Mustafa Aboulseoud, who co-owns and manages the Obsession Cafe in Mayfair, Johannesburg, has encountered his fair share of misadventure on his journey to South Africa.
Abdoulseoud, 27, was born in Egypt and spent his teenage years with relatives in Polokwane, Limpopo, but returned to Egypt in 2011 to sort out his papers. There was also the matter of his mandatory military service.
For a young man from a poor family, post-revolutionary Egypt did not provide many opportunities. “In those days, things were bad,” he says.
In early 2014, Aboulseoud decided to try another way — crossing the Mediterranean Sea to make a new life in Italy. This cost him £25 000 (almost R40 000 at the time).
“We left at night in a small boat, which had no engine,” he says. “There was a bigger boat waiting for us.”
But even the bigger boat, which held about 100 people, was not all that big. “I was just there, sleeping and vomiting. This was the first time for me to go in the sea like this. You wake up in the morning, everything is blue; it comes night time, everything is black.”
And then the engine failed. “The waves were so high: three, four floors. Some days it was so hard and so scary but we had to be men.
You know, imagine this — it wasn’t a dream. If I had a camera I would take it and make my own movie and be famous.”
It was 12 days before everyone on board was rescued and taken to Calabria in Italy, where they were given food and water — and then dispatched home, a plane journey of a mere two hours.
Aboulseoud needed another plan. “I decided I’m not going this way again. It was dangerous. I decided to go to the army.”
He’s now back in South Africa, having completed his military service. The one constant in his peripatetic life is his phlegmatic nature.
“I’m living every day for what’s coming on the day, you know? I’m thinking for the future but tomorrow is a new day.”