Cairo, Egypt Report of what it's like to live there - 12/28/21
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, first time living overseas.
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?
US - traveling through Europe would take 18 hours with layovers but direct flight from Cairo to DC is 11 hours
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. 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?
Housing is an apartment in a government-owned compound of a villa/apartment on the local economy. I had a 3 bedroom, 2 bath apartment in a compound and loved it. I enjoyed the community get-togethers and the ability to host my own gatherings using the grill and common areas. The downside is the privacy, everyone knows what is going on. But the apartments are pretty soundproof so having a party won't bother the neighbors too much if kept inside.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are cheaper than the US at the local market, a little cheaper if going to the more expensive market like Gourmet Egypt. You can find a lot of the similar items and if you explore the area you can find hidden markets that sell Asian sauces and such. The embassy has access to a commissary where most employees shop that has all the US brands you could want and a little cheaper than the US.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing, I found everything I needed.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is food from everywhere in the world, not always great, but there are hidden gems. Latino/Mexican food seems to be the hardest to find good stuff but found a couple awesome places in Gouna. You can order everything through a delivery app and at all hours of the night and day, Otlob.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Many people dealt with ants. I had them a little right before and after winter but some other apartments had them worse than I did. Sometimes you will see a gecko running around. Mosquitos and flys are annoying when sitting outside anywhere in Egypt.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO, DHL: I never used the local mail service.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
I didn't have any but several people hired a nanny, housekeeper, or driver. Some people hire both a nanny/housekeeper and driver. Seemed they weren't very expensive.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is Gold's Gym in Maadi right next to one of the government-owned apartments that I heard was decent and had a separate area for women to workout. There are gyms all over Cairo and fairly cheap, but very crowded. There are gym facilities at the embassy and the USAID building in Maadi for embassy employees. There is also a pool, tennis courts, and a multi-purpose court at the embassy complex in Maadi that is available with a membership and lessons are an extra cost but reasonable.
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?
Credit cards are used, but cash is still king in Cairo. ATMs are safe, just use ones from the bigger well-known banks.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Yes, but I believe the services were on Friday or Saturday.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You should learn the basic welcome and if you use Uber learn the words for directions like left, right, straight, stop and here. Egyptians love that you try to learn their language and will help you. The embassy provides classes and you can find a tutor on the local economy just negotiate the price.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, there aren't a lot of sidewalks and when there are sidewalks they are higher from the road than in the US. Pedestrians do not get the right of way.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There are local buses and metros, but embassy people don't use them. White taxis are safe, but you need to negotiate the price before getting in. There is also London Cab, but pricey. Uber is safe and affordable, but I have heard of some women being harassed in them though I never experienced it.
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?
I suggest not bringing a new car and expecting any car you have to get dinged up quite a bit. Getting your car fixed through the embassy car shop is easy and convenient for small maintenance and big repairs. I suggest an SUV or minivan because there are so many car accidents you will like to have the extra safety. But parking sucks in most of the city, the traffic is crazy with very little road rules, and drivers can be aggressive. I liked having my vehicle for traveling outside of Cairo to Gouna, Ain Sohkna, and Alexandria.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is easy to set up and can even be done before you arrive if you arrange things with your sponsor. High speed isn't really too fast, but it was enough for working from home most of the time and the family to use devices. There were some times when it would slow down and we would call the local guy to complain and then things would speed back up.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Unlocked phone and your passport and you can get an account. Google Fi works fine too.
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?
I didn't have a pet but I heard that people found good vets in the area. No quarantine required coming into the country. Will have to take into account when you arrive with your pet that it might be super hot and that might affect when your pet can arrive. Some people used airlines, but several people used international pet shippers.
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?
