Youssef Rakha: Office Diptych

Silver Box, Girl in Office

I work on the ninth floor of a cramped office tower in downtown Cairo, where like everyone else I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in the elevators. Waiting and watching.

Mine is one of three structures belonging to the same government organization. Many offices are windowless, but on the landings the windows look out to Press Street in Boulak, revealing the tops of the central air-conditioning units directly below and two of Cairo’s iconic buildings, the cake-like Al-Akhbar Press headquarters and the rectangular, tower-topped Radio and Television Union, in the distance.

At times the view can take on an unlikely lyricism which, when combined with reflections of what is going on inside the building, yields a strange sense of dynamism. Two of the buildings are connected by footbridges on two floors, and the tinted glass sealing them off can complicate the view in interesting ways. Suddenly the most mundane of workplaces is transformed not only into a kind of airport but perhaps also a heavenly harbor: a port of call where people pass between planes of existence.