Editor's Corner - International travels

I’ve had some interesting travels since our last Leisure eNewsletter when I reported on my trip to Dubai. It seems like my travel to visit clients and projects have been at the two extremes – smaller towns in the U.S. where the only practical way to get there is by driving, or internationally projects with long flights. We currently have projects underway in Muskogee, Oklahoma and Burlington, Iowa, both around a 300-mile drive from our Kansas City, Missouri office. Just two weeks ago I arrived home from visiting our project, Club Liko, currently under construction in El Sheikh Zayed City, a new city just east of Cairo, Egypt. That trip was around 14-hours of flight time each way depending on the winds (it usually takes longer to fly west than to fly east due to the winds).

It was in interesting time to be in Cairo. While I was there, what is being called the soft or paper military coup took place and the elections for the president were underway. Everything was calm and the population was taking everything in stride. By the time you read this, the election results will probably have been announced and I’m sure there will be demonstrations. Our client explained that Egyptians are bad losers. However, compared to what the U.S. went through with its revolution and considering that there is around a 5000-year history of Egyptians being ruled by unelected rulers, including their military, things seem to be going rather calmly,

The purpose of the trip to Cairo with our interior designer was to finalize all the interior finishes for Club Liko, a 22,000-square-foot ladies club and children’s edutainment center being developed by two early-thirties Egyptian ladies. We visited multiple showrooms and factories to make selections. The goal was to use as much locally available materials and furniture as possible rather than import them.

Its amazing how wide a marble selection there is there and how cheap it is. The same is true for fabrics. We visited a factory for outdoor furniture. The owner showed us floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with outdoor furniture catalogs from about every Western furniture suppler in the world. He said pick out whatever you want and we will make it or give me your design and we will make it, all for about one-half of what the cost would be in the West. And the quality was great. 

Cars park anywhere and everywhere in downtown Cairo. Sometimes a car can hardly squeeze through the streets. Amy, our interior designer, and Ismail, the local architect or record, select locally made fabrics for the benches and chairs.
View from my hotel room looking across the Nile. Many Cairo restaurants are located in large anchored boats like you see in the photo. Checking out the construction of the ground floor of Club Liko. Building structures are made completely out of concrete, blocks and bricks.
Amy and Salma, the client, checking out the back of Club Liko where the children’s discovery play garden will be constructed. Amy, our interior designer, reviews interior finish selections with Salma and Minoush, our clients. Ismail, the local architect of record is on the far right.
Traffic in Cairo is crazy. Cars drive so close together, often while traveling fast, that they are said to kiss. We stayed at the Marriott Cairo Hotel. It was originally the Palace Al Gezirah built in 1869. Read about its history.

Next week I’m heading to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) and Da Nang, Vietnam, for what will probably be the county’s first true indoor family entertainment center. That’s a longer flight than to Cairo, around 19 hours of flying time, including a 14-hour flight leg from Dallas to Seoul, Korea where I connect to a 5-hour flight to Ho Chi Minh City.

Over the years, I’ve gotten used to the long flights. In many ways they can be very productive. Plenty of uninterrupted time for reading and working on the computer, plus there’s a chance to catch up on movies I might have missed. And when it comes to jet lag, I’ve learned a number of tricks to minimize it. One is to not sleep too much on the flight. Most longer international flights have you arriving in the evening. So you want to be so tired you have not problem falling asleep at the local time. Another trip is when you get up the next few mornings, to walk outside and stand in the sun for around 10 minutes, as that helps to reset your clock.

I’m excited about visiting Ho Chi Minh City, in the southern part of Vietnam, and Da Nang, in the middle. Their cultures are reported to be completely different than Hanoi, which I visited a little over two years ago. More about my trip to Vietnam in the next issue.

Randy White