I first met Khaled Ali in late 2007. I was fresh out of college and had very few contacts for sources. So when the labor strikes broke out, he was the first name I read over and over in the papers. He was a passionate labor and human rights' activist and was very involved in the workers' movement. I found his contact and he was extremely cooperative. I walked out of his office with tons of contacts and all the info I needed for background research.
So five years later when I found out he was running for presidency, I dug up his contact and was almost certain he would have changed his number, which many journalists had. Only he hadn't. In fact, nothing had changed about this down to earth man.
I called him on his mobile and expected an assistant to pick up, but to my surprise, I found him answering after only three rings — which is rather uncommon amongst politicians, let alone presidential candidates. He gave me his media head contact and told me to arrange with him. So I did and he told me he would get back to me the following day. Of course I braced myself for some heavy reporter-nagging, which is all what we had been doing this past month, really. The next day he called back and set up an appointment for us the following week. That easy.
I have to say, Ali's friendly and cooperative attitude didn't change one bit, even as he's busy preparing for his biggest career move. He was by far the quickest and easiest candidate to give us an interview — it was simply refreshing to get an appointment without stalking.
Our crew arrived at the campaign's premises downtown and it was strikingly different from Ahmed Shafik's. The office was located in an old building on a side street and the interviewer's office was very basic and modest. True to his socialist beliefs, there was nothing fancy about the office, equipment or staff.
His office boy showed us to a small room where one young woman was working behind a desktop. We waited for Ali for an hour when a young man from his media team showed us to his office where the interview would take place. His office was also modest, decorated with a stitched picture of Che Guevara that an artist dedicated to Ali and behind his chair was a large photo of Tahrir Square's night protests. On the opposite walls were a few banners of his promotional material and on his desk the Egyptian flag.
Ali came in about 20 minutes later, dressed in a shirt and pants, and quickly sat down behind his desk for the interview. The office wasn't air conditioned so he immediately turned on a small fan.
Throughout the interview, Ali was calm and forthcoming and maintained a friendly smile that never left his face. Even when he spoke of corruption, poor labor conditions and chaos, he still managed to remain serene and smiling. And when I quizzed him about a statement he made on using violence for our cause, he still just smiled and answered calmly. He spoke enthusiastically about workers' rights, and passionately about human rights — especially those of refugees.
He did want to cut the interview short after 30 minutes because he was running late and had back to back interviews all day. But with a little persuasion, he kept answering our neve- ending questions.
Overall, he's a truly down to earth candidate. Polite and calm in demean, Ali is a man who envisions a utopia that sadly doesn't exist in our world.
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