Most people say, “that’s random,” when they see a flight simulator sitting beyond rows of chewing gum and souvenirs at the back of Ahmed Abdelwahed’s convenience store on Elizabeth Street, in Sydney’s central business district.
A decade ago, Mr Abdelwahed was holed up in a new neighbourhood in Cairo that bordered the desert, defending the home that he shared with his father, brother, wife and baby boy against the gangs who had taken advantage of the civil unrest stirred up by the Arab Spring.
An aviation electrical engineer by trade, he invented an electrical self-defence tool to deploy against anybody who tried to storm the building. They watched looters carry bedsheets and juice cartons out of the supermarket next door. They closed their gate, filled jars with boiling oil and slept in shifts.
“It was a very difficult time,” he said.
Mr Abdelwahed moved his family to Hurghada, a beach resort town in Egypt on the Red Sea, where he worked for Egypt Air and lived “like a king” on a salary 10 times the average wage, living at the Marriott Hotel and socialising at the hunting club. He fixed all the European and American aircraft in Egypt and flew around the world signing off on plane safety predeparture.
But with Egypt still recovering, he worried about the opportunities available to his children. He tried living in the United States, but found it unsafe and felt police were suspicious of him as a Muslim man from the Middle East.
“Come to Australia,” a friend said. “In Australia all people are equal and you can live however you want.”
He flew to Sydney on August 3, 2018. His friends picked him up from the airport and took him to his new apartment, where they had stocked the fridge with food. People he had not even met helped him move his furniture and buy a car.