Reporters on the Job

BEFORE AND AFTER: The first time Sarah Gauch visited the Ibn Khaldoun Center outside Cairo, she found it to be an impressive place. The center, located in the mountains about a 30-minute drive from the capital, is run by Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a civil rights activist who was acquitted in March of, among other things, charges that he defamed the government.

"It was an attractive, sand-colored building that was modern but had wooden, Islamic-style windows that gave it lots of atmosphere," she says. "Inside, there were stacks of papers and books everywhere, and you could see a lot of work and research was going on."

But her trip there last Tuesday for Friday's story (page 7) presented a very different scene. "The center was a mess," she says. "Construction materials were lying around, furniture had been thrown outside, and it had been completely trashed. Ibrahim said the center was looted right after he was released from prison. But he is in the process of fixing it up and plans to reopen it June 30."

CONCRETE JUNGLE: Monitor correspondent Peter Ford found out after he had thought of his lead for Friday's story (this page) that the construction work in Brussels has been used as a metaphor for European Union developments before - particularly by opponents of the EU who refer to the Commission's headquarters, the massive Berlaymont Complex, as the 'Berlaymonster' Complex.

Nearing the end of a lengthy remodelling to remove asbestos, the building is sometimes referred to as a symbol of the rotten dangers at the heart of Europe. Of more concern to local people is the fact that all the new glass and concrete EU buildings going up in the 'Europe' district of Brussels are completely empty at the weekends, making the neighborhood a depressing desert outside office hours.

- Amelia Newcomb

Deputy World editor

Cultural snapshot
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