for a drive in the desert with my dad. I can drive by myself. I just have to be standing up so I can reach the pedals. When I grow up I want to be a mechanic. My favourite car is a BMW and my favourite colour is black. The passport is mine. It has a sticker on the back. I stuck it on as we travelled on the bus from Syria to Libya. The jumper is from Libya. I like it. I wore it on the boat. I also wore an orange life vest. Everyone did. I left that in the boat when we all got on to the big ship. The trousers are also from Libya. I fell over – that’s why there are holes in the knee. But it didn’t hurt very much.

Diaaeddin, 7, Student

I’m happy to be in Germany. I like going to school and I like my friends Johannes, Ben, Karl and Tamir.


I bought the trousers in a shop in Ajdabiya in Libya, for Eid last year. They are very comfortable, that’s why I took them with me. This hijab I’ve had for about five or six years. It travelled with me from Syria to Libya, then across the Mediterranean to Italy and from there to Germany. It’s seen the world. I wore it on my head the whole time and I still like to wear it today. I had several headscarves with me but I threw all the others away in Italy. They were dirty and smelled of sick. I bought the ring about two and a half years ago in Brega while we were living in Libya. I got it in an accessory shop to wear at my brother-in-law’s wedding. It complemented my leopard dress perfectly. It’s made from so called ‘Russian gold’ – it’s not real but I like how it looks. The trip to Libya was the first time I was abroad – so it was the first time I really used my passport. We used to sometimes go on holiday to Tartous. It’s a beautiful place on the Mediterranean coast. We used to hire a chalet there for a week... I brought the make-up especially for Germany. I bought both items in a perfumery in Brega. I’m here now and safe but I miss my family. My parents and five of my brothers and sisters are all still in Syria. One sister got married to my husband’s brother. They live in Libya now. We all used to spend so much time together and now they are so far away. We talk on the phone but my mother hasn’t even met my two youngest children. I wish my family could join us here but they can’t afford the trip. It is very expensive.

Naja, 26, Housewife


On the 1st of January 2014, I left Damascus. My brother was murdered by Assad’s troops. They arrested my other two brothers and we have no information about their whereabouts. So my parents insisted that I should leave Syria. I took my wife and three children to a place called Sahla in Lebanon where we stayed for nine months. I couldn’t get work there, so eventually I decided to leave my family behind and go to Europe. I travelled to Algeria and then paid a smuggler to take me to Libya via Tunisia and from there on a boat to Europe. I paid 3400 US dollars and still... in Tunisia I got arrested and had to spend one day in prison. After my release and four hours on the back of a pick-up truck I arrived in Suara from where I caught the boat. First we had to run for about one kilometre to get to the shore, then we had to swim for 15 metres and then climb onto a small boat which took us to the main ship. It was 15x5 metres in size and carried about 340 passengers on two floors. By this time everybody had lost their luggage and so we sat cold and wet on the boat. Not long into the journey, the propeller broke and once they had fixed it the smugglers instructed a passenger how to drive the boat and left us alone in the middle of the sea.

Samer, 34, Sales Representative

Some time later the engine broke. Water came into the boat and we started to sink. A helicopter spotted us but 230 people died before the rescue arrived. I was one of the lucky ones. After five hours in the sea somebody spotted me and a rescue ship dropped me a ladder so I could climb on board. I had my phone strapped safely to my body, so I could phone my wife as soon as I arrived in Italy. Shortly afterwards, the Italian police who beat me up to get my fingerprints broke it. I’m sick of being humiliated. I just want to go home.


I wore the jeans and the checked shirt on the boat. I travelled on a sixteen metre long fishing boat together with 464 other people. Most of us were Syrians or Palestinians and there were also around fifty Africans on board. We spent three days on that boat until an Indian gas tanker rescued us. I specifically chose these clothes because they remind me of my wife. We bought the jeans together in Jordan and the shirt was a present she got me about three years ago on our seventh wedding anniversary. It’s my lucky shirt. Whenever I wear it I feel as if my family was with me. The swim shorts I wore underneath the jeans. I thought in case our ship sank and we needed to swim they might be useful. Thank god nothing like that happened and my clothes remained dry. The jacket is also from Jordan. It reminds me of my wife and besides it is very warm and was practical for the journey. After all, it got very cold on the ship at night - even though I travelled in summer. I had a that I can’t find it anymore and this scarf. This is from Syria. It was a present from my wife about six years ago.

