The real estate agent called me at 10 a.m. the next morning. But I was in a taxi to my new office, so I hit "silence." Except I'm so used to my US mobile phone, not my Rest-of-World one, that I disconnected him instead.
The taxi driver was sweet. He was an older man, who totally bought into my confident pretend-local act until we got to Mohyi Eldin Abu El Ez Street.
He motioned left and right and looked at me quizzically. Which way, madam?
I shrugged and started laughing. Not a clue. First time I've seen this intersection in my life.
He looked stunned, so I helpfully said "Okay, left." I pointed left. He looked uncertain, but he went left anyway, also laughing.
We did stumble over my office, which turned out to be conveniently next to Citibank (my bank so I can avoid ATM fees). I paid him 5 Egyptian pounds, the going rate, plus a healthy 2-pound tip. He was nice and he didn't try to scam me.
The office is a story for another day, but after my colleague from Kuwait (a/k/a the Egyptian editor-in-chief) dropped me off back in Zamalek, I went to the see the real estate agent.
I asked if we could return to the $1200 place. The agent made me nervous. He seemed gleeful, almost like he was rubbing his hands together in anticipation of my commission. Surely I was going to take it.
I didn't. Closer inspection revealed that the doors were all falling off the kitchen cabinets (and covered in a film of kitchen grease), there was no kettle or coffee maker, the entire place was dusty, there were piles of rubbish under the sink, the few electrical outlets had wires falling out of them, the sheets were dirty, and there was no desk. And no electrical outlet near the kitchen table.
"What do you want? We will have the owner fix everything."
"I want a new kitchen. That one is disgusting. At least I want all the rubbish gone and the doors fixed and a kettle."
"Okay. What else?"
"It is not enough to say it has ADSL. I want to see what that cable goes into."
"And what else?"
"I don't want to pay $1200 a month."
Ah. We had the deal-breaker. I expected him to say "Okay, we will negotiate." But he instead sat me down and asked what else I wanted to make it worth $1200 a month.
And that is when I told him I did not want it at all and thanked him for his time. What are the odds that any of the conditions would be met? He was saying whatever it took to get my money. I may be new in town, but I know that what you see is what you get, and what I saw was not worth $1200.
I moved into the tiny room at the Mayfair Hotel for a week. I'm stalling. I sent out emails to rental agents, reasoning that agents that are on the internet will be more modern and perhaps innovative. I should be able to come up with something within a week.