I like to describe my life as a dance between the West and the East. Since 2015, I've been living in Istanbul, the chaotic, amazing city on the bridge between Europe and Asia. Beneath the hustle and bustle lies a sacred history that runs through layers upon layers of civilizations. Coming to this cultural crossroads feels like a metaphor for my life journey.
Born just before sunset in June 1991, I grew up in a rather unspectacular North German town. If you asked me about the gifts of my upbringing, I would say: curiosity, the drive to enquire deeply, an unquenchable thirst for travel, openness towards different cultures and a deep love for the sacred – plus playing Bach on the violin with my grandfather accompanying me on the piano.
When I was four, my mum first took me to India to spend the summer at an ashram. Returning almost every year from then on, India became my spiritual playground. Its vibrant, messy and colorful reality gave me the perfect dose of adventure to balance my orderly and predictable life in Lower Saxony. But perhaps what made the strongest impression on me was the tangible presence of the sacred in daily life. Early on, I learnt to appreciate the ways in which the divine expresses itself in different traditions and cultures.
In 2009, a year short of my high school graduation, I went on a self-organized study trip to Syria to learn about interfaith relations in a country that would soon sink into the abyss of civil war. It was the hospitality I experienced at a Sufi mosque in the lanes of Old Aleppo that sparked my love for Middle Eastern culture. Syria was an initiation, a turning point that shaped the course of my life.
A year later I travelled overland from Germany to India. Following the old hippie trail, I spent a month in Iran on the way. It felt like I had come home after a long time. Iran triggered a deep sense of recognition in me. Persian culture spoke to my soul. The sound of Farsi, the depth of Iranian music and the immense kindness of people seemed to defy the negative stories about Iran on the media.
This experience was the reason I became a journalist – to transport stories from a misrepresented, little-understood geography into German-language publications. Through the years, my assignments took me around Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, and more recently to North Africa. My work has been published in German-language dailies like Süddeutsche Zeitung and Neue Zürcher Zeitung, in travel magazines and at Parabola.
In the autumn of 2011, I moved to Berlin to dive into Iranian Studies. Although most of it turned out to be dry philology, I carried away a precious gift: the Persian language. In 2013/14, I spent a semester in Tehran and got to read Rumi's poetry under the guidance of a gifted teacher. The practice of reading Persian mystical lyric in original is an ongoing exploration for me.
In 2012 I met my future wife Aslınur. She's not only the reason why my outer center moved to Turkey, but also a source of guidance and inspiration who helps me return to my inner center whenever I go off-track (which happens a lot, ask her). We got married in 2017 and celebrated on a boat sailing up the Bosporus with wedding guests from 9 different countries.
In Istanbul I discovered the power of heart-sharing circles, like the way of council which we went to explore in Southern California during the summer of 2017. Over a period of two years we hosted weekly gatherings of meditation and heart-sharing in our home on the Asian side of town. This exploration taught me a lot about the importance of authentic human connection while navigating the turbulent times we live in.
In deep gratitude to the intelligence that has designed my path, I offer Sacred Journalism as the harvest of my journey so far.
Thank you for gracing this space with your time and attention!
Cover photo: On assignment in Afghanistan, 2016. (Credit: Mustafa Najafizada)