Rami, 30, Furniture Finisher

I wish my family was with me - I miss my wife and two children. They’re currently staying with my inlaws in Jordan. I’m hoping to be able to bring them over to Germany soon. I love my hometown of Homs but it is so destroyed that we have no future there. All I wish for is a good future for my kids and in Syria there is none.


I bought the jeans and the shirt about two and a half years ago for Eid in Benghazi. When our house in Homs got destroyed in 2011 we moved there in the hope that we could return home once the riots had subsided. I still like to wear them except that now they are not just clothes but also memories of the journey. I remember spending that Eid in the garden with our friends and family. We had around twenty guests. It was ok but holidays in Syria are different, better. Back home we’d go to visit people and go to parties and barbecues... The sports pants are from the same shop as the other clothes. I used to like going shopping there. Most other shops in Benghazi would only sell traditional Arabic clothes. The trousers are AC Milan but I just bought them to walk around in. And besides... my favourite team is Bayern Munich. I wore those pants underneath my jeans. When it got hot I simply took the jeans off. And also, you can’t take any spare clothes onto the ship, so the more you manage to wear when you get on, the better. Nearly everybody on the ship threw up. My children also. But I ate nothing other than a few dates during the whole three days, just as the smuggler suggested, and I was fine. We were saved by an oil tanker. To get on board we had to climb about fifteen metres up a rope ladder. We had to carry the children. I was very worried for them. To calm me down on the journey I was listening to Quran verse with those headphones.

Mohammad, 33, Auto Body Painter

We had to leave everything behind but I’m not sad about that. I’m relieved that we are here now. Thank god it all went well.


I didn’t want to come to Europe but I feel that I had no choice. We had to go for our children. I was very scared but I’m glad we’re here now. My parents and siblings are still in Syria, in a small village near Aleppo. I wish they could come too. We rarely speak on the phone – the reception where they live is really bad but my brother sometimes goes to an internet café so we can chat. I bought the abaya in a shopping centre in Libya. I’ve had it for about two years and I used to wear it very often. The dress code in Libya is very strict. Apart from the abaya I had to wear a niqab – a veil to cover my face – and gloves. Without these, a woman cannot leave the house. We were scared. I like the cut and particularly the sleeves of this abaya but now I don’t wear it any more. I just keep it in my wardrobe as a memory. I still wear a coat and a hijab when I go out but I feel like I can breathe more freely. I also hope that I will be able to study something. I left school when I was 16. The hedgehog is from Libya. I found it so cute so I bought it as a keyring for my house keys. When we left I had to return the keys to the landlord but I kept the hedgehog to remind me of our home. I miss our house and the neighbourhood. I had two very good friends there. I often sat in the garden with my brothers and sisters... I often think of our time in Libya. I wore the hair clip on the boat. It was a present from my husband. I like the colour. Underneath the abaya, I wore this top. It’s my favourite. I love the colour and the cut. I remember wearing it on a nice day with my friends. Alaa, 26, Housewife

I also had a little bag with jewellery, but that got lost on the journey.


I wore these clothes on the ship. The white t-shirt goes on top of the other one. It was new. I wore everything so I wasn’t cold on the ship. I cried a lot and I was passed from one person to the next all the way to my dad. Then I was better. There were about a hundred children on the ship. Many cried. There was no space to play.

Anas, 3


The purple blouse and the skirt go together. I got it for Eid last year. It’s from the market in Libya. I was shopping with my mum and dad. We often went shopping. It was very new when we left so I wanted to take it. My neighbours in Libya wanted me to leave it to them but my dad said I could take it. The t-shirt was a present from the shop owner. I wore it on the ship together with some jeans. But I don’t have them any more. My mum carried the skirt and the blouse in her handbag. My best friends at home were Nadja and Maria. We liked to jump on mattresses. That was fun. And I had a lot of teddies. I gave them all to my friends.

Inas, 6, Student

Now I have new friends. They are called Lisa and Hala. We like to play outside. I like to go to school. I’m happy in Germany.


