Students fed up with Army hotels

By Lujein Ashi

Cockroaches, cramped rooms and boredom are among the concerns shared by students living in hotels as they wait for The American University in Cairo to finish its campus dormitories by the end of October. 

“I don’t like the living situation we’re in, there are weird insects in the room and no place to study inside the room,” said Hammam Al-Khodary, an international student. “Plus, the air conditioning is noisy, the fridge is broken and the rooms are too small.”

Over 400 students are living at three hotels owned by the Egyptian army in Heliopolis and Nasr City, put there by the university after contractors failed to complete the dormitories in time for the new semester.

Alexander Al-Guindi, resident director at the Residential Life Office, said his office learned only a month before the beginning of this fall semester that campus residences would not be complete. 

Al-Guindi said his office was left with hundreds of students and only 30 days to find them accommodation.

“We chose three hotels on the basis of distance (to the new campus), cleanliness and somewhere that provided the basic necessities for students,” he said.

Emails were sent to students on July 18, apologizing for delays in the construction and completion of the new campus residences. Students were given options.

Either they could receive a full refund without forfeiting the U.S. $300 deposit they submitted for housing, if they withdrew by Aug 3, with an added 25 percent reduction on housing fees for the fall semester.

Or, if they wanted to keep their campus housing slots, they would be provided hotel rooms temporarily, that were promised to be ‘AUC standard,’ for two months until the new residence would be complete.

Students who chose the second option said the provided rooms have fallen far short of what they were promised. 

Bana Kamal withdrew from the hotels. “The rooms had cockroaches and were uncomfortable,” Kamal said.

Freshmen have found living in the hotels especially difficult, comparing their experience to living at the old dormitories in the city. 

“I wasn’t expecting this, it’s depressing and uncomfortable,” said Laila Abdel-Khaliq, a freshman. “There are no activities, nothing.”

Students did agree, though, that shuttle bus service supplied by AUC is comfortable and transportation is easy. Students are taken to and from campus, and to Zamalek and City Stars mall in Heliopolis in the evenings.

Al-Guindi showed sympathy for the students, but maintained that they are doing their best.

“We’re paying three times the amount students are paying for these hotels,” Al-Guindi said. “Even if we had booked the Intercontinental, they wouldn’t be able to accommodate us with everything students need.”

Despite statements by AUC President David Arnold that the school had no choice but to move this summer, students in the hotels said the move should have been postponed another semester.

“You made a mistake President Arnold,” El-Khodary said.

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