First day at AUC new campus

I’m back in Egypt and have a ton of work in front of me, which means Friday in Cairo is back in action!

Yesterday was my first trip out to AUC’s new campus in New Cairo, from Tahrir, a 51 minute shot straight out into the desert. The new campus looks very good, especially compared to the hideous new developments you pass on the drive out. Yes I’m talking about you Gamayyat el-Mustaqbal (pictured below)

I didn’t take any of the staff tours during the construction phase, so was among the slackjaws wandering around trying to make sense of the place and figure out where to go. The buildings are not well marked, so you have to navigate by food franchises: cilantro coffee shops on the north and south poles and cinnabon somewhere near the equator.

Another gripe: There is virtually no shade on campus. Gone is the friendly layer of pollution that protects my fair skin in central Cairo. Parasols seem to be making a comeback, but styles change fast, so AUC should take a cue from the Chinese and consider cloud seeding.

The main hassle is transportation. They have a labyrinth of bus routes all around the city, and expect everyone who uses the system to fill out a schedule of when they plan to ride the bus each day. They must not have enough spare capacity to have extra seats at peak times, but on both of my rides yesterday the busses were about half full.

I was heartened to see the 300 yard-long parking lot that drivers had improvised on the road leading to campus to avoid coughing up the 3000 LE that AUC charges for a parking permit.

Many people have expressed concern that the move would eliminate service jobs that had sprung up to accommodate students. I saw two things yesterday that made me doubt this:

First, day one of classes, informal parking attendants were already manning the improvised lot outside. Secondly, there were also rumblings yesterday on the Cairo Scholars listserv about employing a private, more flexible, minibus system as an alternative to AUC’s lumbering behemoth.