Generation Revolution

Generation Revolution

On the Front Line Between Tradition and Change in the Middle East


In 2003, Rachel Aspden arrived in Egypt as a 23-year-old trainee journalist. She found a country on the brink of change. Of Egypt's 80 million citizens, two-thirds were under 30. The new generation were stifled, broken and frustrated – caught between a dictatorship with nothing to offer them and autocratic parents still clinging to tradition and obedience after a lifetime of fear.

In January 2011, the young people’s patience ran out. They thought the revolution that followed would change everything for them. But as violence escalated, the economy collapsed and as the united front against Mubarak shattered into sectarianism, many found themselves wavering, hesitant to discard the old ways.

What happens when a revolution unravels?

Why is a generation raised on Hollywood movies and global brand names turning to religion?

How do you choose between sex and tradition, consumerism and faith?

Why would people who once chanted for freedom support a military state?

And where will the next generation take the Middle East?

Following the stories of four young Egyptians – Amr the atheist software engineer, Amal the village girl who defied her family and her entire community, Ayman the one-time religious extremist and Ruqayah the would-be teenage martyr – Generation Revolution unravels the complex forces shaping the lives of young people caught between tradition and modernity, and what their stories mean for the future of the Middle East.


  • Fascinating study… A deep dive into one of the revolution’s most critical faultlines.
    Jack Shenker, Evening Standard

About the author

Rachel Aspden

Rachel Aspden was born in London in 1980. She moved to Cairo to study Arabic and work as a trainee journalist in 2003 and spent the next several years travelling and writing about Islam and politics in Yemen, Pakistan and across the Middle East. After a period as the literary editor of the New Statesman, in 2010 she was awarded a Winston Churchill fellowship to research Islamic education while crossing Sudan and north India. Following the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011, she moved back to Egypt. She has written for the Guardian, New Statesman and Prospect magazine.
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