The Teacher Who Survived A Revolution: Luke Bolton


Leonard Blachly-Preston, Staff Writer

He helped found the school. He’s also a world traveler and an Egyptian Revolution survivor.

That is one of the less known things about sixth-grade Humanities teacher Luke Bolton. In 2011, he moved to Egypt to study Arabic and international relations between the United States of America and Egypt, to continue his college studies.

“I moved to Egypt to continue a study on international relationships the U.S. has with other countries, and study Arabic there. Also, to explore a place that I thought I would like to live someday,” Mr. Bolton said. 

He traveled to Egypt with his wife Caity, who also was studying in Egypt. 

“I got married early, right after college, and my wife was also studying Arabic, and Egypt was a nice place to study, so we went there,” he said. 

He arrived there in mid-May of 2011 and immediately ran into a problem. 

“Initially, it was really difficult to find housing, because we came during Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, and so during that time, people start work late and leave work early, so we were working with a person who could only be with us for two to three hours a day, so we spent a very hard week looking for housing.,” he said.

Luckily, he found housing for his time there, his scholarship helped him with this, so he was able to sublet an apartment of a fellow US resident who lived there. 

“We ended up being able to live in the apartment of a professor who taught at the University of Cairo, who was living abroad, back home in the US,” he said. 

He lived on the outskirts of Cairo, Egypt, the country’s capital.

Unfortunately, his time there was overshadowed by the Egyptian Revolution of 2011. This was when the citizens of Egypt tried to overthrow the Egyptian Government, through protesting. The Egyptian Revolution lasted 18 days, in January of 2011. The Egyptian Revolution started during Mr. Bolton’s stay, and for his own safety, he was brought back to the US, because he was on a scholarship and the US State Department would be held accountable if he was hurt, or killed. 

During his stay, though, he was able to experience eleven of the eighteen days of the Egyptian Revolution. 

Mr. Bolton said that when the Egyptian Revolution started, it was very scary. People had been spreading rumors about a rebellion against the government. 

“We knew that something was wrong when our cell phones stopped working, and the Internet stopped to work, which I had never had happened to me before. And we knew that there could be some problems because Tunisia had just had a [successful] revolution previously, so we were a little worried.,” he said.

The real shock came after Friday prayers on January 25, 2011, when the protests against the government of Egypt started. 

“What really tipped us off was when we heard loud chanting in the street, right after Friday prayers, and when we looked out our apartment window and saw thousands of protesters in the street, and we lived in the suburbs of Cairo, so we knew that if there were this many people here, the protests must have been very big in the center of the city,” Mr. Bolton said.

The protest became huge. Over 1 million people came to the protests in the center of Cairo each day of the Egyptian revolution. It was so much that the city government had to set up a huge area in the city’s center with medical stations, fast food places, and some Egyptian peddlers even took the opportunity to sell some of their merchandise there.

Mr. Bolton was shocked by this. He hadn’t expected the protests to be this big, even though there had been so many protesters outside his house. 

“Pictures of the small city of protesters were all over the news, because there was one internet company that hadn’t had their power cut by the government, and they were showing tons of pictures. It was incredible to these people who wanted justice for themselves and their fellow citizens protesting even though it was very dangerous. I wanted to go to the protests very badly,” he said.

Unfortunately, because Mr. Bolton was a foreign visitor, the Egyptian government had reasons for him not to go to the protests. 

“We did go to the protests once, but since I was here on a scholarship from the US, we were told to avoid the protests, because sometimes foreign governments try to blame bad political situations on foreign visitors, like, ‘Oh look, those visitors from the US are starting a revolution.’ There was one day where we did go to the protests, to see them, and deliver some DVD’s to a friend who was a journalist,” he said. 

The Egyptian government did have to sponsor the protests, meaning that they needed to set up even though the citizens were protesting against the Government, but in response to this, they had brought in the army, to make sure no violent riots broke out.  

“We went to the protests, me and my wife, and we walked past a wall of tanks, and some soldiers asked to see our passports. It was a little scary, knowing that these soldiers weren’t on the protesters’ side since they worked for the government, and the entire Egyptian revolution was trying to overthrow the government,” he said. 

The day they went to the protests, one of the most inhumane actions was taken by the Egyptian Government, which shocked the entire country.

“That one day that we did go to the protests, we walked around, and then my wife, Caity got this feeling, and she can sense the presence of something bad really well, and she said, ‘We really need to go. Come on!’ Thank goodness we followed that feeling, because about an hour after we left, a friend called us. They were hysterical. They said ‘Are you alright? Where are you? Are you still at the protests?’ We were really confused. It turned out that right after we left, about a hundred men on camels rode in with clubs and beat a lot of protesters. That day is known as the Battle of the Camels,” he said. 

Mr. Bolton and his wife were extremely lucky when they escaped the Battle of the Camels, but after that day, overnight, the government removed the entire police force from Cairo. 

“In Cairo, the police force is huge. They keep the city in order, and are the body of keeping people safe.” Mr. Bolton stated in the interview. “Overnight, the city became a madhouse. Without the police, it was almost impossible to know what was going on, and if it was safe.”

That day, the crime rate rose by 47%.

“There was a time when someone called us and said ‘There’s been a prison breakout by your house, people are being mugged at gunpoint!’ And they meant someone had driven a bulldozer into the prison. We went to a friend’s apartment, barricaded the door, and prayed all night. That was true! Another time, we got a call that said ‘The water treatment plant near you is closing!’ So we filled buckets, bathtubs, all our cups, bowls, everything was filled with water, and we prepared for the worst. That turned out to be only a rumor,” he said.

Mr. Bolton said that having a prison break was the worst thing he experienced over his time living in the Egyptian revolution.

“I never had experienced something so scary, even though I had narrowly escaped the Battle of Camels. To have dangerous people running around right by the place where you live is really scary. Not knowing if someone is going to break down your door and mug you while pointing a gun at you is very hard to comprehend,” he said.

Mr. Bolton left Egypt after eleven days of the revolution, due to scholarship policies and a deal with the US State Department.

“Because I was on a scholarship, I had to leave before the revolution ended, since the US State Department was responsible for my safety while I was traveling, and if I got hurt, it wouldn’t be good for them, so they called me back to the US.” Mr. Bolton said.

Mr. Bolton missed the end of the Egyptian Revolution, which included protesters invading the Egyptian Government’s office headquarters, lighting the building on fire, trying to capture government workers, and throwing all of the building’s furniture out the windows. It was chaos, especially because the police in Cairo were still not present. Many people feel that the Egyptian Government brought their own defeat upon themselves when they made the fatal decision to take the police away from Cairo.

Mr. Bolton is not disappointed to have missed out on the last eight days of the revolution.

“I missed a whole lot, and the pictures seem really scary. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in Egypt for the grand finale of the Egyptian Revolution if I had the option to. I know that a lot of people got hurt when protesters took over the government building, and I wouldn’t have wanted to be one of them,” he said. 

The Egyptian Revolution: Afterword

The Egyptian Revolution started when the Egyptian government ordered the police to kill a famous journalist, who, on Facebook, spoke out against the government. The police pulled him out of a shop, where he was writing, and beat him to death on the street, in public. A group of people who worked with him took to the internet once they found out about his death, and starting spreading messages on social media. These messages ignited the spirits of many people, who took to the streets on Friday, January 11th, right after Friday prayers. The protests were huge. More than 1 million people at most times. The Egyptian Revolution was eventually successful and the president resigned.