Design consultant Maurice Rosario tells Sonia Soltani all about working (and eating) in Cairo and Istanbul

How did you end up working in Cairo?

I lived in Turkey for five years and worked on the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul. I came back to live in the UK last year but I spend a lot of time in Cairo as a design consultant on the international airport.

Was it difficult to adapt?

In Cairo there are many cultural differences and the way of doing business is different. The worst mistake a foreign company can make when working abroad is to say, "We are here to show you the way", because you can only hurt the pride of your clients. A statement like that can lose you a contract.

Have you learned Arabic?

I was born in Iraq so I could speak it already. Unfortunately I haven't been able to use it yet. In Cairo I work with 28 Egyptian people and speak to them in Arabic but they respond in English. I have no idea why. It was the same in Turkey. Even when I was the only British person in the room, people would speak in English.

Do you miss home when you're away?

Once you start living abroad, it becomes difficult to define "home". When my wife and I arrived in Istanbul we didn't think of it as home, but after four years living with the Turks, who were extremely generous and sociable, it was really difficult to come back to Britain. It was difficult to know where home was by then.

Where would you like to live next?

There are opportunities to work in Dubai but I don't particularly want to move there.

What advice would you give to people who would be tempted to work abroad?

To consider how long you want to stay away. If you stay too long in a place, it's difficult to return. You won't be able to adapt to the UK again. I know a couple who spent most of their working life in Cairo. When they retired they came back to the UK and they couldn't stay.

What about Middle Eastern food?

In Istanbul the food is wonderful. They do the best simple grilled fish. In Egypt I have fallen in love with a dessert called Om Ali, which means the mother of Ali. It's a sort of bread pudding with nuts and spices.

What can the UK construction industry learn from Turkey or Egypt?

How to build pyramids! More seriously, there is a pride and a motivation among the construction people one doesn't often come across in the UK. There is no issue about working beyond the working hours. People in Turkey and Egypt will work 24 hours - if the person who leads the project sends the right message.


Name: Maurice Rosario

Age: 51

Job: Executive associate at GMW Partnership

Employment history: Started his career as an assistant architect at Gulf Consultants, before working for HN Construction Company and PRC Engineering. Has been working for GMW Partnership since 1987

Qualifications: Diploma in architecture

Lives: Ilford, London

Hobbies: Loves football and travelling to Ireland