I was born in the beautiful harbour city of Hamburg in Germany.
My professional life began at 21 when I joined Radio Hamburg for a two-year training ‘volontariat’ as a radio journalist. I loved interviewing all different kinds of people from politicians to artists and was thrilled when I had the opportunity to interview the artist Keith Haring.
Towards the end of my time with RHH I was chosen out of thousands of hopeful applicants as the first German presenter for the music television station MTV Europe. There was one condition: a move to swinging London, a city I began to love at first sight and still do.
Unsurpassable London is a unique mix of traditional and modern. It has its own buzz. Whatever you want, London has it from cutting edge design to bespoke tailoring, Shakespeare, sacred music, intellectual lectures to street fashion or belly-dancing. Writers, actors, artists and political exiles present their books, films, paintings, ideas, opinions and complaints here. In summer during the social season people love to go to the various traditional racing, tennis and polo events where people wear funny clothes and look forward to getting a glimpse of their Queen.
It is great to be in London as long as you can afford the extortionate prices and regularly get out. Europe is only a one hour away and flights are relatively cheap from here.
Some of my favourite countries are Morocco, with its breath taking and diverse nature, stunning architecture and warmhearted, people, Brazil, with its paradisical landscapes, enchanting people and exotic animals, Egypt, a very spiritual place, Turkey, the Subcontinent, Ireland and the Highlands of Scotland where it feels like one has left civilization behind. But much of these places is present in small corners in London such as the Arabian Peninsula around Edgeware Road or Knightsbridge, the Caribbean in Brixton, Morocco north of Nottinghill, Little India in South Hall and Chinatown in Soho where even the street signs are in Chinese.
The famous “English cuisine” has picked up due to international influence. The national dish is not the expected fish’n chips but curry, would you believe.
London has always stood for respect (not just tolerance!) towards other cultures and religions. It has graciously welcomed its guests, black, white yellow green or pocadot. You can wear a mohawk, dreadlocks or a headscarf, you are still part of London and a full member of society. The motto is integration instead of assimilation. In fact, The Queen is proud of Great Britain’s multi- cultural heritage.
In my view, as the world grows together into a global village, society is becoming multi- cultural, multi- ethnic and multi- religious. There is no way around it.
Despite occasional problems, which occur in any society, Britain is an exemplary model of this global trend.
Traveling regularly and interviewing some of the major players in the entertainment world became my beat; from the Rolling Stones and Lenny Kravitz in Boston, to Dave Steward and Neneh Cherry in Munich and Annie Lennox in LA. Interviewing Peter Gabriel, at his Real World Studios in Bath was another highlight. He is not only a great musician, composer and writer but has always helped world music artists by signing them to his label.
MTV Europe had become a cult channel, especially popular in Germany, Scandinavia and the Benelux countries. It was exciting for me to be part of this major youth culture phenomenon.
In 1992 I carried the Olympic flame near Zaragossa in Spain as a representative of MTV. I spoke to some footballers in Istanbul and picked up presents personally from Father Christmas in Lapland.
Once I was thrown on stage right before Prince to spontaneously explain our music competition at a rock festival in Germany in front of 70.000! excited fans. I had become one of the leading presenters on MTV Europe, hosting many different shows for over seven years, including the highest rated program on the channel, the “Coca Cola Report”.
At the opening of the VH-1 TV channel in Hamburg, David Bowie came up to me and asked if he could have his picture taken with me. I was stunned. Afterwards, we talked about his former home, Berlin, which he loved but hadn’t visited since the wall came down.
Never willing to stop, with an inclination to broaden my activities, I created and hosted a youth show in Germany: Bravo TV. The show became a great success and is still running. I received several TV awards, including the “Golden Camera” and two “Golden Ottos”.
The German music station offered me a managerial position to become one of the faces of the channel, to train presenters and advise with on- air related matters but I declined the offer. I didn’t want to make a decision based on my career alone. I loved my life in multi cultural London and continued to present for MTV. I’m glad I did.
In 1992, I was introduced to a completely different world, one that has fascinated and inspired me ever since- politics aside – The Orient. I had the opportunity to travel extensively throughout the East and visited
I discovered Sufi music from different traditions and was transported to another realm by this sacred music with lyrics more moving and poetic than any pop song I had ever heard. The texts talk about love for the beloved, which then turns into the ultimate love for God.
I had a close up look at some of the great masterpieces of Islamic art such as the incredible Al Hambra in Granada where stone is turned into lace, the pristine beauty of the Koutoubia mosque or the serenity of the Menara garden in Marrakech, Bab Boujeloud gate in Fes and the exquisite Moghul architecture of the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, similar to the Taj Mahal. I was taken by the beauty of the Blue Mosque in Turkey , especially the dome from the inside, the imposing simplicity of the ancient Ibn Tulun mosque in Cairo and the grandeur of the Byzantine- influenced Umayyad mosque in Damascus.
