It was August 2010 and it was sunset. I was standing on the balcony of one of the top floors of the palace turned Marriott hotel in Zamalek and it was the last day of my family’s routine triennial trip to Egypt. As I watched the glow of the sun kiss everything from satellite dishes donning apartment rooftops to the tips of sailboats navigating the Nile, a thought occurred to me: This was never the plan.
I never wanted to study finance and I never wanted to work in financial services. I never wanted to be an Egyptian-American who only saw Egypt through the eyes of a tourist and time with my extended family living in Cairo and Alexandria. Rather, I wanted to become a voice that discredited common political and sociocultural misconceptions of Egypt held by Western citizens and foreign policymakers. This desire stemmed from my own mixed identity precipitant from a childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood made up of a strangely beautiful collision of distinctly Egyptian and American experiences. I had majored and began a career in finance to study something “practical” so that I could get a “job” and now I was unhappy because I despised that job; but I still had time to make things right. In July 2012 I quit my job, sold my car, and took on $60,000 in debt to go back to graduate school and see if I couldn’t deliver on what I realized in 2010.
My studies in graduate school have sent me a variety of places to do a variety of things, but this past summer I found myself Cairo amid the turmoil that followed the ouster of Mohamed Morsi on July 3rd. Since then, I have taken a special interest in the aims of Egypt’s 2011 revolution and how they may be realized.
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