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.”
So was Mourad in fear for his job — or, indeed, his life — when Vertigo appeared?
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.”
So he viewed his writing as a revolutionary act?
“Yes - and it was a duty to my country: to shout and scream and make people wake up and see the truth.”
But when he had written Vertigo, he did not think it was good enough. “I thought it was crap. It was my wife, Sherine, who encouraged me to try to have it published.”