Mubarak Should Have Read His Photographer's Novel

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Hosni Mubarak probably should have read the book.

It's a novel, called Vertigo, and it was written in 2007 by Ahmed Mourad. Mourad's day job: serving as the Egyptian president's photographer, capturing affairs of state and the Mubarak family's personal moments, even as he quietly seethed about the stranglehold of power Mubarak kept on his country.

The seething is more obvious in the novel, which is being published in English, according to The Guardian, which interviewed Mourad.

"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."

So was Mourad in fear for his job – or, indeed, his life – when Vertigoappeared? He does not answer the question directly. "I didn't think it would be published, but I would never have forgiven myself if I hadn't written down what I was thinking, if I hadn't joined the revolution," he says. "I would have regretted my silence."

Mourad's wife convinced him to get the novel published, though he thought it was "crap." And while that theoretically put him in grave danger, because of the novel's frank portrayals of a shadowy and vindictive intelligence service, and a corrupt band of scheming politicians and businessmen, Mourad was saved by inattention at the top.

"The regime didn't read the novel, they didn't like reading at all. I think that was my luck," says Mourad, now 33.

The intelligence agents – the Mukhabarat – would not have needed to look far for clues. Vertigo's protagonist is a bespectacled young photographer called Ahmed Kamal, born on Valentine's Day, the son of a photographer, who inherits his job from his father. Ahmed Mourad, whose birthday is 14 February, is the son of a photographer who secured his job in the presidential palace through a friend of his father. And, yes, he wears glasses.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.