Wael Ghonim: Egypt’s revolution, My life, and My Broken Soul

Wael Ghonim:

1_1ioCMNzc4bDwYbAoQGCRdgIn July of 2013, my tears fell as the plane took off. For the first time in my life, I was desperate to leave Egypt, despite not knowing when I would be able to return. A few days prior, a military coup had toppled our two-year-old struggling democracy.

I had lived most of my life as an outsider. I never belonged to a majority. As a child, I was the Egyptian kid growing up in Saudi Arabia, and when I moved to Egypt at the age of 13, I became “the kid who came back from Saudi.” At 17, I became religious, and my family and friends called me an extremist. At 30, I was an anonymous activist–who barely knew any activists. And now, at 37, I’m the Egyptian who just moved to the US and is once again struggling to prove his worth.

My early childhood seems to have been contained in a sheltered bubble I went to private schools in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, spent most of my time at home, and my parents knew everything about my friends. But at the age of 14, I burst that bubble. I decided to leave private school and join a public one.

On the first day in public school, I was shocked. Our classroom had benches for forty students but we were over seventy. There was no fan, no AC, no ventilation. The school yard was huge, but not enough to accommodate the thousands of students.

In my third day at school, a fight erupted in the yard. Kids were throwing rocks randomly in the middle of the yard. I saw blood, knives, and swords. The screams of anger and the ambulance sirens were all that I could hear.

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