By Marley Gibbons
At night, the view from Choice Middleton’s penthouse apartment is panoramic, as Cairo spreads out below in a neon glow.
She and five other girls lounge in their living room. They have just moved into the four-bedroom, three-bathroom apartment in Zamalek. Chandeliers hang from the ceiling and a twister mat is on the floor.
Only last month, all six roommates were living in the engineering hotel in Heliopolis. They had grown frustrated with the inability of The American University in Cairo to provide housing for its foreign students.
“It came to be that they couldn’t tell us where we were going to live in the next three weeks, they couldn’t give us a straight answer,” said Middleton, a 19-year-old biomedical engineering major.
At the start of the semester, there were more than 400 students signed up for on-campus housing, but they have been staying at military-operated hotels and the Maadi hotel since the university announced student housing would not be complete this semester.
Officials promised first that dormitories would be done by October. But they now say on-campus housing will not be complete by the spring semester.
Middleton and her roommates decided they could do better.
“We made our own answer,” said Mel Hendrik, an international studies major. After some hunting with a real estate broker, they came upon this marble-covered apartment.
The girls came together, having met on the way to Egypt, or ended up as roommates in the military hotel. Uniting them was a feeling of isolation in Heliopolis.
“The hotel was fine, (but) I would not want to have lived there for the whole time,” said 20-year-old Brittney Parsells. “It was more the area than the hotel.”
Each now pays 1500 LE a month for their share of the Zamalek apartment, which fits into the 1770 LE housing budget they get.
They enjoy being in a bustling neighborhood of the island section.
“Zamalek is where the party is at,” Middleton said. In Heliopolis, they spent more than 150 LE on cab rides in one weekend riding to and from downtown.
“I like being able to have anyone over that I want,” Hendriks said. There is already a steady stream of friends coming through the apartment.
The apartment’s washer machine and four hundred satellite channels don’t hurt, either.
“I finally feel like I’m in Egypt,” Parsells said. “There’s so much to do in Zamalek. It’s further from campus, but it’s closer to everything else we want.”