Some teleworked and others worked in the embassy. I did hear of one EFM working on the local economy, but it is rare.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
I heard several people volunteered with an orphanage in Maadi and there are other opportunities, but not sure where.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business: suit/tie, dresses at work. In public places casual. As an expat I had no issues wearing short dresses when I went out with friends.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
I always felt safe in Cairo, but you need to stay aware. My cellphone was almost pickpocketed out of my purse in Luxor. And snatch and grab on motorcycles happen. Just walk with your purse away from the road, don't walk with your cellphone out and don't go out with a lot of flashy jewelry. Same thing you would do in any major city.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
The hospitals are not the best. Payment is required upfront before they will give you service. Pregnant women medevac to the States or Europe. The med unit in the embassy is awesome with a great staff. Getting xrays and meds are cheap. Several embassy people got lasic eye surgery and it was great. Dental work is also really cheap and done well. A friend of mind got several cosmetic surgeries done and they all went well.
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 is bad year around and worse in winter. The embassy provides air filters.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
For food allergies I would make sure you know the information in Arabic so you can be clear when ordering in restaurants. Most restaurants don't have different menu options catering to allergies. If you have breathing issues then I would be careful choosing Cairo.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Some people deal with anxiety from all the people and noise. The city is full to the brim with people and there is noise 24 hours a day with honking horns and emergency vehicle noise.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Extremely hot from June-September; milder October-December and mid-March through May; mild/chilly January-mid March. I say chilly for Cairo but doesn't usually get below freezing. Even though it snowed in Alexandria December 2021. Egyptians head to the Mediterranean during the hot months and to Luxor/Aswan and Sinai for the winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There is an American school in Maadi that most kids go to that is good. They are internationally recognized and offer a good curriculum.
2. 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?
I heard there are several choices for preschools. Several friends of mine worked at two different ones and they loved their workplaces and the kids seemed to love it too.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There are tons of activities for kids at the school, through the embassy, and on the local economy. If your kid likes it then you can probably find it in Egypt. You can even ski at Ski Egypt inside the Mall of Egypt in 6th of October.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There is a huge expat community and everyone I met loved Egypt and took advantage of everything you can do in the country.
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?
Meeting other people from other embassies at events, InterNations, and just going out to restaurants/clubs. I definitely recommend InterNations; they do a lot of events and tours. I will warn you, if you are a woman, you will be contacted by a lot of guys on the InterNations app. Some use it like a dating app. I just ignored the messages and friend requests unless I met someone at an event.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Egypt is good for everyone because you can find everything you need depending on what you want. Lots to do and explore.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Very easy to make friends with locals. They are extremely friendly and giving. People who look Filipino or Nigerian/Sudanese may face some prejudice because they are usually the people who are hired as domestic workers so some Egyptians treat them badly. Its not until they hear your accent that they change. I didn't experience or see this, but heard it from several people.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
I met several and they all enjoyed Egypt, but there is a stigma, and no one was obvious about it.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There is some sexism but being an expat, I was treated differently by Egyptian men then an Egyptian woman would be. I've heard that some Jewish people are treated differently but never heard details. And I mentioned above, some people of Asian or African descent might face some prejudices.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Hot air ballooning in Luxor
Felucca rides on the Nile
Swimming in the Med Sea and Red Sea
ATV rides and submarine/boat in Sharm
Visiting the pyramids and museums
I wanted to ATV around the Pyramids but didn't get to and I've heard the Nile cruises between Aswan and Luxor are great.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
See everything! The markets, the tourist towns, the clubs, and restaurants. The things I didn't get to do but plan to visit again to take off my list is visit Dahab, Siwa, and St. Catherine's and take a Nile Cruise.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There is a lot shopping to do for all types of things. Getting things made is super cheap. I had a coffee table, lamps, and mirror made. I purchased a painting and had it framed here very cheap. I wish I had a chance to buy carpets. I bought a couple cheap ones but wish I had gotten some of the nicer, bigger ones.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Everything is super cheap and has everything you could need once you find it.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Nothing I can think of.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter coats, but bring a sweater for chilly nights in the winter months.
4. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen, sunglasses, and swimsuit. Be open to everything and do everything.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Death on the Nile - Agatha Christie
Saqqura on Netflix