Cairo, Egypt Report of what it's like to live there - 05/12/13
Personal Experiences from Cairo, Egypt
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
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?
DC is a 12 to 14 hour flight.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
U.S. State Department Diplomat - Second tour.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Mostly apartments, with villas for senior foreign service folks. The lack of green space for kids is a problem. Commutes from Maadi average one hour for a 7 mile trip. Drivers are aggressive and often angry.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The PX and the commissary are fully stocked.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
We order just about everything, including kids' clothes, from the APO because local quality is bad.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Almost all, but quality is much poorer than American standards. Cost range is similar to US Prices, and Otlob.com is used by most of us to have food delivered.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes and flies, roaches, sand fleas. You name it.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
APO - two to three weeks.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Easy to find - Filipinas work for about $5/hour; Egyptian help for about $3/hour.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Gyms at the embassy and USAID are good.
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?
This is not an issue at the embassy or at resorts/hotels.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Available in Maadi.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
I recommend speaking Arabic (Egyptian-dialect Arabic) if you are going to live here.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
This is not a handicapped-friendly society or city.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
They are not safe.
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 something that can handle bumps and potholes well (something with high clearance). Be ready to get in accidents - multiple accidents. And remember, Egyptians will blame you and get hostile, even if they are at fault, because they are looking for a payoff.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
When you buy internet service, the company pumps it into your building, and you share the bandwidth with everyone in your building.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Mobinil works just fine.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
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?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
The security situation in Cairo is rapidly deteriorating. Egypt is seeing more jihadi extremism, constant protests/riots around the US Embassy, carjackings, and muggings. As tourism bottoms out, people are getting desperate and know that expats have money. Also, sexual assault and/or harassment is pretty much guaranteed to affect you or someone close to you.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
I would never walk into an Egyptian Hospital. Medical evacuation is to London.
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?
Terrible. Garbage is everywhere, as are dead animals. There are sandstorms in the Spring, and everyone burns crops in the Fall. Kids end up with asthma. CO2 emissions from unregulated vehicles and leaded gas cause daily headaches for much of the staff.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The climate is pleasant in the spring/fall, a bit chilly in winter, and hot as hell in the summer. It hardly ever rains.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
CAC is having difficulty staffing with quality educators post-revolution.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
Preschools are available.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes. After-school programs are good. A kids' baseball league is available.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large for most posts, but isolated and getting smaller every day as people leave.
2. Morale among expats:
Extremely low. Post management was too late in spotting and/or admitting that Cairo is getting worse, not better. Post management is highly unsympathetic to the plights of the little people, and they live a fairly sheltered life with teams of bodyguards and walled villas --- while we hope we don't get sexually assaulted or mugged on the way from our apartment to the Maadi House.
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?
Everything happens at CAC (the American School) or one of the few expat clubs now, as people are afraid to go out on the town.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Families with very young children living in Maadi can have a decent run of it by spending all of their off-time at CAC, the Maadi House, and in their homes. Singles will find Egypt to be a very challenging dating environment. Couples will have a decent time if they are shut-ins.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Racial - yes. The Egyptians don't particularly like westerners, who (at best) are seen as cash cows to milk and not as people.
Religious - yes. Christians are looked down on, as are Jews. Nevertheless, these "people of the book" get much more respect than other religions. Coptic Egyptians are leaving Egypt in droves.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Luxor/Aswan was nice.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Coptic Cairo is a hidden gem. Stay away from the pyramids, you'll only be disappointed.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Local crafts, most of which are mass-produced garbage.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Any special advantages this post used to have are unenjoyable because of the constant danger.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I would not wish this post on anyone.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Hopes and dreams of a good tour, and your idea that you will be liked or accepted by the locals. Also, any feelings of safety.
3. But don't forget your:
Don't forget that you are the idiot who bid on this post.