I got the jumper a long time ago... about seven years ago in Syria. I bought it in the Al-Hamidiya market in Damascus. I particularly liked it. I took it on the boat because it is warm and much more comfortable to wear underneath a jacket than a shirt. I had a black jacket with me but I left it on the boat. We also had two bags, but when a large cargo ship picked us up after six days on the small, twenty-one metre boat, we just grabbed our children and climbed up that ladder. Our luggage, clothes and medication remained on the boat. Everybody left their stuff. We were very lucky that the ship came to our rescue in time. We had noticed that we had more and more water in the boat and we were scared so we sent a distress call. Everybody was screaming and crying but we all made it. The Swedish crew on the cargo ship were wonderful. The trousers are from Egypt. We lived there for one year and three months before we came to Europe. We would have stayed in Egypt had the new regime not made it impossible for Syrians to work there. I used to work in a factory that dyed jeans. The bleach gets sprayed on with a kind of gun so each garment is slightly different. These jeans are slightly stretchy and very comfortable. And I dyed them myself. But now there are also rust stains from the boat. The belt is from Syria. I still wear it. We lived very close to the market so I did most of my shopping there. We had a nice two and a half bedroom flat in the centre of Damascus.

Mohammad, 41, Grocer

And the phone? My brother-in-law got it for my wife. When she gave birth to our youngest son he got her a new, better mobile and I got this one.


I wore the jumper underneath a light black coat. I was in a cabin with the children so I wasn’t cold. But the coat did get wet and dirty, so I left it behind. I still usually wear a long jacket in public. The jumper is very comfortable. I got it in the Al-Hamidiya market – a very good market in Damascus. I like nice clothes. All the clothes I had before we went on the journey I gave away to people in need. Leaving Egypt was my idea. My husband was scared but I was tired of moving from relatives to relatives because we had no home, so I decided that it would be best to take a boat to Europe. I had a good feeling. I thought either I’ll survive or I’ll die but at least my children will have the chance of a better future. My main motivation was a better future for my children. I never seriously believed that we could die until the last few hours on the boat... when I saw my children cry and scream I was questioning whether I’d made the right decision... but then we were rescued. The jeans are from Egypt. They are pregnancy trousers as just a few of months before the journey I had given birth to our youngest child. I also had a hijab but mine got ripped so I threw it away in Italy and a woman there gave me a new one. Underneath I wore this hairband. I’ve had it for many years and accidentally just wore it on the day we left Egypt but I still wear it today. I’m happy to be in Germany. All I want is a safe future and a good education for my children.

Hiam, 40, Teacher

Of all the things in Syria I miss my family and photos... but the most important thing is that my husband and my children are here with me.


I bought the jacket and the jeans in a shop in my hometown of Hama about six years ago. I love the jeans but the jacket I never wore much in Syria. I brought it with me because it is very warm and I knew it was going to be cold on the boat. The boat I travelled on was just a small fishing boat, but there were 500 people travelling on it. About 200 in the basement and the rest of us on deck. After 13 hours we were picked up by an Italian military ship and taken to Foggia. From there I travelled to France and had intended to go to Sweden where my brother lives, but I was caught in Kiel so I stayed in Germany. The belt is about four years old. I always wear a belt. The prayer beads are called misbaha. They were my mother’s. She got them in Egypt about five years ago and she used to carry them in her handbag. About six months ago she gave them to me. I use them to pray. I miss my mum and I think of her when I hold the beads.

Mohammad, 32, Computer Programmer

I hope my parents and my sisters will be coming here too – or even better, I hope the war will be over soon and I can return home.


The shirt is from my hometown of Homs. I like those blue colours. I happened to be wearing it in Sousse, in Tunisia, on the day the smuggler came to pick us up. It was the second time we had paid someone to take us to Europe. The first guy ran away with the 60,000 dollars we gave him, so we had to make another arrangement with a new person. But this time we only had to pay him upon arrival in Italy. I know Germany well. I had been there many times for work – often for about three months at a time. So when life in Cairo got more and more impossible I came to the conclusion that going to Germany would be our best option – and since there was no legal way to get there we had to get in touch with a smuggler. The jacket was a present from a good friend in Spain. I was in Spain on business at the time... I took it because it is very warm and comfortable but also because it reminds me of my friend Saad. He lives in a little castle in Granada – I hope we can visit him there soon. The mobile is from Syria. I simply changed the SIM card in each different country and it worked perfectly. On the boat I wrapped it in plastic and it still worked in Italy. The first phone call on European ground went to my daughter in Lebanon. She couldn’t join us on the journey because she suffers from diabetes.

