Germany, Budapest, April 24, 2016, Mohamad AlNazer shows some card tricks to his friends from Italiay. Volunteers who watched the show are Miriam Buffa (left) and Nora Gianotti. The reflection shows the famous Matthias Church.
Mohamad AlNazer is the Syrian Magician. He calls himself Sherl Nazer because he loves Sherlock Holmes. He’s a wizard with a deck of cards and, with his sleight of hand, entertains refugees less fortunate than himself when they pass through Hungary, seeking a future in Europe.
Magic is a bit more than a hobby for Mohamad, who trains himself for weeks to perfect his tricks before showing them to enthralled spectators. “I get ideas from YouTube,” he says. “There was no YouTube in Syria but here in Budapest, there are magic shops and meetings for magicians.”
Mohamad has been able to settle in Budapest because his father, Anas AlNazer, first made tracks to Hungary back in Communist times when he came here as a medical student. Dr. AlNazer, who speaks Hungarian and retained some ties from his student days, watched the situation deteriorating in Damascus and applied for Hungarian visas for himself, his wife Lelas Barazi and the five children.
The family flew to Hungary in 2013, ahead of the wave of refugees who have made the treacherous crossing over the Aegean Sea and walked up through the Balkans. Money the AlNazers had been saving to buy a house in Syria gives them a small financial cushion in Budapest and they are able to rent a three-room apartment, with a view over the River Danube.
Despite their relative luck, life in Budapest has not been exactly easy. Dr. AlNazer, 55, who had a thriving private practice in Damascus, has had to re-take exams to prove his medical competence. Mohamad is working 10 hours a day, six days a week in a mini-supermarket, although soon he will take up a place at Budapest’s Metropolitan University to study animation, on a course partly sponsored by the Walt Disney Company.