Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands, 5 February 2016:
Ali came eighteen months ago to the Netherlands as a refugee from Aleppo, now he is one of the princes of Maastricht. The 21-year-old Syrian will from tomorrow on be carnival prince Ali the First in Maastricht during Vastelaovend – as they call carnival in Limburg province.
We walked along for a day with him, while the final preparations for the carnival were done.
Ali is the prince of the temporary carnival society Common Carnival, an initiative of Limburg art students to create integration by means of carnival. Maastricht people and asylum seekers together make a carnaval float and costumes. Besides students also other inhabitants of Maastricht are welcome to participate.
It is not the first time that he celebrates carnival. Last year he was in Eindhoven, but before that he celebrated it in Syria. “We celebrate it as well with wagons in many different colours. People then drink on the street,” says Ali. “The difference between carnival here and in my country is that it only lasts one day there and here it continues for three days.”
That excessively alcohol will be drunk is no problem according to Ali. “The image that many people have is that we are all strict Muslims. There are eighteen religions in Syria, but few people here know that. We are very open-minded people.”
Ali himself says he will drink some beer, but not too much. “With the music we will keep ourselves under control. We are going to make something beautiful!”