Research bureau Cairo- Amsterdam 2019-2020

A tuition free research bureau by the University of the Underground between Amsterdam and Cairo; with the collaboration, support and help from the Sandberg Institute, Amsterdam and the American University in Cairo.

The ‘Turquoise Desert’ research bureau brings together multidisciplinary practitioners and researchers investigating convivial practices and gatherings involving water. Of interest to the ‘Turquoise Desert’ research bureau are domesticated environments such as kitchens, urban landmarks involving water such as historical water fountains called Sabils and institutions working with water. Water and is one at the centernerve of this first Research Bureau.

Research Bureau Brief

In our contemporary society, physical gatherings of people are often replaced with virtual interfaces and individual interests, however this residency aims to rekindle our connection to the basic substances that once drove humans to congregate and form communities, namely water and by extension, food. With water at the heart of life in both Cairo and Amsterdam, we reflect with new eyes on the power and potential of human gatherings.

Your ‘task’ during this 3 month programme is to research, write, design, direct, sing, dance and / or perform a concept or event showcasing your vision on the development of new forms of gatherings. By observing and learning from our trips and meetings identifying what can be borrowed from methods of gathering, sharing and exchange. Your research and practice should aim to support the development and empowerment of countercultures beyond borders making use of events and experiences as a means to reveal and shift power structures in institutions and societies. At the start of your investigation you will look into water and its political, economic, historical and sociological implications in the building of communities, countercultures and nations.

Through the production of both multidimensional experiential projects, workshops, exhibitions, magic or rituals making use of water, food, dance and music, radio podcasts and written texts, your work will aim to act as a point of dialogue between stakeholders, politicians, academics, students and parents, and beyond proposing to portray the value of social dreaming, experiences and theatre as critical research practices. You will be working as individuals or in groups of your choosing.

You are expected to choose specific moments in history, work with experts, political, economic, environmental etc… institutions of your choosing, to write a reflective dramaturgy, to define and reveal the mechanism by which conviviality can be defined, and can empower countercultures. Your concept will share your learning experiences and personal investigations and offer a reflection in the form of an event and tangible experience for the public (performance, film, music, design work, theatre, reenactments, installation etc…). You will make use of your learning on food, poetry, music and dramaturgy, and independent publishing as sources of inspiration.


– Production and presentation of a concept book or magazine (with clear research, your script, your journey in the institution, your references etc…)
– A short performance / event or other of 5 to 7 minutes or more (a scene from your performance, a trailer and such) for exhibition. – A group podcast presenting your research, this can be a series of broadcasts done individual or not.

– From the 2nd March until 8th March 2020, we will have a public presentation of your mini-event’s with selected critics and public of your choosing.

You can see the work developed by the researchers as a part of the bureau here:

University of the Underground research programme- Turquoise Desert- Cairo/ Amsterdam
Juliette Le Monnyer  (FRANCE)
Amelie Jakubek (GERMANY)
Aida El – Oweidy (EGYPT)
Pauline Wiersema (HOLLAND)
Thieu Custer (HOLLAND)
Gabe Passareli Simões Vieira (BRAZIL)
Jon Flint (UK/ THAILAND)
Jose Torcal (SPAIN/ CANADA)
Carolina Valente Pinto (PORTUGAL/HOLLAND)
A programme lead by Foundland Collective (Ghalia Elsrakbi and Lauren Alexander) and Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun
Associate lecturers of the Cairo-Amsterdam Research Bureau
Hala N. Barakat, archeo-botanist and researcher
Jurgen Bey, director of the Sandberg Institute
Ahmad Al-Bindari, tour guide and researcher
Alexander Cromer, designer, artist and High-School of the Underground Project Manager  
Amanda Fayant, Researcher on indigeneous practices
Prof. Bernard Foing, scientist European Space Agency
Foundland Collective, artistic duo Ghalia Elsrakbi and Lauren Alexander
Nada El-Kouny, Journalist and Anthropologist
BUREAU LADA, architectsAhmad al Bindari, tour guide
Yasmeen Moataz Ahmed, AUC lecturer, Anthropology
Maissa Mostafa, tour guide and researcher
Nat Muller, curator and critic
Ahmed Nabil, oud (Arabic guitar) teacher
Fahmy Shahin, artist, co-director University of the Underground charity
Carolyn F. Strauss, Slow Research Lab designer
SULSOLSAL, Collaborative Design Group
Many thanks to:
American University in Cairo, Graphic Design Department
Butchers Tears brewery, Amsterdam
Reda Ali and team, White desert tour guide and chefs
Reem El-Desouky, television writer 
Studio Khana, Egyptian alternative art education and activists
Christopher Mahon, artist
Karima Mansour, founder Cairo Contemporary Dance studio       
Ashraf Magdy, driver and guide
Megawra, architectural hub in Cairo
Ahmed Safwat and family, dinner host