Cairo, Egypt Report of what it's like to live there - 05/12/08

Personal Experiences from Cairo, Egypt

Cairo, Egypt 05/12/08

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I've also lived in Asuncion and Jerusalem.

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2. How long have you lived here?

7 months.

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3. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Through Frankfurt or London, about 14 hours.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

I work for the U.S. Government in the Foreign Service.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

I live in Maadi, in a very comfortable apartment. Because the Mission is so large you do not get the housing size that you are justified in having, but the apartment size that fits with your job.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

I only shop at the comissary - it is very good if you have access.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Air purifyers and humidifiers.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

All of them - I've never seen so many U.S. chains overseas - we even have TGIF, Fuddruckers and Arby's!

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

We pay US$5 an hour for a Filipina maid/nanny who is extraordinary. She cooks as well. I understand that Egyptian help is cheaper but not as reliable.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I've had no problems - easy to use and available everywhere. The problem is everyone wants small change and exact change, and the ATMs often give you larger bills than you can realistically use in bartering or shopping.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes, the church of St. John the Baptist has a lovely English-language service on Saturday evenings in the Episcopal tradition - very nice, family church.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yes, there's AFN, Orbit and Showtime.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

A little bit for giving directions and getting prices - basic shopping.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Lots- sidewalks are all really high so that cars won't park on the sidewalk, so moving about in a wheelchair or with a stroller is very difficult.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Yes, black and whites are always in a state of disrepair, but they work for short trips and are very cheap.

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2. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Egyptians drive on whatever side of the road they want to, but you're supposed to drive on the right.

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3. 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?

We have a mini van out of necessity, and it's ok. Hard to park sometimes.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Vonage, Skype.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are good vets.

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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?

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Very unhealthy - Cairo is a beautiful place, but you sometimes cannot see it for the bad air pollution. I've known FS folks that have had to curtail for asthma.

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2. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

It's a security state, so there is petty crime, but nothing that you wouldn't find in any major city.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Hospitals in general are just ok. I would not choose to go into a hospital here, but I would feel comfortable with receiving emergency treatment at Dar El Fouad hospital and then going to Europe or the U.S. for follow-up care.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

Our kids go to the Maadi British International School and we love it. Our older son is gifted and the only thing that CAC would do for him was to put him up a grade, which he was not ready for. MBIS challenges him while letting him stay with his peers. MBIS has a lovely football field/outdoor play area, plus an indoor pool, new buildings with state-of-the-art touch boards and computer equipment. They have a cooking classroom and art and music facilities that rival the best US schools I've seen. Both of my boys love being there.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

CAC makes no accomodations for special needs. My younger son has mild speech issues and they would not accept him. MBIS did, though, and we have loved having him there. The Learning Resource Center is ok for providing therapy, but they are understaffed and overworked, so make sure you contact them at least six months in advance of arrival. I have found more luck with finding private therapists on my own.

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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?

Small Talk and Small World are good.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

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2. Morale among expats:

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It's a good city for families - lots of little day trips to do with the kids, and hey, how can you beat mummies and pyramids?

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

So much! It depends on what you want to do - there are Pharonic sites, Islamic sites, Coptic sites, military sites. Our kids love going out to see something new each weekend.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

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9. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Yes, it's been good for our family.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Bikes - we went back and forth on this, but the roads in Maadi are just terrible, and there are no good options for tracks that kids can ride around on.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen! The sun gets very intense here.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

I love the Elizabeth Peters series on Amelia Peabody in Egypt - it's airplane fiction, but with a nice historical touch.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

I love the Elizabeth Peters series on Amelia Peabody in Egypt - it's airplane fiction, but with a nice historical touch.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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