Wednesday, March 29, 2006

I’ve decided I’m finally going to look into one of those Flikr accounts that I keep seeing around. Pictures can be fun, and people have started reminding me that I have to take lots of pictures before I leave Cairo. I’ve hardly taken any so far.

Here’s something that deserves an illustration:

My friend Raymond Stock (translator and biographer of Naguib Mahfouz) has coined the phrase “man-presence,” rather than man-power, to describe the basis of the Egyptian economy.

Example: I’m sitting here trying, unsuccessfully, to connect using my laptop at Cilantro café, a Starbucks-style place downtown across from the main entrance of American University in Cairo. I just snapped a photo of the counter area: For a seating space of about 100 square meters, I counted no less nine wait staff in the photo. Yes, nine, and there are others lurking around, standing around not doing much of anything.

At my Tulip Cafe, back in Prague, we used to manage (or at least come close) a similar crowd in a similar area with two or three staff. (Although I hear Tulip has taken a turn for the Egyptian, so to speak, since I sold control of the company.)

About 50 minutes after I sat down at Cilantro, a waiter approached me for the first time and asked me if I would like the check. No joke. I laughed and ended up asking for a decaf Americano instead. I should have just allowed him to try and bring me the check.


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