about   |   writing   |   archives

The Perfect Bad Hotel

Cairo: the perfect bad hotel

Given the splendor of our apartment it might surprise you that last night I checked into a suite of the delightfully named New Riche Hotel – situated in one of Cairo’s more down-market districts. Oh the glamour – the hotel does have a faded splendor but those times are well gone. For 20 dollars it seems churlish to expect to find linen on any of the four beds, or working lights in one of the rooms. The reason why I’m spending the night here is simply that it is in a prime location for researching what is out there, the teeming throng that is Cairo’s largest used mobile phone market. A moment of calm on the balcony observing interactions on the street before six+ hours in the throng documenting and trying out the unique flavour of Egyptian mobile phone services. By midnight I lie exhausted in bed and sleep soon follows.

At 3am or so the door to my room opens and totally oblivious to my presence a group of 5 men walk in and spend a couple of minutes in what I assume in my beta-state is a lively discussion on how to fix the room’s electrics. Yes, I know it makes perfect sense. And I know I’m here to appreciate local norms but this is going too far and I get up. The sight of me standing naked, save for a strategically placed shirt and a grim look on my face is enough to clear the room. As I doze off it occurs to me that the room may have been unofficially double booked – possibly the night staff selling access to a room they thought was empty. That will explain the women in the hallway trying to peer in the room then.

The next morning as I check out the manager asks me innocently why I’m leaving. It’s the perfect bad hotel, and I actually want to stay, but our efforts are focussed elsewhere.