Cairo, Egypt Report of what it's like to live there - 04/02/14
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?
2nd expat experience.
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?
Washington, DC: 12-16 hours flight; connection in Europe.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Work for U.S. Government.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Apartments on the economy are spacious, but power outages are a major concern. I live and work in Maadi, so my commute is ~15 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries (except for American brand-name products) are pretty cheap locally, produce especially. Local meat is more expensive than in the U.S. The commissary is excellent, though.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Camping gear, bikes, air purifier, uninterruptable power supply.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Fast food is everywhere.There is a wide variety of nice restaurants but expect to pay Western prices.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes (but they don't carry yellow fever or malaria) and are pretty easily dealt with.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
The going rate for a good Filipina maid is US$5-6/hour. Egyptian domestic help is cheaper, though.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. There is a gym at the Embassy.
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?
Only nicer places will accept credit cards. ATMs are widely available. I've been told not to use my credit card here for fear of fraud, but I've never had a problem using it in the places that accept it.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Several in Maadi.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It's useful to know enough to ask for directions and give directions to taxi drivers.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. There are absolutely no accommodations for anyone with physical disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are marginally unsafe, and getting more so. We are not allowed to take local trains, buses, or the metro.
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?
Large SUV that you don't mind getting dented. If possible, bring a car whose brand is popular in Egypt (Toyota, Nissan, Kia, Hyundai, others).
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, about US$32/month for slow ADSL. You could pay more but I don't know if the service would actually be faster.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Get pay as you go. I had a post-paid Mobinil line and they always tried to charge me for things I didn't order.
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?
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?
Local expat jobs exist, but are rare.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Work through churches or NGOs. I don't know if this is still possible with security restrictions.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business formal at work, despite the heat.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes. Egypt used to be one of the safest places in the world. Now I don't even feel safe walking around my own neighborhood (Maadi). Bombs, shootings, and protests downtown.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Air pollution is the most serious health concern. Quality of local medical care is low but I've never had to deal with anything serious.
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?
Abysmal: car exhaust, burning trash, generally awful air pollution.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Nice for most of the year. Hot (but not humid) in summer.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Getting smaller, and abysmal.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Eating out, touring, watching DVDs.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Used to be a good city for families. Now it's not a good city for anyone, Egyptians included.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Women are treated poorly and harassed in the streets, especially Western women.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Desert exploring, seeing historical sites.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Desert camping is one of the hidden gems of living in Egypt but with security restrictions, we are not always allowed to go to these places.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Definitely touring, as long as you don't have travel restrictions.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How fast things would go downhill.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
My first two years in Cairo were great but the country has gone hill recently. I would have left after two years here if I had had the choice.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Luxury car, nice shoes, sense of safety/security.