Sleepless in Cairo

"His friends call him the Pharoah." - Al-Ahram Weekly

It’s ridiculously early to go to bed for Egyptians, 4 minutes past 10 right now, but in anticipation of starting my new internship I have been tossing and punching down my pillow for the last half hour.  People don’t really sleep here…when I took an overnight bus to Siwa Oasis, an Egyptian friend made fun of me for “sleeping from Wednesday to Thursday.”  This was after we had arrived in Alexandria with less than one REM cycle under our belts that morning.  Nevertheless, tomorrow I begin work at the Supreme Council of Antiquities and it’s discouraging me from night prowls.

Like everything else in Egypt, the way I got the position was shockingly informal.  Imagine dissolving the endless red tape, the security clearances, references, online application check boxes, et cetera one has to go through in the U.S. in order to work in a little office in a branch of the government.  Here, I simply responded to an ad on the internet, arranged to have an interview, and was hired the next day.  (By “hired” I mean I don’t get paid, but am listed on the roster.)  I’m going to be scanning documents and filing things as an administrative intern in Zahi Hawass’ Foreign Office, which doesn’t exist on the internet and thus qualifies as a highly secretive organization.  Forgive me if I don’t disclose the details of my work in the future. 😉

Mundane as my job is, I start getting really nervous whenever I think of working for people who work for Zahi Hawass.  The first reason is, there are a lot of dignitaries who come visit at the SCA and I may have a chance to meet them, translating into a chance to network with potential employers/contacts/whatever.  Exciting, but also nerve-wracking.  The second reason is something that manifests itself on Chasing Mummies, an overly dramatized and sensational History Channel series that still got one thing right: the “Pharoah”‘s (Hawass’) shortness of temper.  If you are late, lost, irresponsible, or stupid he shouts you down on the spot.  Especially if you evince multiple of those qualities in combination!  I am drilling it into myself to be on time, on target, responsible, and not stupid every minute of the day I’m there, every Tuesday and Saturday.  Even before I knew I was accepted, my nerves were so jazzed after my interview that I walked straight out of the supermarket with a roll of cling film in my hand without paying for it (interestingly, no one stopped me).  Hopefully this reaction will abate over time.  The SCA is right next to the supermarket, so if I accidentally steal something a second time it will be very hard to buy my lunch there.

– Tiffany T.


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