Cairo, Egypt Report of what it's like to live there - 08/15/22
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?
2 prior overseas postings, one in EUR and one elsewhere in NEA
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 U.S. Around 12 hours' flight if direct, or 16-ish with layovers in Frankfurt or elsewhere in Europe. There are regular flights.
3. What years did you live here?
Summer 2020- Summer 2022
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?
Most people in Cairo live in apartments. Downtown apartments (10-20 minutes from the Embassy) are typically 2-3 bedrooms, while apartments in the suburb of Maadi (30-45 minutes from the Embassy) are larger with 3-5 bedrooms.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Cost of living is very cheap compared to the U.S. The commissary stocks U.S. goods at standard prices. If you shop the local market, things are much cheaper.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Everything is available here, so the only things you'd want to stockpile are specialty liquids you can't order through Amazon or pantry items from Trader Joes, since they don't ship.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
You can use Talabat, the local equivalent of Uber Eats, to order a variety of food (sushi, Indian, burgers, whatever) for a delivery fee of up to $1.50.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Occasional ants, nothing huge.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We have DPO for personal mail. Pouch can only be used for official.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Many people employ housekeepers, drivers, nannies, etc. Cost ranges but is often around $1,000/month for full-time household help.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Tons of gyms, but the good ones are very expensive, on par or similar to U.S. prices.
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 widely accepted at grocery stores, but you'll need cash to buy some things (produce on the street, other odds and ends). Some places have credit card machines that are often down/not working.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You can get by without Arabic, but will be happy knowing some very basics as you navigate the city.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, extreme difficulties. Sidewalks are haphazard or non-existent.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Mission members are not allowed to take the local buses, metro, or trains. Taxis are cheap. Many do not have seatbelts, so you may have to hold out for one that does.
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?
Any, but a 4-wheeler or SUV will do better on the occasional times you find yourself stuck in the sand.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, quick to install. Goes down frequently, though. I have 2 internet packages from entirely different companies so there's a back-up when one goes down.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Mobile plans are plentiful and very cheap. Mine is about $8/month including tons of data.
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?
Many Mission members' spouses work at the Mission, some in policy-related substantive jobs and others in sections like facilities.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are several organizations that help refugees living in Egypt. They welcome volunteers for things like teaching English classes, administering English tests, etc.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
People typically dress more conservatively than in the U.S.
Suits are standard for meetings with Egyptian counterparts.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Sexual harassment of women, though not as rampant as many feared before arriving in Cairo, does happen. I've had 2 upsetting incidents (one in a taxi, the other with a random passerby) in 2+ years in Cairo.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Use the filtered water to drink and cook with, but the tap water is fine for showering, brushing your teeth, etc.
MED will recommend medevac for serious health concerns.
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?
Bad. The heavy-duty air filters at Post help a lot to maintain cleaner air in our residences.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
If you have asthma, Cairo pollution may be an irritant.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot, hot, hot.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There are hundreds of Americans here and also tons of other Missions. Morale is generally high.
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?
Everything from happy hours to boat rides on the Nile. There are plenty of local meet-ups and clubs.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes, all of the above. Most families live in Maadi and most singles live downtown.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Egypt actively represses the LGBT community. Daily safety for an LGBT diplomat would likely be fine, but someone with a same-sex spouse would probably not be made to feel comfortable holding hands on the street, for example. There are no public LGBT-affirming spaces like bars, etc.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Egyptian Muslims will tell you there are no issues with the Christian Coptic communities. Copts will tell you they're treated like 2nd-class citizens in Egypt.
For foreigners, you'll always be treated as foreign, regardless of ability to speak Arabic, etc.
Many Egyptian women work, but 'traditional' (misogynistic) views still dominate.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Aswan and Luxor are stunning places to visit. Other places closer to Cairo make for great weekend trips (Fayoum, St. Catherine's Monastery).
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Tour "Garbage City"
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Everything is affordable!
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes, great tour
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen and hats
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Peter Hessler's "The Buried"