13 Things Nobody Told Us About Living in Cairo

It is a fast overview of the fact of residing in Cairo, for anybody who’s contemplating shifting to Cairo: web, discovering flats, omnipotent doormen, sandstorms, images, the legality of drones, and cash issues.

There’s lots about residing in Cairo that’s arduous to determine from the skin. And there are lots of issues that no person thinks to inform you.

Earlier than deciding to go to Cairo to be taught extra about residing in Egypt, there was lots we didn’t know, regardless of loads of googling and studying blogs.

We didn’t know what the bawaab does, how briskly the web is in Cairo or what it’s wish to journey in Egypt as a lady.

We didn’t come to dwell in Cairo for the approach to life; we got here right here to be taught, and to share. So right here goes!

Web Speeds in Cairo/Egypt: Knowledge Sims, and No WiFi

If you happen to’re residing in Cairo for some time, a knowledge sim is reasonable, quick and your greatest guess; WiFi in Cairo/Egypt is patchy however quick sufficient… typically.

It’s best to actually depend on an area sim. However in case you don’t wish to, native web entry in AirBnBs and the like is ok… simply patchy.

After having tried WiFi in a couple of locations, we all know it’s quick sufficient to work on-line, stream YouTube and do video calls… when it’s working.

This was arduous to determine from the skin:

  • NomadList rated Web in Cairo as very gradual, to the purpose the place we thought it’d be unusable.
  • TripAdvisor discussion board gremlins stated it was nice, however they normally keep in motels within the good a part of city.
  • My buddies stated home web is patchy however cell web is quick.

Web is quicker early within the morning. There are outages. We typically get downloads of a number of megabytes per second (adequate for 4K video), and normally round one megabyte per second (high-def video).

Google Fi pace and availability in Cairo (2019)

We additionally use Google Fi, which is simply obtainable to individuals who get it within the US. It prices us $20-30 a month every and provides us information within the crucial few days between after we land and get an area SIM.

Whereas Google Fi doesn’t work all over the place (we didn’t have information in New Caledonia), I’m glad to report Google Fi pace and protection in Cairo is ok – it will get us dependable LTE speeds (1-3Megabytes/s after I examined it).

Find out how to get an inexpensive information sim in Cairo

Cellular information sims are low cost and simply obtainable from shops like Vodafone and Orange.

You may get 8GB sims for 180LE every (~US$10), and will have gotten 20GB sims for 350 LE (~US$20). We opted for the smaller 8GB one as a result of it’s a voice + information package deal and comes with straightforward recharge choices; the larger one can solely be recharged by shopping for one other of the identical.

Our common cellphone information utilization (each WiFi and mobile) on is about 200MB/day every, most of which is Skype, social media and YouTube.

The most important cell community operator in Egypt is Vodafone (round half the inhabitants), in order that’s who we used.

Whereas we’re eager to practise our Arabic, we have been grateful (on day 2) that there’s somebody in each cell phone retailer (Vodafone, Orange and many others.) that speaks English.

There aren’t any WiFi in cafes in Cairo

Firstly the idea of a “cafe” is totally different. Principally it’s principally males consuming Arabic espresso and smoking shisha pipes. You could find worldwide espresso chains like sparsely positioned situations of Costa Espresso, Starbucks (two of them!) and even Dunkin’ Donuts, however they don’t usually have WiFi.

We’ve seen wifi marketed a few instances nevertheless it both didn’t work or was unbearably gradual.

Web safety and privateness in Egypt — Maintain secure as a result of everyone seems to be watching

One observe: you completely want a VPN and a manner of speaking securely in Egypt. The federal government watches everybody. Our suggestions:

  • VPN in your telephone (even when utilizing cell information) or laptop computer: NordVPN end-to-end safety and encryption.
  • Safe chat: use Sign or WhatsApp. Most individuals in Egypt don’t use Apple telephones, so Apple Messages isn’t a terrific choice.

Sure, you technically don’t safe chat in case you’re utilizing a VPN. However given typically errors occur and the VPN is off, it’s safer and straightforward to double up.

Flats: They give the impression of being horrible on the skin however are good on the within

Discover Discomfort - Living in Cairo - Apartment interiors
The inside of our first AirBnB house in Cairo. A bit costly at $25 a day.

Driving in from Cairo’s airport you see a metropolis of stark contrasts, simply as you’d count on from any giant capital metropolis.

However the contrasts between areas of Cairo are VERY stark, with lovely structure on some giant mosques and church buildings, and decrepit buildings in dismal states of squalor.

It’s arduous to take pictures in Cairo. Somebody’s at all times watching. We attempt, and wrestle, to take care of a low profile, though we don’t look ‘white’ and gown conservatively. Sometimes, we’re instructed images right here isn’t allowed.

A cursory look by way of AirBnB reveals that there are many flats for underneath $20 an evening in first rate elements of city, like in Dokki or Mohandesiin, with good interiors and furnishings.

We will verify, after seeing a couple of flats, that they’re as good as they give the impression of being. However you might need to stroll previous trash and thru a dusty struggle zone of renovations within the entrance (as we did) simply to get there.

See right here for a broader information on the place to dwell in Cairo.

The doorman (bawaab): Tour pal, your protector, your watcher and typically, your enemy.

