Ahmed Aboutaleb was born on 29 August 1961 in Beni Sidel in Morocco. He grew up as a son of a Riffian Berber Sunni imam in a small village in the Nador Province, Rif region. Together with his mother and brothers he moved to the Netherlands in 1976, when he was 15 years old. Aboutaleb had already noticed how he differed from other kids. As he says in an interview: 'I was so different, such a school dork. I wanted to learn, I wanted to know everything.'
Aboutaleb then studied Electrical engineering with a specialisation in Telecommunication at different schools up to the Hogere Technische School where he obtained a Bachelor of Engineering degree.
After graduating he found work as reporter for Veronica TV, NOS-radio and RTL Nieuws. He also worked at the public relations department of the Dutch health ministry. In 1998, Aboutaleb became director of the Forum organisation, an institute dealing with multiculturalism in the Netherlands. He also obtained a post as civil servant with the municipality of Amsterdam. Currently the Mayor of Rotterdam.
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