Cairo, Egypt Report of what it's like to live there - 01/15/20
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?
Cairo was my first 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?
To the US, it's a 4-5 hour flight to Frankfurt, and then 8-10 hours to most places in the states. It's a full-day affair, but the Cairo international airport isn't a difficult endeavor.
3. How long have you lived here?
One year down, one year to go.
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?
Government provided diplo-dorm housing is typically around 1000-1250 square feet. If one lives downtown the commute time is around 15-20 minutes. From Maadi, it's longer, around 40-60 minutes. Most singles and couples without children live downtown, families in Maadi. I found Maadi to be quite enjoyable regardless.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
The Cairo mission has commissary access, so this is fairly relative, if not a little more pricey for most goods you'd find at a smaller-sized grocery store. Pork, imported wine, beer, and other spirits are available - which is really handy if you can't find what you want on the local market. Locally, there are good options but may require a little more scrutiny before ingesting. No surprises with the prices.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Found pretty much what I needed there, and haven't been wanting for too much.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Otlob and Uber eats provide delivery service for almost every restaurant. It's quite easy to get what you want, when you want it, at a cost cheaper than you would pay domestically. However quality and consistency of food is hit and miss. There's "good food" and then there's "Cairo good". Still, you'll find a few gems that you'll go back to time and time again.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I've seen some tiny ants making apperances in some of the diplomatic housing, but that's it.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
APO / DPO at embassy. I would not rely on the local mail facilities for anything I'd want to send or receive.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Widely available and fairly cheap, though I can't speak to this as I don't have any household help myself.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Embassy gym and private options are available. About what you'd pay in the States for the local options. The Embassy gym is a bit cheaper and comes with some other perks (Maadi house).
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?
It's mostly a cash-based economy, so most local stores will want cash, but the big department stores and malls are card-safe and easy. ATMs haven't been a problem and I prefer to carry cash.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Everyone seems to know some really basic English, but using this for anything will break down quickly if there's a real language barrier. Having a little language will help out considerably, and there are classes offered by the embassy to pick up the slack. I can't imagine tutors being expensive or hard to find.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. Cairo is not friendly for those with physical disabilities. There are many buildings without ramps and streets without sidewalks. You've been warned.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
We cannot use many of these, but the ubers are affordable and at least somewhat reliable. They can be frustrating at times, but it has not been too troublesome to use them.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
"High-speed" internet access will cap out at around 15mbps, so enough for one good stream in a household. Do not expect a family to be able to have a plethora of internet activities occurring simultaneously here. Singles or couples should be ok, but it's still spotty. VPNs seem to be frequently blocked. Installation and setup is fairly painless, if not somewhat fishy. You will hear the name "internet Mike" thrown around a lot.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I used a local provider. Vodafone or Orange are both good options, but you will likely have to pay your bills in person.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There are definitely concerns about this, and a large list of restrictions for diplomats assigned to this mission. There are semi-regular incidents at common sites.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Not great care available locally. Minor stuff shouldn't be an issue, but anything major you'll probably be evac'd for.
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?
Air quality can vary greatly. During the summer it can be clear and nice (but AQI will always suck) and in winter when the trash burning starts, it will go downhill quickly. Overall, it's not great
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
There's a lot of dust. Probably not a lot of catering to those with food allergies in local restaurants.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It's a desert. Cairo is hot. Winters can get pretty chilly though.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I hear CAC is a really great school, but without children of my own it's hard for me to comment.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There's a large and vibrant expat community, and morale is fairly decent. I've had a good time interacting with these folks and definitely haven't connected with all of them.
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?
Internations was a good way to connect with other expat-minded folks, but also allowed some connections to be made locally. There's the hash and other groups one could get involved in, sportsball and the like, to branch out and meet folks.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Depends on what you're looking for, but overall it's not a great place for singles. The expat community is significant - but not large enough to ensure companionship. Dating locally will be a tough sell in many cases, but it depends what accommodations you're willing to make.
Couples will have no shortage of things to explore and do, and families will also benefit from many of this. I'm not in this group though so I can't comment from personal experience.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I don't think so.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Great diving and beach opportunities on the Red Sea. Plenty of historic sites up and down the Nile to keep anyone busy. Souq's and bazaars are amazing, and there are many museums to explore. No shortage here!
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Even as someone who is not a big shopper, the Khan el-Khalili was a great experience.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Take your pick. Papyrus, lamps, alabaster, rugs, hit up the Khan and take your pick.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's fairly cheap, large, no shortage of things to do.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yeah, I enjoyed the life here and would come again.
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your: