Running a Hackerspace is Hard: Egypt Edition

It’s no secret that it’s difficult to run a hackerspace. Different personalities, different material requirements, and often constrained spaces can require continual negotiation. But if you think that having the metalworking types getting their shavings on your electronics bench is a problem, try having your entire hackerspace demolished on short notice.

The situation in Cairo is far from normal at the moment. The building that Cairo Hackerspace had recently moved to was raided, closed for two months, and then re-opened under strict surveillance in February.

All was well until a part of the building unexpectedly collapsed. Then they got a demolition order, followed by postponement, followed by armed police entering anyway and breaking stuff, followed by a further declaration of the building as safe, and now a heritage site. And all of this over a week’s time. While some of the art studios in the Townhouse were saved, the Cairo Hackerspace’s space is gone.

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The good news? Nobody got hurt in all of this, and the Cairo Hackerspace crew were able to get their gear out after the initial demolition notice. They’ve been working on a mobile hackerspace-in-a-van approach lately, so hopefully they’ll be able to keep on hacking.

So when you’re bickering over who didn’t clean up the hackspace’s coffee machine, or the proper location of your favorite soldering iron, think kindly about the Cairo crew and get back to doing what you do best — projects.

How about you? What hackerspace tales do you have? Contact us through the tips line — we’d love to hear.

16 thoughts on “Running a Hackerspace is Hard: Egypt Edition

    1. 8-year-old me was grounded for a month (no bike riding, no playing with friends, and had to stay in the back yard until it was dinner time) because my mom told me that and I responded with, “Well, send it to them. At least someone will enjoy them.” I got “the belt” from my dad when he got home that night as well.

  1. Sorry to hear the situation in Cairo is so complicated. The existence of so many agencies each capable of “forceful action” means that there will be more examples of similar fiascos in the future.
    I understand the thought behind a mobile hackerspace. Another thought is to build one using old shipping containers. You could isolate metalworking to one container etc.

    1. I wonder how hard it’d be to raise the money for a large truck, put a converted container on the back that opens out to become the hackerspace. Then all they need to do is stow everything securely, jump in and drive off. Much harder to hit a moving target.

      Yes, it’d be a bit of a hack in itself, but isn’t that what these places are all about?

      1. I wonder how important of a target such a hacker-space would become. If a simple building was a target, a hacked truck with all you say would be a much more interesting capture for wrong-doers. Even the fact that they want to “run” like that may be “a sign” that they are worth targeting again. Government people are pretty paranoid when it comes to this.

        1. The other day they ambushed eight cops south of cairo, they killed them all in their van by shooting them from a, and here it comes, ..truck.
          So maybe you don’t want to make cops nervous with trucks at this point.

          And with the violence and protest and previous use of some homebrew stuff by protesters I guess it makes some sense the authorities are not happy with hackerspaces. That and that it’s now a (electoral-?) dictatorship, which always seems to reduce freedom for some reason.

      2. Since http://www.cairohackerspace.org isn’t usable I can’t get a sense of the hackerspace. A mobile/portable hackerspace is still an easy centralized target. For the short term raise enough money to send as many simple tool kit to as many people as possible, hoping the recipients to the right things with the gifts. First not using them for ill, allowing others to use the tools, giving to tools to any hacker space that my form in the future. Don’t ask me how to go about it. Here in the safety of Kansas I can’t talk them members of the amateur radio club into assembling and donated electronics tool kits and Forrest Mims books to local libraries in hopes of generating interest in electronics. I can however expect them to belly ache about the lack of interest in electronics on the part of kids and others.

    1. It’s a hackerspace, they can weld a big parasol to the top and instal a custom cooling system.

      I’m not sure airco is practical in egypt though, I’m not sure their power is all that stable or affordable for the hackerspace crowd. And besides, a shield like a parasol or maybe some reflective alu blankets at an offset to the roof would make any kind of airco much more efficient and affordable.

    1. In most of the world the police don’t carry guns. Having your hackerspace surrounded by guys with shotguns and body armor is a pretty sure sign that freedom of expression is dead in your country.

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