Anwar Mohammed Fadul An Outlier

Anwar Fadul (middle) standing beside his two cousins after coming back from a conference in Saudi Arabia.


Could I have left home at the age of 12 to attend boarding school? Would I be able to leave all that I knew behind in pursuit of a greater life? Would I be able to recognise and seize an opportunity without my parents to help guide me? The answer to all these questions would probably be no. At the age of 15, I still have my mom come into the doctor’s office with me, relying on her answer any and all questions directed at me. Being born into a generation that is reliant on their parent’s success, it is no surprise that the concept of independence doesn’t present itself until your mid to late twenties. Listening to stories about my grandfather’s life, I have come to realise that at a young age, so much was expected from him. He had to be smart and quick to adapt to situations. Doing all of these things and more, I now understand why he worked so hard to reach his goals. Had he not found the strength and ambition to persevere through the challenges life threw at him, I wouldn’t be sitting here today typing away his story on my laptop.

Boarding School

As he raced down the stairs, almost tripping over his packed suitcases, my grandfather, Anwar Fadul, couldn’t contain his nervous excitement. His mother, watching from the kitchen table, couldn’t stop smiling as her youngest child jittered around the house. “Anwar!” she called. “It’s almost time for you to go.” At age 12, my grandfather was given the opportunity to attend the most prestigious boarding school in Egypt. After his teachers acknowledged his potential for greatness, his mother and two older sisters worked tirelessly on the family farm to be able to afford to send him to the school (Interview 1, Khalid Fadul).

Realizing the bus was coming soon, Anwar quickly ran into the kitchen, took an apple from the counter, and ran outside with his luggage. Already having said goodbye to his sisters the night before, Anwar turned to face his mother. Realizing how much she had done for him, and how much she would continue to sacrifice for his future...Anwar’s eyes began to water. His mother straightened his uniform, tamed his wild hair, and whispered into his ear, “Never stray away from your cousins, Habibi, and remember that school always comes first.” With that, she reluctantly let her only son go onto the bus, making sure that all of Anwar’s luggage was taken up by his older cousins.

As the bus rode away from his house on that particularly warm morning, Anwar took one last look at his family’s farm, waving goodbye to his mother, who was watching from the front porch. With the left turn of the wheel, Anwar could no longer see his home, only the desert landscape that stretched for miles outside of the bus window. As he stared outside, and realized how much he was leaving behind, he began to wonder if he would like his new school? Friends? Teachers? Shaking his head, he dismissed the thoughts from his mind, accepting his new future.

Anwar’s crowded bus leaving from his small hometown of Aswan to the prestigious boarding school in Cairo.
The Aswan Dam (1960's Egypt)

The Aswan Dam was built in 1964 during Nasser’s presidency. Once built, the dam created Lake Nasser, which generated a considerable portion of Egypt’s electrical power and made water more available for better crop yield. Many Egyptians were glad to have the dam during their prolonged droughts that struck farms near the Nile, as it allowed for many families to continue harvesting their only source of income (Egyptian Agriculture and Technology).

Gender roles on the farm were much like those seen in early American history with the women tending to household duties, while the men took up much of the heavy duty work on the field (Gender Roles in the Farming Industry). Regardless of these usual norms, my great-grandmother, Haja, and her two daughters didn’t believe in these gender roles as they worked long, hard hours in the field harvesting the crops themselves. As they became more successful in selling their crops, they soon hired workers to tend their land as they dealt with the finances of the produce (Interview 4, Khalid Fadul).

Never Alone

Watching Fatima pace up and down the long halls of the hospital, Anwar and the rest of the family anxiously waited for any news about Yusif, his sister’s husband. As they waited in silence, the sound of footsteps gradually getting louder raised their sullen heads. Standing before them was the tall and slender surgeon, looking pained as his gaze fell upon each of their faces. The family watched as he composed himself, waiting for confirmation of the dreaded news. “Fatima Sultan,” he said in his deep voice. Slowly walking up to the doctor, Anwar saw all hope lost in his sister’s eyes as she stared into his face. “I’m so sorry, but your husband is dead. I know nothing could make this tragic news easier to hear, but we did everything that we practically could for him.” And with that, he left.

As if everything were going in slow motion, Anwar rushed to join his sister’s side as she fell to the ground. Her cries as she punched the ground pierced through the silent halls like daggers, until she finally slumped back in defeat against him. Looking up at the worried faces of his nieces and nephews, Anwar remembered the day his own father had passed away. The blinding white lights. The constant hum of the hospital machines. The hushed voices of doctors behind closed doors. He remembered the sound of his mother’s cries and wails for her husband, as she said one last prayer to send him safely into the afterlife. “Ina lilah wa inah elayhi raga e’oon!”(Interview 3, Khalid Fadul) And now, as he held his sister in his arms, he whispered the same prayer.

