Friday, 30 June 2017

The Day I Became Bill Gate’s Elevator Boy

One day while working for a famous Five-Star hotel in Cairo my manager, Rady Mamdouh, called me up to his office to meet two secret service agents from the American Embassy. I came to find out that the following week Bill Gates will be having a TV interview and a meal at the property. The agents were there to check the building out in terms of security. I was a 25-year-old Manager on Duty then, and being that employee who had graduated from an American University and spoke proper English, the job was assigned to me.

I took the two gentlemen around the hotel for a 20-minute tour, showing them all the entrances and exists and answering all their questions. I also took them to the roof on the 42nd floor above the Revolving Restaurant as well as the lower floor by the Nile. We finally exchanged business cards before I escorted them to the main entrance and bid them farewell.

The interview was to take place in one of the two Royal Suites, so obviously the entire hotel was getting ready for that super-duper VIP visit.

First, it’s the immaculate housekeeping which was personally supervised by the Executive Housekeeper. She was a lovely short German woman named Helga who was staying at the hotel and happily working something like 15-16 hours a day, every day. 

Then the Engineering to make sure that all lights and electric appliances are working perfectly.

The flower arrangement followed, which was the duty of a captivating blonde lady, Nermine, who owned a flower shop at the hotel.

Finally it was the F&B for the preparation of the meal. The Executive Chef, Patrick, was Belgium and a little mad — probably why I liked him. We often spoke French together and got along jolly well. 

Other than the meal, there were also exquisite amenities to be available in the suite, such as fruits baskets and oriental desserts.

Amusingly, the following memory came to mind while writing about this story.

By the year 2000 the Internet was still somewhat new to Egypt and not many people were tech savvy. As such, there was a PC at the Royal Lounge in the 30th floor, which was a lounge for the guests of the VIP floors. Sometimes during my shift I would go up for a quick break. The manager, Jaylane, was a friend who always welcomed me with a coffee and a chat. When then and there
I would check the PC I somehow learned to view the “history”. And Lordy Lord was I shocked from what I would find: Bestiality and underage porn sites — this was what guests, mainly Arabs, were checking when they used the PC. Dang. Out of sheer curiosity to know who was that sick, I would eventually check the log book for the names/room numbers, before logging into the system and finding out who it was. Most were married men with beards, often at the hotel with their wives and kids. Once a week or so, I would delete all the history from that infested computer.

Check Funny Hotel-Related Stories for more action. 

Now back to Bill Gates….

Then came the big day. Other than the food, everything was already prepared from before. The Secret Service guys came in earlier and we did another small tour — this time along my manager who was the Room Division Director. “Omar will be with you all day today. Consider him an enhanced elevator boy,” he joyfully told them as we shared a lift to go up to the Royal Suite.

A reason why Gates was in Cairo on that short trip was for the official inauguration of the e-government portal (, which Microsoft was chosen to be in charge of its implementation. In addition to visiting the Microsoft Office, h
e had also met President Mubarak and apparently also saw firsthand the construction of a Nubian house.

Bill Gates in Microsoft Egypt - 2003

Speaking of which, while looking for suitable photos for this article I found the one above. What’s truly comical is that the guy in a grey suit squatting on his knees pretending to pray to the right of Bill Gates is a dear, funny childhood friend of mine, Amr Fahmy, who is an ex-employee of Microsoft Egypt. 

At some point around 1:00 pm we got a call that the convoy is entering Down Town and should be here in about 10 minutes. We informed the General Manager and headed to the main entrance to wait. I remember hearing the police siren from afar before the first police motorcycle arrived. And what a convoy that was. It truly was something on the scale of a president. Americans do not joke when it comes to security, so you can imagine all the black cars with the bullet proof glass and tires along the armed personal surrounding the billionaire.

Gates was greeted by the GM and Rady, then it was me who escorted him to the waiting elevator. He got in with a few other men and myself. I was actually the only hotel employee to ever come so close to him.

Up to the 36th floor and the Royal Suite where Emad Adeeb, the Orbit media mogul, and the cameras and media crew were all waiting. For a while then I didn’t know what to do. The interview was to be followed by a meal in the suite. But since I was the one in charge of the whole thing, I decided to silent my phone, entered the suite, and stood there during the entire interview. It was also fun to miss a couple of hours from my shift while still ‘working’. 

After the exquisite lunch, I once again got on the elevator with the man and took him to the main entrance. Then I decided to shake hands with him. He seemed and acted down-to-Earth so why not, or so I thought. And he did shake my hand back. I thought of asking him for like a billion dollars or so, but then realised it may be a tad too soon.

The visit went seamless and that was my experience with Bill Gates — one of the richest men to have ever lived.

Being highly competent, Rady was eventually promoted to Resident Manager. A few years later he then became a General Manager. In actual fact, he is one of very few ex-bosses I worked with whom I respected and still respect; simply because he knew what he was doing and, unlike many in the corporate world, is not plagued by ego complexes.

EDIT (14 September, 2018):

Surprisingly, when during this trip I recently bumped into Rady at the beach on the Northern Coast of Egypt he shared that he had been following my writings as well as drumming news and videos on social media and told me “To keep it up. It was our first time to meet in 12 or 13 years due to the fact that we had both left Egypt at some point, so the warm words of encouragement coming from him meant a lot to me.

As for me journey, as some may know, after seven years in the hotel industry three more were spent in corporate before taking Art in general and writing in particular as a vocation.

Photo taken by ex-partner before heading to work in the early morning — A couple of years before that visit


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The Night We Turned ‘Beast Mode’ On

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Placebo Effect & The LSD Prank

Banged Up Abroad — My Few Days @ The Don Jail

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