Breaking down the new Berlin wall: refugee guides show their side of city

Refugee-led walking tours of Berlin aim to put a personal face to the humanitarian crisis. But is it just ‘misery tourism’?

Shaam is an otherwise unremarkable-looking Middle Eastern restaurant. There’s a menu on the wall showing pixelated images of falafel and kibbeh; a hunk of doner meat rotates slowly by the window. But the restaurant has become a place for new arrivals from Syria to congregate. “The name feels like home,” says Mahmoud, a warm and chatty 28-year-old. “It introduces Berlin, away from your family and friends.”

Mahmoud is a Syrian of Palestinian heritage who fled the war in Aleppo in 2014 after being imprisoned and tortured by government forces. He is now a guide with Querstadtein, a group organising tours of Berlin, led by refugees.

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