Holding his 6 year-old nephew’s hand as he walked out of the hospital, Anwar saw his younger self as he looked down at the little boy. Suddenly realizing the hardships he faced growing up without a father, Anwar vowed to be the male figure in his nephew’s and niece’s lives (Interview 3, Valentina Fadul). He would teach them all the things his father never had the chance to do and more. Picking up his nephew and spinning him in the air, Anwar silently promised the little boy that he would not grow up alone.

The waiting room of Cairo Medical Center.
"Whatever hardship a person faces – even if it is as small as the prick from a thorn -Allah makes it atonement for his sins." -Prophet Rasulullah

The Start of Something Big

The flashing of cameras. The blinding white lights. The roar of the audience. All the while his cousin stands still and composed, waiting as the crowd settled down. As the crowd quieted Jamal continued, “For decades we continue to inflict on ourselves in our present state of disunity, leaving us divided into economically unviable States which bear no possibility of real development.” He pauses. The crowd waits in anticipation as Jamal glances at each of their hopeful faces. “We must unite for economic ability.” His voice gradually getting louder. “We must recover our mineral wealth in Southern Africa.” The fire in his eyes becoming brighter and brighter as he puts more emphasis behind each word. “We must do this so that our vast resources and capacity for development will bring prosperity for us and additional benefits for the rest of the world." Another pause. “That is why I have written elsewhere-” Taking one last deep breath. “-that the emancipation of Africa could be the emancipation of Man”(Pan African Perspective).

As Anwar and his cousin walked out of the building hours after the speech, they were still greeted by a huge crowd of people. All were chanting his cousin’s name, “JAMAL...JAMAL...JAMAL!” Instead of pushing them out of the way to get to his car, Jamal just smiled and shook as many hands as he possibly could before security pushed them away. Anwar always admired that about his cousin. Although Jamal was the Ambassador of Egypt and an active member of the Pan African Organization, he never let his success keep him from being the humble man he is so famously known for being (Interview 5, Khalid Fadul). And by the looks of the crowd, he wasn’t the only one who looked up to his cousin.

Playing and replaying his cousin’s speech in his head, Anwar couldn’t help but feel jealous. He saw how the whole crowd lit up with excitement as Jamal walked onto the stage. He saw as they stood completely still, absorbing every single word his cousin said. Jamal was only a few years older than him, but he had already impacted society for the better. As Anwar paced the confines of his bedroom, he realized how much he wanted to succeed. He was never one for big speeches, but Anwar had always wanted to do something important. Be someone important. Always doing well in school and pushing himself to be the best that he could, Anwar felt so close to reaching success, but he never really knew what he wanted to do. After watching the speech tonight however, Anwar realized that his true calling was politics. He wanted to be an advocate for the people of Egypt, and he soon worked his way to get there.

After graduating top of his class and earning a PhD, Anwar, with the help of his cousin, worked his way from the internship position to a diplomat. As he was in charge of foreign affairs, he began traveling all over the Middle East, spreading knowledge to each country he went to. Although he became extremely successful nationwide, he too never forgot his humble roots. Anwar always thanked his cousin for being his role model because he knew that without Jamal, he would have never had the inspiration to become involved in politics.

Muhammad Ali, an inspiration to my grandfather
I am an ordinary man who worked hard to develop the talent I was given. I believed in myself, and I believe in the goodness of others. -Muhammad Ali
Anwar Fadul posing for an Islamic newspaper
I invest in the education of my family; not in the investment of cement and concrete. -Anwar Fadul


Sometimes I think back on the summers my family used to spend on the farm in Aswan. The beautiful fragrance of the fruit trees. The almost picturesque view of the animals from the kitchen window. The feeling of the wind brushing up against my cheeks in the dry heat as my aunts soon call me in for a cold drink and snack. My whole family would sit around in the living room, telling stories and playing games. The sound of laughter booming throughout the house into the late of night. Thinking back on these days, I now realize that my grandfather not only contributed to the success of each person in my family, but he also taught us the importance of family.

Although my grandfather passed away before I was born, his story continues to resonate in every aspect of my life. His love for his family, ambition, and determination to be successful for not only himself, but also for his family is the main reason why he is by far the outlier in my family. And because of this, I am forever grateful.


Created with images by ell brown - "Place de la Republique, Arles - Obélisque d'Arles and Hotel de Ville" • siraf72 - "Ramadan in The Quran" • zoonabar - "Nubian Village" • cliff1066™ - "Muhammad Ali vs. Ernie Terrell, Houston Astrodome, Houston, TX, 1967"

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