Hassan, 48, Businessman

I have this international driving licence because I’ve spent a lot of time abroad. I had a successful business that dealt with car parts. I was dealing with Mercedes, Skoda, VW, Opel... but my favourite car is Mercedes. I still have an old one at home. It’s champagne coloured. My nephew is currently driving it.


The trousers are from Egypt. I’ve had them for at least a year. I bought them in 10th of Ramadan City near Cairo while we were living there before we came here. I got the top from the wife of my husband’s uncle. I remember wearing it on a day out with my husband’s friends in Egypt. That was nice. During the boat journey I carried it in my handbag. I wore an olive green t-shirt but I threw that away once we got to Italy. It was wet and torn. I also had to throw away my black handbag. Everything was spoilt. Also the black trousers I was wearing. These jeans I had carried in my handbag. The smuggler had promised to bring our clothes and bags onto the boat, but I had heard stories before and didn’t believe him, so I took my handbag with me. The watch was a present from my sister. When she moved to Egypt at the beginning of the war, she gave me this watch to remember her by. When we went to Egypt, we stayed with her for two years. She didn’t want to come to Europe with us. Her husband is Lebanese. He has a good job over there. But for us staying was not an option, as we are Syrian so can’t work in Egypt and our children are not allowed to attend school there. I never take this watch off. I even wore it on the boat – it’s waterproof so this wasn’t a problem. I was very scared on the boat. I had real panic attacks. But it’s good to be here. It’s much safer and the children have a good future. It’s also much better for me. I have friends here. I just miss my oldest daughter very much. She still lives in Egypt. She’s just given birth and I wish I could see my grandchild.

Shaza, 42, Housewife


The hijab is from Egypt. We lived there for two years. I bought it myself. I needed a new one and I like this colour very much. I remember also wearing it on a Nile cruise in Cairo. I was with my family and my uncle’s family. We had a wonderful day. The hairband was a present from my sister. We were shopping in Homs: me, my sister and my mum. That was five years ago. We also bought two t-shirts that day, one for my sister and one for me. My sister is still in Egypt. I miss her. I also miss my friends in Syria very much. When we went to Egypt I thought it was only going to be for a short time. I thought we would all see each other again in Syria. Now we are here, one friend is in America, one in Lebanon and one in Saudi Arabia... we are in touch via Facebook and WhatsApp but it’s not the same. In Egypt, I had only two friends. One from Syria and another one from Iraq. For the journey, I wore a pair of jeans, a denim shirt and grey boots. We came in winter. I didn’t have a coat because it was in a bag that the smugglers stole from me. It was very cold and wet on the boat but I was so tired that I fell asleep anyway. When I woke up and saw that we were in the middle of the sea I was scared. Why would anybody do this to people? As if we are not worth anything. But I never doubted the decision. I had hope that we would arrive ok. I would like to study medicine in Germany and become a gynaecologist and then I hope to return to Syria one day.

Yara, 18, Student


These trousers are from Tunisia. I got them from my friend. He is already grown-up. His name is Mohammad. He travelled to Germany with us. He lives in Constance now. Mohammad is my friend who played football with me since we were in Egypt. I love to play but I’m not very good... My favourite team is Barcelona. I’ve never been to a match, I’ve only ever seen it on TV. On the boat I also wore a t-shirt with the British flag on it. It was a present from my relatives in Egypt but I had to leave it in Italy. I also had shoes but when the rescue boat came to save us I climbed over without them.

Abud, 11, Student

I told my friends that we were going to Europe. I wasn’t supposed to but I told them anyway... Omar, Fadel, Ahmad, Asla... those were the ones I told about the trip but now we’re no longer in touch. I miss them and I’d love to go back to Egypt. I’m sad that we have to be here.


I bought this jacket in a shopping mall in Damascus about four years ago. I like it. It’s real leather. It always used to be my very smart jacket but now it got torn on the journey and the rain and the water spoiled the leather. In order to reach the boat we all had to walk through the water. It was nearly up to my neck. All I could carry was my son. My bag with all my belongings I had to leave behind. All my clothes got wet, including this leather jacket. So we sat on the boat with no dry clothes to change into and it was so cold. We all got sick. We started our trip in Alexandria. 576 people were on the ship. It had two floors but the basement was full of water, so nobody could go there. One of the engines was broken and the second one wasn’t working properly either so we repaired it ourselves. Eventually we had to change ships in the middle of the sea. 400 people got on one ship and the others onto a small wooden fishing boat. After two days we changed again and got onto another, bigger boat. There were already people on it. They had no water and only mouldy bread. Some people didn’t want to get on this ship but the smugglers threatened to kill them if they refused. The people who were already on the ship had been waiting for us for eight days and were in a terrible state.

