Notes from the field

Our work takes us all over the world. Here we share some of our more personal perspectives on some of the destinations we have visited, filed on location.


Cairo: Back in Business?

When Alaco last visited Cairo in 2013, the city was only just emerging from the nightly curfew imposed by the military following its removal of Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi that summer. Cairo’s notorious traffic was light; tourists and business visitors were few; the hotels that skirt the banks of the Nile were near empty. Now, with the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s intervention legitimised by his election as President, visitors are gradually returning to the city Egyptians call “Umm El Dunyia” or the “Mother of the World”. more >

Chisinau: Coming in from the cold

Brezhnev-era apartment blocks featuring giant Coca-Cola and McDonald’s posters are the first thing that catches one’s eye on entering Chisinau. In some ways, time has stopped in the city, parts of which feel like the set of a Soviet film. This inertia appears to have also permeated the political sphere. more >

Tbilisi: Rustaveli’s dilemma, an EU aspirant in post-Soviet clothing?

When describing post-Soviet countries, it is all too easy to fall into the trap of simply answering a series of either/or questions: is the place in question democratic or autocratic, is it booming or stagnating, is it pro-Washington or pro-Moscow? Such paradigms do not fit Georgia, a country of some 4.4 million speaking at least four languages, nestled in the South Caucasus. more >

Saluting Sarajevo

It may well be cliché, but it is not unreasonable to describe Sarajevo, this small picturesque city at the foot of the Dinaric Alps, as a place of contrasts. In the historic centre, it is common to find Ottoman edifices juxtaposed against grand neo-gothic and Romanesque architecture of the Austro-Hungarian era; radiating outwards, ultra-modern high-rise developments flank dwindling ruins from the 1992-1995 war. more >

Finance is booming in Riga, but caution is key

Even though the risk of being caught up in dirty money is modest, businesses should take additional care in in Latvia’s capital. more >

Dublin: inconspicuous wealth

Next to the Shelbourne, one of Dublin’s most expensive hotels, is a Euroland shop. Everything in Euroland is a euro or two, but you would be hard pressed to find anything on the Shelbourne’s bar menu at a similar price. These two unlikely neighbours are located on St. Stephen’s Green and are not just a curious dichotomy; they are indicative of Ireland’s economic swells and austerity. Euroland’s other neighbour is of course the former headquarters of the notorious Anglo Irish Bank, now a Starbucks. And it is here that I am meeting a former colleague who is one of the sharpest barristers in Dublin’s Four Courts. more >

Cracow: pretty smart

A taxi drops me off on an industrial estate in Cracow, where a street sign tells me that the Schindler factory – now a popular tourist destination – is nearby. But that is not what I am looking for. It’s 9am and I’m here for a meeting with an angel investor. more >

Istanbul: football lessons

The last days of August in Istanbul were hot and calm. Many locals were away on their summer holidays and as I headed to a meeting in Taksim, the usually bustling metropolis felt rather subdued. Until, that is, I came across a large crowd headed in the direction of the new Vodafone Arena, which is being constructed on the site of the historic İnönü Stadium. The occasion was the funeral of Süleyman Seba, a football legend and honorary chairman of Beşiktaş football club. more >

Dushanbe: flagpole envy

As I boarded the plane en route from Moscow to Dushanbe, I immediately felt glad I had packed so light. The plane was full and nearly all passengers were young Tajik men, clearly going home on a break from their jobs in Russia, laden with hefty bags. The plane landed in Dushanbe at 3:20am and as soon as the wheels touched the tarmac, the sleepy tranquility vanished. Despite muted protests from air hostesses, several passengers were already on their feet and retrieving their bags from the overhead compartments. Once inside the dimly-lit terminal, excitement turned to agitation and what initially was a small orderly queue at passport control soon transformed into a disorderly crowd. I would see the same pattern time and again during my stay in Dushanbe. more >

Crisis in Ukraine: The View from Baku

Whenever Azerbaijan comes up in conversation in London, I’ve found that a general discussion soon turns to the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, over which Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bloody war in the early 1990s. Surely there would be broader topics to discuss here in Baku: what sort of impediments do foreign investors face? How has Azerbaijan used its hydrocarbon wealth? What’s the political mood like following the October 2013 presidential election? more >

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