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Diaspo #98 : Karim Zidane, the success story of a Moroccan BMW engineer

Karim Zidane moved to Germany by mere coincidence when he was 20 years old. Despite all difficulties, he managed to build himself a successful career, becoming a BMW engineer.

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Moroccan engineer Karim Zidane. / Ph. DR

Many are the Moroccans that managed to succeed abroad, despite difficulties. Karim Zidane is one of these people who made it in Germany after leaving Morocco for Europe.

Born in 1969 in Souk El Arbaa, a small town near Kenitra, Zidane has been working for German multinational company BMW since 2002 as a mechanical engineer. The Moroccan man supervises the company’s engine development in a number of countries, adapting them to the climate of each region.  

«There is no pleasure without pain», said Karim Zidan, who believes that experiencing difficulties and embracing fears can lead to great success.  

Karim was raised in Souk El Arbaa. He moved to Kenitra for high school and studied mechanics there. In the 1980s, he joined the city’s university and opted for physics and chemistry. Just like other youngsters his age, he was thinking of emigrating to pursue his studies. He was first planning to go to the United States or France, but ended up moving to Germany, and according to him it was due to a mere coincidence.

Moving to Germany

«I met two Germans by chance in the city of Bousselham, after I helped them with something. They couldn’t wrap their heads around the idea that a stranger could be of much help. They asked me to come to Germany and visit them, which I considered impossible. I did not know the language and I had many stereotypes about the people there».

Karim Zidane

Surprisingly, one of his German friends asked for his address and applied to university on his behalf. Karim did not know about that until he was contacted by the German university. «I learned German during three months and then I visited my friend right after (…) We are still good friends, thanks to the good impression he had about me and about Moroccans».

On May 11, 1989, Zidane arrived in Germany. He still recalls that special day, saying : «This day is engraved in my memory. I left Tangier in one of my first trips abroad. I started this adventure when I was 20 years old, with no friends and family members in Germany. I was alone with limited resources and a poor knowledge of the German language».

Zidane recalls that his first days in the European country were tough and stressful as he found it difficult to integrate. «Germans are quiet, unlike Moroccans, who are very energetic, active and social, and it was hard for me at the beginning to adapt to this new way of living. When it comes to food, I used to eat fruits only as it was hard to find the food that I liked back home».

While in Germany, Karim met other Moroccan nationals who shared the same problems and went through similar difficulties. They used to buy train tickets and sleep the night there, because they were homeless and also because most of them did not know how to get to campus, the 50-year-old man said.

«My main objective was to earn a living in a dignified and honest way. What made me feel hopeful was the dream of finishing my studies in five years and going back to Morocco, with a degree in hand».

Karim Zidane

According to Zidane, the key to integrating in society is to learn the language. One day, Zidane was frustrated about the language and he asked his teacher, back at the time, saying : «Are we going to master this language one day ?»

His teacher answered saying : «The day you sleep and dream in German, is the day that you will know that you have learned the language». «It happened and I dreamt in German», he jokingly said.

After mastering the language, the young man passed an exam to access the university in the city of Aachen and then transferred to the University of Munich.

Working for BMW

His life took a different turn after he decided to start a family. He married a Turkish woman in 1993 and became a father a year later. He found himself forced to adjust his program and find work while completing his studies after getting his second child in 1998. In 2002, he graduated university with a degree in mechanics.

In September of that year he began working as an engineer for BMW, taking care of the company’s engines.

«In addition to my work, I was one of the founders of the Moroccan-German Competency Network, which had more than 1,000 competencies in 2009 and became its president. Its mission is to transfer experience and knowledge from Germany to Morocco and contribute to the advancement of the image of Moroccans in Germany and in Morocco».


Karim Zidane

His project was selected among 250 others related to social employee commitments outside the company, winning a prize set by BMW. He points out that his project was «a medical campaign that targeted the Atlas Mountains and offered assistance to a school by changing its glass and putting up a solid German-made glass». «We also have partnerships with Moroccan and German universities, to provide some villages with electricity».

In addition to his social work, Karim Zidane is also active in the political scene. He joined the National Rally of Independents (RNI), where he now serves as the party's coordinator in Germany.

«I joined the party in 2017 after learning about its political projects at a regional conference organized in the city of El Jadida», he said. Karim Zidane said he is thinking of returning to Morocco. «My dream is to settle down in Morocco», he said.

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