Cairo, Egypt Report of what it's like to live there - 03/13/23
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?
First diplomatic tour but lived in Amman, Jordan previously as a student.
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?
~18 hours to Washington, DC connecting through Frankfurt, Vienna, or Heathrow - the direct EgyptAir flight which runs a couple times of week to DC and New York is not Fly America compliant
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, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Gigantic, government-owned apartment in Maadi. We are close to two grocery stores, a 2-minute walk to the main school, CAC, and a 5 minute walk to numerous cafes. Commute time to the Embassy is anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour 15 with the average being 45 minutes.
Apartment is a basic concrete block but clean, quiet and safe.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are much cheaper especially if you buy local, in-season fruits and vegetables. We buy all of our cleaning supplies, pork products, and random American needs (peanut butter) at the commissary. The commissary is generally well-stocked but has struggled with basics (e.g., corn chips) in the past few months and no one has really explained why. When we first moved here you could find almost anything on the local market but as economic conditions have deteriorated and imports have stopped, it's become harder to find European goods.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You can get anything here between the local stores and the commissary.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Talabat is the Egyptian equivalent of UberEats/GrubHub. Delivery is very cheap. You can get good wood-fired pizza, Korean, Chinese, and Middle Eastern. Indian food is just ok. There are many cafes that are subpar; it can be hard to find truly delicious restaurants here.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants every spring. Ant traps work great for us.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO. Do not use local facilities.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
We pay a housekeeper to come once a week for 5 hours at $5/hour. That's a bit cheaper than most Americans but significant more than other expats or Egyptians. Most people with children have full-time help.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
AECWA - the American club - has a gym. I don't use it, as I find it's rather expensive. There are plenty of local options including the gym at CSA which I go to occasionally for spin class. Spin class costs around 6$.
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 frequently accepted in Maadi, Zamaalek, New Cairo - anywhere richer/expats live but cash is king. We generally try to use the ATM at the embassy but have had no issues using ATMs on the street.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
It helps immensely to learn some Arabic including numbers and letters to help identify Ubers. The embassy has a post language program and there are various local options that are generally affordable.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes. No sidewalks, no elevators, no ramps.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Not allowed to use public transportation. We use Uber or we WhatsApp a guy with a car who is RSO-cleared.
2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?
We don't have a car but I'd recommend getting one that can take a hit or two with good clearance.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, our social sponsors set it up before we arrived at post. It's fairly cheap ~$60 for three months. I have had some issues with wifi, especially with power outages in the summer. But I work remotely and haven't had any major issues.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I use GoogleFi which is fine.
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?
Telecommuting and Embassy EFM jobs. Jobs here are scarce on the local economy and don't pay well.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Honestly not sure, to me the volunteering opportunities haven't sounded ethical or impactful so I haven't engaged. The animal shelters always need $ and individuals to adopt.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Very informal unless meeting with government officials, then dress is formal.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
There are terrorist attacks but nothing in Cairo for years.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Haven't had much need for medical care beyond what Post can provide. You get evacuated for most if not all serious issues.
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 terrible in the winter and subpar in the summer.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
We've had very mild allergies in the spring, nothing like DC. I've gotten food poisoning 6+ times eating at nice restaurants so be prepared to get sick.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
It's almost always sunny.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot with fairly chilly winters.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
HUGE - it seems to be a fairly happy expat group but this is our first post so I can't compare it.
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?
CSA in Maadi is a great spot to meet other people at cooking classes, workout classes, and other events.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
This city is huge, has everything and I think it'd be good for everyone.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Not particularly. I tried fairly hard to make friends with locals and due to socioeconomic reasons and general cultural reasons (Egyptians have such great and tight family and social circles, there's no need for new friends) I haven't been successful.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No. There is frequent violence against LGBTQ+ locals and they don't really tolerate LGBTQ+ individuals.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes, Egyptians are racist against Black people and Asian people. Gender equality isn't a thing.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Luxor and Aswan including a Nile Cruise are astounding! The Pyramids!! The history here is amazing and you'll never run out of things to see and do.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Bellies en Route tour to see the city through food.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes: pottery, rugs, wooden tables in-laid with mother of pearl
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It's cheaper than the States
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
The pollution really does suck.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Sure, it's been a totally fine tour. I won't be raving about Cairo but I certainly don't hate it.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Shorts & crop tops.
4. But don't forget your:
Linens, hats, sunscreen, and light jacket for the winter.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The Buried - Peter Hessler
Cairo Circles - Doma Mahmoud
Beer in the Snooker Club - Waguih Ghali