Mohammad Majid, 52, Car Mechanic

Changing ships in the middle of the sea was scary. The constant movement of the waves made it difficult to catch the right moment. Some fell into the water but nobody drowned. We even managed to get two people in wheelchairs across. First the people, then the chairs. I was very scared. It was the journey of death.


All I have left from the trip is this mobile phone. It was my first. I got it in Egypt. It was the latest model back then. I used to carry it with me all the time and kept getting messages via WhatsApp and Facebook. For the journey I had wrapped it in a plastic bag but it got wet anyway. I really tried to keep it dry but despite all my efforts it broke. Unfortunately. Now I have a new phone but this is also broken and it’s currently being serviced.

Ayham, 18, Student

I’m still in regular contact with my friends in Syria. Not every day though as the network coverage in Syria is not very good. Most of my friends are still there. I miss them and the streets I walked along and my family who is still there. I miss my home but for the moment I don’t want to go back. I want to build a future for myself here in Germany. I’d like to study engineering. I’m interested in medical technology.


The coat and the hijab is all I have left from the journey. I got the coat about four years ago in a market in Damascus. I bought it because it suited me well. I had more clothes packed for the journey – the better ones were in a bag so I could get changed in Italy. But then I couldn’t even take the bag with me and now all I’m left with is this coat and the hijab. I also lost my handbag – or rather I threw it away in Italy. I bought a new bag and new clothes there. I always wear a long coat in public. I remember wearing this coat on Eid in 2012 on a visit to my mother in Turkey. It was a nice trip. I took this black hijab – firstly because it goes well with the coat and secondly because married woman usually wear black headscarves. I also wore it on the train to Germany. Many people say that I look so German with my light hair and blue eyes, so I probably would have been less obvious without it, but it’s part of me and my religion and my culture and I always wear one. I have no mementoes left. What should I remember? We had a terrible time in Syria and a terrible time in Egypt and a terrible journey on the boat. Most of all I miss my family. My daughter lives in Sudan with her husband and a small child. My parents live in Turkey and my five sisters are still in Damascus. But I’m glad that we are here now.

Raghdaa, 42, Kindergarten Teacher


I don’t go to school yet but I’m so looking forward to going. I’ve been there on an open day and I liked it very much. It will be great. These jeans are from Egypt. We used to live in Cairo then. My mum bought them for me. They are torn at the knee because I fell from my scooter. I also broke my arm and had to see a doctor. I even got metal plates in my arm to fix it. It happened when we were new in Germany. Now the jeans are no longer perfect but I still like them. Yesterday I ripped another pair of trousers when I fell of my bike. It happens... While we lived in Egypt I wasn’t allowed to leave the house. At most I could go to the park with my mum. But I was never allowed to play outside alone with my friends. In Cairo I liked going to the amusement park. That was always fun. I like going on the fast rides. One was like a really fast worm. I loved that. Now I like to play football. I have friends here. There are many children where we live now. I like living here. When we left Egypt I said goodbye to my friend Manar. He lived two hours away from us and came to visit. So I told him. I also told my cousin Rawad. He lives in Saudi Arabia now. I can remember the ship very well. I was feeling so sick and was throwing up all the time. They threw us from one ship into another in the middle of the sea. One ship was made of wood and the other one was made of metal and they kept crashing together. I still have nightmares about it. I’m seeing a doctor to help me with them.

Wais, 6

I’m a really good swimmer but I don’t ever want to work on a boat. When I grow up I want to be a pilot.


First Edition Idea, photography, text and layout Š Kiki Streitberger, 2015 www.kikistreitberger.com email: info@kikistreitberger.com Published by crazeebee books, London, 2015 www.crazeebee.com email: info@crazeebee.com Sub-edited by Melissa Voelksen All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior consent of the publisher. ISBN: 978-0-9565789-4-5 Printed by Finidr, s.r.o. For distribution information please contact info@crazeebee.com


Travelling Light - English  
Travelling Light - English  

Sixty million people in the world today are refugees. In 2015, more than 300,000 people undertook the perilous journey across the Mediterran...

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