Post apocalyptic mall from the desert future

American University in Cairo: new campus

Classes start tomorrow. Thus ends my brief stint of living like a posh Cairene, going out to cafes all the time and wastin’ my stipend like I’m Cleopatra. I went to a place called Mosaic tonight and enjoyed a lovely grape sheesha with a plate of hummus on the side and hibiscus tea to drink. There was enough left over for lunch tomorrow. SHABAM.

My roommate and I got semi-lost on the way back from said cafe, but it wasn’t for too long and we got to see the other side of Doqqi: poorly-lit streets, slightly less well off neighborhoods, cats crawling on garbage piles, kids zooming by on scooters, clotheslines, dark stairwells…. Not too shabby.

We had our orientation out at the new campus of the American University in Cairo today, which is probably the most bizarre place in the world. First of all, it is surrounded by a sea of half built buildings in the desert, part of the “New Cairo” everyone is talking about (I think). The two workers I saw out there will be hard pressed to finish this century, but at least they’re a team: one to hand the bricks, and the other to carry.

AUC’s campus is also massive, most of it consisting of long marbled courtyards beneath gaudy eastern style arches. The campus was nearly empty except for us and the employees of random Western-style food outlets scattered in nooks of the eerie flat-faced buildings shimmering in the heat. The sound of the fountains and the wind in the gardens only accentuated the emptiness of the place. I got the feeling I was on a campus designed and implemented according to what the future might be like if everything was based on faux-eastern mall architecture right before there had been a huge climate shift. Spooky. Alternately, it felt like the campus had been discovered well preserved in some sort of dome in the middle of the desert as a relic of a by-gone era of aliens more advanced than us.

The ride out there took about an hour and 15 minutes both ways in over air conditioned buses outfitted with wifi so you can fulfill your dream of forgetting you are actually in Cairo/that you are one of the miserable beings who is in thrall to the commute to a campus designed for a world that does not exist and almost vomit inducing in the level of its opulence.

Thank goodness we’re at the Tahrir campus.

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