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The Day My Life Changed Forever

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AbdelMoneim Riyad | Jan25, 2011 (Credit Hossam Hamalawy)

AbdelMoneim Riyad | Jan25, 2011 (Credit Hossam Hamalawy)

4 Years ago today my struggles to become an entrepreneur were just starting to pay off.

I had been learning on the job for 2-3 years, making a lot of mistakes along the way and going broke in the process. I had (through pure serendipity) found a partner that had a skill set that complemented my own and had landed my first big client.

I had finally moved out of the basement I had rented and used to trick clients into thinking I actually had an office for the past 2 years and into an actual office. I even had a leather chair.

I had been married for roughly a year and had just come back from Dublin (my wife is Irish | Egyptian) where I had witnessed the birth of my daughter Suhayla and then rushed back to attend to work while my wife and daughter spent a couple extra weeks in Ireland recuperating with family.

They were due to come back to Cairo on #Jan25 and she asked me if she should delay their flight because she had seen some rumblings online of a protest, I told her it would probably amount to nothing, to keep the date as is and that I’d pick them up at 7pm on the dot from Cairo Airport.

We had (if I recall correctly) 1 employee at the time and were still doing the majority of the work ourselves (Me and my partner). Our co-worker was a designer, she was extremely talented and at the same time quite the headache as her dad dictated which days she came to the office and which days she stayed at home without any prior notice making it very difficult to plan anything or meet deadlines.

I decided I would work on #Jan25 because I did not want to observe the newly created “Police Day” Holiday and my partner decided to go down and participate in the protests we kept hearing about on Twitter. I was in agreement on the need for protests but in all honesty was too scared to go down having never participated in anything that could be remotely called a protest and based on previous history felt that in all likelihood few people would go down and would all be obliterated but my partner insisted on going down so I told him to try stay safe at least.

I also recall getting in a huge fight with our designer because she insisted on not coming to the office because it was “a holiday” which for me was the last straw and on #Jan25 I promptly fired her for not showing up.

I had twitter open while working (I had joined twitter roughly a year prior and had around 100 followers which was a big deal back then) to check what was going on with the protests and got engulfed in work and completely forgot about checking on the proceedings.

Our office back then was located right off Mussadak street in Dokki (For those not familiar with Cairo, around a 10 minute walk from Tahrir Square) and at some point during midday I heard chants of what seemed like a protest moving towards the office. I then opened up twitter and saw the images of the huge crowds that had gathered to voice their disapproval at the Police mainly in Egypt. Quickly skimming through my timeline I found the protest that was nearby the office was passing right by Dokki Bridge (a 20 second walk from our office at the time) and emboldened by the images decided to leave what I was doing and take a look.

I clearly remember standing under Dokki bridge extremely excited and scared at the same time staring at the thousands upon thousands that kept passing by screaming revolutionary chants at the top of their lungs that had been bottled up for years.

I was still scared to jump in with them until I saw a face I recognized in the crowd (a guy, I think called Ayman that used to work with me at an Ad Agency I was previously employed at) shouting to people on the fence like myself as he passed by in Arabic (What are you all afraid of?! Join Us!).

The fact that I knew him helped push me over the fence, what was I afraid of? I could no longer remember so I jumped in and marched towards Tahrir Square where I met a good friend along the way and it began to sink in how big this moment was in history.

Around 5pm I remembered I had to run to the airport to pick up my wife and newly born daughter and rushed to get there on time.

As I drove back with my family from the airport I must have been talking at warp speed trying to explain to my wife what I had witnessed and partaken in that day. It must have taken us hours to get back home with everything going but I didn’t really care and upon arrival I decided to spend the remainder of the day at home with my wife and new born.

I sit in our new office 4 years later, memories of our victories and scars of our defeats still fresh, armed with an increased knowledge of how change is realised and unwilling to leave until we accomplish what we set out to do 4 years ago.

#Jan25 Continues

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