I love the intricate designs of the skilful arts and crafts – from antique Afghan jewellery to traditional Moroccan lamps and fountains, dazzling rugs, handmade wood works with a poetic edge and the original embroidered pashmina shawls.
I adore Islamic art and architecture. They are always harmonious and pleasing to the eye. “GOD IS BEAUTIFUL AND HE LOVES BEAUTY”, is an inspired saying of the Prophet. Therefore, artists always create beauty as a form of worship. The spiritual aim of Islamic art and architecture is to symbolize higher realities and metaphysical truths and to evoke God. The underlying principles are the same throughout the Islamic world but the modes of expression vary according to the ethnic surroundings, which give them a local flavour, and the passing of the centuries. – Unity in multiplicity and multiplicity in unity is the motto.
Rich in colours, spices and scents, my experiences in the Orient, the people and their values inspired and challenged me at the same time. They led me to study the religion of Islam and its spiritual dimension, Sufism. Great masters, like Jalaluddin Rumi, became my favourite authors. I was drawn culturally, intellectually and spiritually.
Back in the weird but wonderful world of showbiz, I hosted many live music shows in Europe with acts like Take That, the Backstreet Boys and Lenny Kravitz cheered by thousands of screaming fans. I understood how musicians feel on stage and why they get addicted to the thrill of receiving this amount of raw energy- it feels like walking on a cloud charged with electricity.
My years with MTV had been a very special experience I wouldn’t have wanted to miss but in the end the station had nothing new to offer me. I had presented every single show on the channel. Also, as my inner values were changing, I could no longer fully identify with MTV. I had simply outgrown it. My leaving present was a beautiful Moroccan mirror – an omen of things to come… I filled my four- month sabbatical with charity work, using some of my contacts in the entertainment business to raise money for school projects in the developing world.
In September 96, I started presenting Europe’s only guide to culture and entertainment: “The Ticket” for NBC Europe.The scope was broader, apart from pop stars, I interviewed opera singer Placido Domingo, Yehudi Menuhin and other luminaries like Ben Kingsley, Ute Lemper, Peter Greenaway and Michael Radford, director of the wonderful “Il Postino” and “The Merchant of Venice”. In just under a year the show had gained a large and loyal following with the stars themselves watching.
Meeting some of those accomplished artists was fascinating and educational. However, I also realized that not all pop culture is worthy. In fact, I felt increasingly uncomfortable promoting violent Hollywood films, destructive hard-rock music or sensationalistic so- called art, which was part of my work. Just as well, NBC Europe eventually closed down two years later. This meant a well-deserved creative break and proved to be a professional turning point for me.
Now preparations were heating up for the multicultural concert I had been asked to organise with the Bosnian ambassador to the UN, Mohammed Sacirbey. I had met him at the opening of the Pavarotti music centre in Mostar the year before. The idea was to bring the different factions of people together through a series of cultural events and political dialogue between leaders of different countries.
I helped organise a wonderful art exhibition by the Egyptian Dr Ahmed Moustafa, a calligrapher of special talent whose modern images are based on sacred verses of the Koran. He previously exhibited at the Vatican Museum in Rome by invitation of the Pope. The exhibition, opened by the late Ali Izetbegovic, was a great success, so was the concert. Transglobal Underground with Natasha Atlas and the multinational French outfit, Jam and Fam went down a storm. The shining eyes of thousands of Bosnians, who were so happy if only because they hadn’t been to a concert since before the war, will always be engraved in my mind.
One memorable incident happened during the concert: I had left my handbag behind with my passport, plane ticket and money only noticing this two hours after the concert had finished at 4 am. I rushed back to the venue and saw that all the chairs had been moved to the side and, believe it or not, there was my bag with all its contents intact on one of the chairs. Honesty and decency had survived the ugliness of the war. How very impressive, considering the circumstances of the people. In London, on the other hand, my backpack with filo fax, wallet etc. was stolen from under my chair in bright daylight while having coffee on Kings Road.
Bosnia is a very beautiful country. The capital Sarajevo stands out because of its extraordinary cityscape, which ranges from Ottoman to Austro Hungarian treasures and includes typical dark wooden Bosnian houses and shops as well as soul- less communist skyscrapers. All this is interlaced with many ruins of the war. There is a lot of beauty to be found amidst the destruction.
Back in London, the glitter of showbiz promised nothing new for me. I didn’t want to pursue my professional career at any price. My orientation had changed. I wanted to integrate every aspect of my life into my new found value system. I became much more introspective and contemplative. I enjoyed a walk in nature far more than a VIP party. I moved into my own little house but it was still a building site for months, which meant I had no access to any of my TV material. It was a well deserved creative break, which gave me a chance to explore other interests in more depth. I studied natural medicine at Westminster University, including Herbs, Aromatherapy, Qui Gong, Chinese Medicine, Flower Essences and Homeopathy. This was an interesting new world for me; the holistic way of seeing man and nature, health and disease and how things are connected.
