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.


Exploring Armenia’s Unique Identity

What does Yerevan have in common with Jaipur and Toulouse? All three are known under the sobriquet of pink city. As ever many with such nicknames, on a recent trip to Yerevan, it was difficult to find a local aware of it. “Really?” asked one, “I think it’s more orange”. Whatever the colour, Yerevan has a unique architectural style, the result of explosive population growth in the 20th century. From the end of the Russian Empire to the twilight of the Soviet Union, the city developed from a multi-ethnic provincial governorate of around 30,000 inhabitants to a largely ethnically Armenian capital of 1 million people. more >

Urumqi: Go West and Prosper

On landing at Urumqi Diwopu International Airport you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re in just another large Chinese city. The short drive from the airport would not encourage you to suppose otherwise, until a closer look at the road signs shows place names written in three scripts: Mandarin, Pinyin (China’s phonetic romanisation) and across the top, Uighur. more >

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 >

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