Cairo, Egypt Report of what it's like to live there - 01/29/16
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?
Second 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?
East coast of the USA. Most flights connect through Frankfurt or Paris.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
A lot of housing in the local economy. There are a few small "compound style" houses, but everyone (with the exception of a few section heads) live in apartments, which are quite large and well appointed.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Lots of good local grocery chains like Metro, Seoudi, things are not super expensive. Alcohol is hard to come by, only Egyptian wines are sold and some imported beer. The Embassy has a commissary where you can by alcohol. And pork and bacon, which are not available locally.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Clothing, especially if a niqab is not your thing. There are western- style malls with Gap, Zara, H and M, Marks and Spencer...but the fashions are dated, modest and not in keeping with the climate. Shoes also.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Everything (KFC, McDonald's, Papa Johns) everything is available for delivery, including cupcakes and groceries
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
The Embassy has an APO
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Not super cheap. The going rate is about US$5/ hour for a Filipino maid, less for an Egyptian.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Gold's Gym, lots of Fitness First type places, even Curves and women's only clubs
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?
We did it, the ATM's seemed safe. Stores accept credit cards, but not small stores or the Khan...
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are lots of Catholic and Christian churches.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Some for taxis, grocery shopping. Most educated Egyptians speak at least some English.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
No no no..the roads are rubble in many places, no handicapped access. No no no.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
The Metro is fast and cheap, but is quite limited in its coverage and downtown stations were closed for security when we were there. Taxis are plentiful.
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 old and dinged up to save yourself heartache. Some of the most challenging and unexplainable driving on the planet. You can get by without a car but he taxis are a story in and of themselves.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Can't recall who we used but do recall it was medium speed.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Local providers. We had Vodafone
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?
No quarantine, local vet care is adequate as long as it's routine.
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?
Hmmm...not so much, except through the Dmbassy or the schools, or the American University of Cairo (AUC). A lot of companies have shrunk their footprint and there is bilateral work agreement between the US and Egypt.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Lots of orphanages, schools in need of volunteers.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Modest. Women mush have arms and legs covered.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Lots. The U.S. Embassy has all sorts of restrictions- no Metro, no Sinai, no this, no that. We took the Metro anyway and it was fine and probably less death defying than an Egyptian cab
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Hepatitis is abundant among Egyptians, lots of stray animals, do get a rabies shot. Local medicine is OK, but for anything serious you would want to think carefully about care in Europe or the US
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?
Very poor in the winter when people burn rice husks. Otherwise, dusty and some pollution- what you would expect with 20+ million people. It rarely rains so everything is dusty and in need of a good bath.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Egypt is dusty, dusty dusty...but there is enough greenery to cause seasonal irritation.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The summer is hot and more humid than I thought it would be, there is a cold snap during Dec.- Feb. which is very nice and comfortable.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Most Embassy families use Cairo American College in Maadi. We had our kids there and were overall very happy. The teaching staff are solid and overall excellent. The administration is the weak link. Our experience was that of a very "hands off" attitude with the parents.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Not a whole lot. If here happens to be a skilled expat in the community who can offer specific services, you are in luck. Lots of tutors available.
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?
There are lots of preschools, we did not have experience with them.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Through the school
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There are a lot of expats in Zamalek and in Maadi near the school (CAC). Not as many as before as many international companies have left Egypt.
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?
Egyptians do not eat out much, so the restaurants tend to be western style without alcohol. Our experience was a lot of dinners at home with friends.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, although the dating scene may be difficult
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Absolutely not- grounds for incarceration
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Women must dress very modestly, to prevent unwanted attention and this gets real old, especially in the hot summer months. Egyptians seem tolerant of Christianity, I do not know about Judiasm, just never say you are an atheist
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Nile cruise Luxor-Aswan, Abu Simbel, felucca rides on the Nile, water taxis, Red Sea resorts
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Coptic Cairo is a real sanctuary, as is Al Azhar park, the Khan is endlessly fascinating, especially at night.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Copper from the Khan, Fayoum pottery, beautiful light fixtures, mashribaya woodwork, lovely jewelry and handicrafts
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The Egyptian culture is fascinating, especially the antiquities.The Pyramids are always a thrill, no matter how many times you go. The Egyptians are warm and welcoming, despite what they have been through recently.
10. Can you save money?
Things are not super expensive and prices are negotiable....yes
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How repressive it has become.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Once was plenty
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Impatience, need for paved roads and lane markers, tank tops and hot pants, umbrella and rain boots
4. But don't forget your:
Sense of wonder and love of history
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?