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The Perfect Hotel Office

Cairo: home from home
 

Our Cairo home office for the next two weeks is located in Zamalek – an island nestled on either side by the Nile. It’s very much the home of old Egyptian money but in a culture this old its new-old rather than old-old. We’ve managed to secure a ground floor apartment for the duration of our stay – it’s spacious, worn and the furniture is a cross between evolved-rental and 70’s Arabic kitsch. Given that we need somewhere sufficiently clean, secure and not too comfortable it serves us well. Not too comfortable? Getting out there is psychologically harder when it is too much fun in here, so yeah, in the big scheme of things not too comfortable works just fine.

By the time of my arrival here the space is already looking like an office – a map of Cairo stretches across one wall, folders full of forms that will be filled in by the time we leave, day schedules to capture what the team has been up to and a stream of cables charging our laptops and cameras. A glass table serves well as a vertical white board and lists appear on the walls indicating what kind of ad-hoc data gathering has the most potential. A printer is soon up and running to print our newly translated Arabic versions of forms, and will later be pressed into service to print out a selection of photos that will form part of the thank-for-taking-part-in-the-study feedback to the study participants.

With all the travel and non-stop meetings of the last few weeks it has taken a while to catch up on sleep and sync with the local time zone. Except that during Ramadan the part of the day that is condusive to conducting in-depth research really starts after iftar – the breaking of the fast – so adjusting to the local time zone is not enough, we need to adjust to the rhythm of the city, meaning starting late and working to the early hours.