Cairo, Egypt Report of what it's like to live there - 03/31/13

Personal Experiences from Cairo, Egypt

Cairo, Egypt 03/31/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

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3. How long have you lived here?

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

The contributor is affiliated with the US government, has been in Cairo two years, a sixth expat experience ("and by far the worst").

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Housing is only good if you are one of the lucky ones to get a villa or a large ground-floor apartment. At least then you can get outside in some type of small yard. Otherwise, you are couped up in an apartment unless you want to go outside and expose yourself to polution, catcalls, and solicitations. Also, remember there is little-to-no green space here for children to play in, and there are NO parks. CAC and the Maadi house are really the only places for kids to get out and release their energy. So, if you like living in an apartment with children who have no desire to go outside, this could be your post.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

This is the other nice thing about Egypt: the commisary and PX. Both have just about all the items you need to feel at home, even though this is the third world. Hopefully the power does not go out too much and ruin your food. It goes out daily for 1-2 hours, and during the summer months it is worse. We also have water outages.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Air purifiers and lots of filters!

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Most major brands in the US are here, and they deliver for a small fee. Domino's, Pizza Hut, Papa John's, McD's, BK, TGIF, Applebee's, Hardee's, Auntie Ann's, Baskins Robins, Fuddrucker's, Starbucks, etc. Prices and quality are lower than in the USA.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

The sand fleas and mosquitoes can be problematic.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

APO. It takes as long as three weeks sometimes.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

It is widely available, but you pay for what you get.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Gyms at the embassy are nice, but you have to pay a membership fee to use them. This post needs to get real and start throwing in some perks, because morale is very low and few want to be here more than six months. Many are counting the days until they leave.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Cash a check at the embassy and save the ATM fees. It is simple and easy. Use your ATM cards and credit cards with no issues in the PX and commissary.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, there are some.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Newpapers are not, but you can get an AFN tuner or local satellite. You can also get Apple TV.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Basic Arabic is useful.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many. Do not come here. Sidewalks are broken or non-existent, and cars will run you over. Dead animals in the streets, donkey carts. falling in holes...seriously, there are simply too many to list.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

We avoid the trains as they often are targeted by criminals and stopped. They are not safe! Mini-buses: never! You have to beware of the taxis and what they charge, or they will rip you off. Ask for

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Bring an SUV that you do not mind getting dinged up. Traffic is crazy here. Beware: Egyptians usually do not use headights while driving at night, and they get mad if you have yours on.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Sort of. It is not high-speed, but it gets the job done when there are not the 1-2 hour daily power outages. Cost range is about $50.00 a month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Use Egypt Vodaphone if you have an unlocked I-phone for family members. They are fairly reliable and reasonable in price. The embassy covers the phone/cell phone/bb of the employee.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

Dogs and cats, no, but it's a good idea to pay the money and get an expeditor to meet you when you arrive with your pet. Not sure about other animals.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Okay - but I would not bring a pet here. They are stuck inside all day, and taking them for walks can be very dangerous, as packs of rabid wild dogs roam the streets and prey on pets. People often carry large sticks or other means of protection to fend off animals that come too close.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not really unless you like working for less than minimum wage. If you have free time, there are lots of volunteer opportunities.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business everyday...

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Where to start? Daily power outages, sexual assaults on women, robbery by sudden snatching, theft, assault and battery, rape, getting shot at or attacked with rocks are now all common-place events since the revolution. Even the safe districts of Maadi have seen these issues, rise and the State Department thinks we are still the same 15% post we were pre-revolution. This is easily a 25% diff post now and the tours should only be for two years.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Smog, polution, teargas, stray rabid animals, trash, urine, dead animals, E-coli just to name a few. Don't forget the sand, dust, and dirt, it is everywhere and makes it hard to breathe...The embassy has a wonderful clinic and there is one at USAID.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Unhealthy. It would be wise to invest in some good air purifiers. Also, invest in good sunglasses for the entire family. The sand and polution in the air affects your lungs and eyes.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Unhealthy. It would be wise to invest in some good air purifiers. Also, invest in good sunglasses for the entire family. The sand and polution in the air affects your lungs and eyes.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The school is either hit or miss. Since the revolution, the CAC cannot retain quality teachers, at least not a lot of them. Yes, some are good, but MANY are far from it. Had we to do this over again, there is no way we would bid on this post.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None. CAC says to get a tutor or don't come.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There are some available via the school and Maadi house.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large, but shrinking because of the political unrest.

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2. Morale among expats:

Extremely low since the revolution - this place really is bad now. It seems that everyone you talk with is counting the days until they leave or they are contemplating curtailing.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Don't plan on having a glass of wine during dinner at a restaurant, the MB made that illegal. However, some places will allow you to bring in a bottle (for a fee) if you check with them.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I don't think this is a good post for anyone. Seriously, think long and hard about the sacrifices you and your family will be making if you come here.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes. If you are not a male Egytian muslim, you will face some sort of prejudice.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

RnR

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

If you have the Egypt bug, you can visit the pyramids, museums, and everything else you want to see in a week or two. Spend your money on that and then get out.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Be careful, as most items are brought in from China. You can get some decent rugs and perfume oil if you know where to go.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

none

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11. Can you save money?

No, because you spend it on vacation to leave this place.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

NOOOO!

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

High expectations.

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3. But don't forget your:

Air purifiers, extra filters, surgical masks for sand storms, and patience - you can wait hours in traffic everyday.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

I must be crazy to bid here.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

I was crazy to bid here.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Again, think long and hard about bidding here. And if you decide to bid, think long and hard again...

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