I’m watching the news on the blast at the Marriott hotel in Islamabad. Even though that’s about two thousand miles from where I sit, I found the news rattling.
I met an expat the other day who described the Marriott as being like a little city, and so it is. It has its own restaurants, banks, shops, entertainment, and security. I’m not staying there but I go there all the time to get the bank to change my large bills for smaller ones or treat myself to a lemon juice on the terrace.
The Cairo Marriott in truth is a hub of expat life even if you’re living here for a while and not just staying for a short time. With all the carefully managed security, the English-speaking staff and foreign nationals wandering around, it really seems like a consular compound all its own.
From the news I learned that diplomatic staff in Islamabad were often encouraged or even required to stay at the Marriott there because it was thought of as a safer building than many of the other hotels. I don’t think the same is true of Cairo, but the sense that it was a safe, impervious place, a place where nothing really bad could happen to you was certainly the same.
Of course the truth is that nowhere is THAT safe; you could get run over by a bus in Boise, Idaho just as easily as you could get caught in a hotel fire in a foreign country. Probably more so, though I’ve not asked an insurance adjuster lately.
There is no conclusion to this event thus far, so I can’t really bring my thoughts about it to a close in any meaningful sense. I think all I can say is that I’m not about to stop going to the Cairo Marriott for dinner or crisp new Egyptian five-pound notes. But I might take closer note of the fire exits next time I go.