above: Ahmed Mourad in his days as Mubarak's official photographer; photo published in The Observer newspaper
During his recent tour of England together with two other Egyptian novelists newly published in English by Bloomsbury Qatar Foundation Publishing (BQFP), Ahmed Mourad - author of the thriller Vertigo - surprised many with his revelation that he was for years official photographer to the now deposed President Husni Mubarak. For example, he spoke of his role as photographer during the appearance of the three writers at an evening reception and literary event at the residence of Egypt's ambassador to the UK Hatem Saif Al Nasr. Vertigo is published by BQFP in English translation by Adam Talib. The other two writers on the tour were Khaled AlKhamissi (author of Taxi, trans by Jonathan Wright), and Ahmed Khaled Towfik (Utopia, trans Chip Rossetti).
Now The Observer newspaper has published an interview with Mourad conducted by Peter Beaumont in which the writer speaks both on his role as Mubarak's photographer and as the author of Vertigo. The interview is headlined: "By day I shot my boss Hosni Mubarak. By night, I dreamt of dictator's downfall".
The interview begins: "Every day, Ahmed Mourad quietly seethed as he peered through a lens darkly at Hosni Mubarak and reflected on the misery that his boss – the man he knew as "Mr President" – was inflicting on Egypt's 80 million people.
"After five years as the personal photographer to Mubarak, recording everything from world leaders' visits to quotidian family gatherings, Mourad, then 29, had seen enough and was 'ready to explode', as he puts it now.
"That was in 2007, four years before the inspirational uprising that forced Mubarak out in February this year, after 30 years of dictatorship. At the time, thousands of workers were on strike and journalists were protesting about being silenced, but Tahrir Square was quiet. If you did not want to go to jail, with the attendant risk of being tortured, there was little outlet for political protest. So, in the evenings, Mourad vented his anger by writing.
"The result, later that year, was Vertigo, a racy, blood-spattered thriller that exposes the greedy, seedy, corrupt businessmen and politicians who get rich by exploiting the poor. It was a story that resonated in Egypt and the book – which Mourad says was never meant for publication – became a bestseller. Now, after its translation into English, he has talked for the first time about the emotions that inspired him to write it.
"'I was ready to explode because I had been living a dual life for five years, like Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde,' says the dapper, quietly spoken Mourad. 'During the day, I spent hours working with Hosni Mubarak – a man who had been burying the dreams of Egyptians for three decades – and at night I was with my friends, who were cursing him and wishing he would disappear. What was really making me angry was that I knew the Egyptian people were destined to live better and he was the reason why that wasn't happening.'.... more