I have qualified as a homeopath in 2002 and in September of the following year I launched my online homeopathic clinic www.energy-for-health.com.
I have pursued this form of energy medicine for a number of years and I am still amazed by some of its magical results. I am a living testimony of that magic myself. My severe hay fever from which I had suffered for more than 25 years, has been healed thanks to homeopathy. As a result, I can now enjoy the summer without constant sneezing and snuffling or the unpleasant side effects of anti histamines.
Homeopathy can improve one’s health tremendously as it is extremely effective for so many ailments- mental, emotional and physical. There is actually nothing in the remedies but the energy of a substance, which resonates with our own energy and brings about healing. This makes it the most gentle, yet powerful form of medicine.
Once you start homeopathic treatment you go on a holistic healing journey that also includes personal development. In private, I live as natural and green as possible – I eat wholesome and organic food whenever I can to ensure optimum nutrition. I go to the gym and practice pilates, spend as much time in nature as possible and generally try to have a balance between mind, body and spirit.
Incidentally, many famous personalities have been enjoying the benefits of homeopathy for centuries. They include author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who directly refers to the “law of similars” in his play “Faust” where he says: “To like things like, what ever one may ail; there is certain help”; as well as Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Yehudi Menuhin, Dizzy Gillespie, Mahatma Ghandi and John D Rockefeller. Contemporaries such as Angelica Huston, Boris Becker, Catherine Zeta Jones, Jane Fonda, Martina Navratilova, Martin Sheen, Paul Mc Cartney and Tina Turner all use homeopathic remedies to improve their health and well- being, even the Prince of Wales is a fan of natural medicine.
I wrote for English and German newspapers and appeared on TV and radio (Sky news, BBC London, LBC) to comment on health issues and give homeopathic health tips.
In 2004, I hosted a weekly program segment giving natural health tips to viewers of RTL TV’s lunchtime magazine “Punkt 12”.
In 2006 I went on the journey of a lifetime, the Hajj; it is the big pilgrimage to Mecca. It was incredibly moving to see the black Kaaba surrounded by people in prayer wearing white, so serene, so holy. On Hajj the whole universe is gathered, a king prays next to a servant, a black next to a white. You realise in front of God nothing counts but what is in people’s hearts and their actions.
In May 2009 my book ‘Von MTV nach Mekka’ was published in Germany. I write about my eventful journey from entertainment to ‘inner-tainment’. When my spiritual side was awakened I began to fill my life, my work and my relationships with meaning, a higher purpose and with the spirit. I am grateful for the enormously positively response in Germany and abroad. (See my book, book feedback and media).
In Egypt I was even honoured with a Presidential Medal of the arts and sciences for my attempts to promote understanding for Islam in the West. A gift from God, I’d say. The book gave me the opportunity to meet Muslim communities all over Germany, which was fascinating.
Meanwhile I presented several TV shows- a monthly travel show on Travel Channel, “Reise 2009, 10 and 11” discovering some of Germany´s cultural and architectural jewels. I realised with all its medieval towns, cultural traditions and picturesque landscape, Germany is an underrated tourist destination. I also hosted a chat show called ‘Matters of Faith’ where I interviewed experts, spiritual seekers and artists with a different dimension. The show aimed to promote inter- cultural and inter- faith dialogue. I participate in similar events, chaired debates, hosted conferences, galas, award ceremonies and cultural festivals around the world. My aim is to contribute towards building bridges between peoples, cultures and religions, especially between Islam and the West.
My English book ‘From MTV to Mecca’ was published in 2012. We launched it at Momo’s in London with a party where Bob Geldof was the guest of honour. Invitations to speak all around the UK followed. I presented the book at all the leading universities including at SOAS, LSE, Oxford and Cambridge University and Eton College. My talks were always followed by stimulating q n a discussions which I enjoyed most. It’s great to see the youth so engaged. Communities in Hong Kong, Singapore and Borneo invited me to speak which was magical and so exciting and next came the USA and Canada where I spoke in front of audiences of 20,000 and more. The buzz reminded me of my days at MTV, just this time I was on stage with God.
SoundVision from the USA invited me to speak at several fundraising events throughout the US and in Turkey- see blog. My book was always warmly appreciated and sold like hotcakes. Just at the Texas events, we were greeted by a horde of hardcore Islamophobes, but survived.
After all the excitement of promoting the book I am happy to note that From MTV to Mecca has become a best seller and we are now in our fourth print run.
Back in London I began to focus on building my life after TV and the book and creating my business Baraka Consultants focusing on Fine Art. I studied at Sotheby’s art history, and all aspects of the art industry from art business to art law and the art of collecting. I am continuing my education and feel I have found my new professional home, having always been involved in art and culture.
I have built a network of precious contacts from private collectors to leading museums, auction houses and corporate clients internationally. I also enjoy meeting contemporary artists and help giving them a platform. My focus though is on Impressionist and Modern art as well as Post War. See Baraka Consultants for more info.