Cairo, Egypt Report of what it's like to live there - 05/16/17
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?
Yes, this was my first.
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?
UK. Connections via Heathrow, Frankfurt, Istanbul. It takes four hours to get to Heathrow direct.
3. How long have you lived here?
Almost two years.
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
I own my own apartment and I don't live where most expats live, which are Zamalek, Ma'adi and New Cairo. Also Sheikh Zayed is becoming more popular. Everything is available, it depends where you choose to live. Zamalek and Ma'adi are expensive. Commuting time depends on where you work but Cairo traffic is legendary.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Cheap where manufactured in Egypt, expensive where imported, depending on the country. Western goods are very expensive at the moment due to the currency devaluation in November 2016.
Food can be bought extremely cheaply from local butchers, bakers and greengrocers.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Redbush tea. Decent wine. You just can't get it here. There isn't much else you can't get though.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Anything and everything is available and can be delivered 24/7.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
You get ants, mosquitoes and occasional cockroaches but nothing I would call unusual.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Postal services are dire. I do it through work.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I have a cleaner. Plenty of availability but quality can be questionable. Other expat recommendations are a good idea. Help is cheap compared to the UK.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Plenty in the expat areas. Vary in price but generally cheaper than the UK.
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?
Yes credit cards used. Egypt still very cash-based though so in small shops or local restaurants you'll need cash. Loads of ATMs.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Very little, but many classes available.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would depend on the disability. The pavements are shocking so using a wheelchair would be challenging for example.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Yes except the small mini buses. Never use these. Make sure the taxi driver has the meter on.
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?
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
No. The Internet is known for being really awful in Egypt, although it's improving slowly. Ideally get an apartment with internet already installed.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Use local. Very cheap. I use 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?
Good vets are hard to find. Get expat recommendations. I don't know about quarantine because I didn't bring any pets in.
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 volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Loads. Animals, children, refugees, poverty, fair trade.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Nothing too revealing but generally Egypt is pretty relaxed--for foreigners especially.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
The same as anywhere really. Don't go to dodgy areas. Pay attention to your own embassy advice. In Egypt you have to carry ID so have your passport or a certified copy with you at all times.
Don't get involved in dodgy political groups.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is nothing like the UK but good care can be found. Make sure you have insurance.
Extreme heat can be a problem.
Hygiene standards are not the same as the west but again this is improving. Any restaurant frequented by foreigners will be fine.
Always drink filtered or bottled water and ensure it's sealed. I do clean my teeth in the water but I don't drink it.
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?
Not good due to the traffic. I live "up town" on the hill (Mokattam) for that reason.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
If smog is a problem for you, you won't be able to live here.
My hay fever has been loads better in Egypt.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Mostly hot. Little rain. Can be cooler in winter. Lovely in spring and autumn.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Excellent. British, American, French, German all available plus others.
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?
Not huge but very active. Generally good morale. Most like living here.
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?
There are pubs, restaurants, clubs etc. Many clubs.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think it's good for anyone.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No. Whilst not illegal, LBGT people are not treated well in this country. This is changing but I still wouldn't recommend it.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Egypt is an 85% Muslim country and whilst there are prejudices, it is considerably more liberal than some of its neighbours. So yes, compared to the west there is gender inequality but nothing like the western media would have you believe.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Hard to single any out. Egyptians are some of the friendliest and open people you will find. They wear their hearts on their sleeves. Great sense of humour. I work with mostly Egyptians and I love it.
It's also, in my view, one of the most culturally rich and diverse countries in the world. There is so much to see and do. You'd need a lifetime.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
It's definitely not a shopping post but there's plenty of shopping available. Of all types. Locally made stuff can be fabulous. The old bazaar, Khan el Khalili, is amazing.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Living and working with Egyptians. The culture and history. Holiday destinations of all kinds on your doorstep.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
The time. Egypt is extremely polychronic--time is a flexible concept. If you're from a monochronic, time-conscious, culture it can drive you nuts.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Factor 50 sunscreen.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Any books by Naguib Mafouz.
If you like murder mystery, the Parkar Bilal Makana books.
Go to AUC Press for many other ideas.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Cairo is crazy, chaotic, hot, dirty, and an assault on the senses. But probably the most vibrant and alive place I've ever been.