Thursday, November 4, 2010

Business Trip to Cairo - August 9th till 12th 2010

It's not every day that you are asked to go on a business trip to Egypt (I did like Japan much better though!). I was sent there to provide additional training to our vendor in Cairo, and to quickly summarize, the trip was an experience. I have probably learned as much as my colleagues did.

However, not all went really well. First, the decision of being sent there had been postponed so often that I could finally only stay for 3 business days before they went live and I had to fly home in order to get going for my actual holiday. I had wanted and planned to stay at least a weekend to see something, but again it was not possible due to bad planning.
I left Dublin Sunday midday and arrived in Cairo with one hour delay at 4 o'clock in the morning. I was told that I was booked into the Marriott where all the people from my company were always staying, but the receptionist could not find my booking. Simply because, as I found out the next morning, I had been booked into a hotel at the other site of the town, close to the airport. Thank god, after some persuasive words, I was allowed to stay at the hotel.
On Monday, I had decided to see the pyramids rather than go to the office (after only few hours sleep, I wouldn't have been very useful anyway).

My first stop was at the Giza pyramids. I was told by my driver to not go with any guide, but I was completely overrun by the power of one of them. It happened so quickly and smoothly and, in the extreme heat of midday, I was caught and trapped. It was a humiliating experience and, if you need to learn to say 'no', go to the Middle East. Anyway I survived my embarrassment and purchased something I didn't need.

Next stop was the Christian quarter (I apologize, but at that stage my brain was almost fried and I can't quite remember the names of the churches). However, it was a nice quarter with one church next to the other, one for St. George, one where apparently Mary and Joseph had slept on their flight to Egypt, also a very dark synagogue, and the place where Moses was supposedly put into the river (apart from the fact that there was no river, but only fortress walls).

From there we went to the Muslimic part of the town and visited two mosques (as we had to pay for the entry, I do have their names): Mosque of l Rifa'I (19th century) and the Mosque and School of Sultan Hassan (14th century). The latter mosque was the more beautiful one and consisted of four open chambers located around a well where four different Koran schools could teach.

My last stop for the day was the Egyptian Museum (unfortunately, taking pictures was not allowed). The museum looked more like a store room for mummies, sarcophagi, and burial objects, and it wasn't cold as I expected, no air conditioning. Boy, was I glad to be back at my hotel room.

The following three days at the office were mentally busy, I answered millions of questions, often without time for a proper break. Then Ramadan started, so everybody started to be drained after a few hours too, but we didn't have time to wait, so we all pushed through (and me, back at the hotel room I had to spend time preparing the next day, reading through training material). To be honest, I loved it. I learned that I am able to make quick decisions in the middle of a training, to adjust my strategy with the speed or slowness of the class and to stay confident when needed.