The doorman (بواب, bawaab), extra a ‘gatekeeper’, is the person who manages the constructing and all its occupants. It’s their job to know all the things that’s happening and to maintain the peace.

Because of this in case you have a visitor, the bawaab is aware of (clearly; they most likely noticed you). They hold tabs on when the visitor comes and goes. Whether or not the identical or totally different visitor comes on totally different days.

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The bawaab will see you from the skin in case you poke your head outdoors the window. They know what packages you obtain, from whom, and what’s in them.

It’s good to keep on the great facet of the bawaab (in your landlord’s sake), nevertheless it’s not at all times completely clear how.

For instance, one time I opened a window to take a photograph of the blue sky. Later, received an apologetic message from our landlord that the bawaab had requested to not do this, to delete the pictures and that he’d be as much as test.

The bawaab can also be the keeper of morality within the constructing. This may imply that in case you are a single particular person with a whole house to your self, even when the owner doesn’t care, the bawaab would possibly object to you having guests of the alternative intercourse. Be warned.

Usually, a constructing with a bawaab is taken into account safer. However in case you dwell in a pleasant (expat-y) space, they’re not wanted, and also you would possibly really feel extra snug with out one.

Residing in Cairo means Mad Max-like Sandstorms

Discover Discomfort - Living in Cairo - Sandstorm view from apartment window
A view from the window of one in every of our flats. No filter utilized, daylight white steadiness, at 2pm.

This can sound naive to anybody who lives in a desert area, nevertheless it was new to us. Sandstorms occur usually in Cairo and may be deadly attributable to excessive wind and poor imaginative and prescient on the roads — although that is partly due to poorly-enforced security requirements.

For instance within the above picture, a poorly-secured development web site, there was a cleaner engaged on the highest flooring whereas the wind was blowing.

Discover Discomfort - Living in Cairo - Guy walking in Sandstorm

The picture above captures a newsworthy however nonetheless pretty frequent sandstorm.

Sandstorms are considerably seasonal and occur year-round. They trigger sudden temperature drops or will increase, relying on the temperature of the wind.

Essentially the most severe sandstorms occurring throughout khamsin, a interval throughout the spring, significantly in April, throughout which a scorching and dry wind blows throughout your complete area.

The khamsin wind will get its title from the Arabic phrase for 50 as a result of the winds final for round 50 days. Khamsin impacts Egypt particularly,but additionally impacts different nations within the Levant (Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Syria).

Principally, don’t plan on visiting Cairo in April, and keep away from it in March or Could in case you can. Past Could it begins getting highly regarded, anyway.

This hand gesture means “wait” in Egypt

This gesture is from a Youtube video describing it because the “Egyptian Gesture for Wait“. It’s enjoyable to do, and I encourage you to attempt it all over the place, particularly in Italy, simply to see what occurs there. (PSA: Joking. Don’t do that.)

It’d shock loads of Egyptians to be taught that their neighbours in Israel (a state round half on a regular basis Egyptians don’t even acknowledge) additionally use the identical hand gesture to imply “wait”, simply with a unique accompanying phrase/phrase, rega (רגע).

A couple of methods of claiming “Wait a second!” in Arabic in Egypt whereas utilizing the “wait” hand gesture:

  • sanya waHida (تانية واحدة): “one second”
  • lahza (لحظة): “second”
  • istanna/istanni (استنى): “wait

All of these work. Mix them if you would like, with min faDlak/ik afterwards for a tiny little bit of politeness. However the hand gesture works alone too.

Egypt is Low-cost for Foreigners and Costly for Locals

Foreigners suppose residing in Cairo is reasonable. But it surely’s extra nuanced.

Egyptians think about the Egyptian Pound the identical manner Europeans consider the Euro or People consider the Greenback.

Cairo is within the midst of an financial disaster. Egypt was at all times considerably low cost, being a less-developed nation, nevertheless it’s significantly low cost now with the dismal valuation of the Egyptian Pound, at 18 LE to the US Greenback.

What’s essential to recollect is that the family earnings for a lot of Cairo households is between 2,000 and 4,000 LE a month, and sometimes in direction of the decrease finish. Egyptians think about the Egyptian Pound the identical manner Europeans, the British and People think about the Euro, Pound and Greenback.

Most People would take umbrage at paying greater than $10 for a sandwich for lunch. In Cairo persons are comparable, and certainly hardly ever pay greater than 10 LE for a few (smaller) sandwiches.

On the similar time, costs for items in LE have elevated dramatically — severalfold — because the pound was floated and devalued in 2016. Life has develop into very costly for Egyptians, and lots of households can not afford greater than essentially the most fundamental life requirements.

Most westerners eat (or no less than can eat) meat and recent greens each day — usually for a couple of meal a day. It could be anathema for them to suppose in any other case. For a lot of Egyptians, recent greens are costly and meat is a luxurious, for use in restricted portions in meals.

So bear that in thoughts if you consider residing in Cairo as “low cost”.

What issues price in Cairo

These are some costs of typical issues from a customer’s perspective, in approximate USD/Euro cents:

  • A breakfast sandwich of ful (spiced fava beans), egg and ta’meyya (like falafel): 5 LE, or $0.25 (we’d normally get two every, and felt grasping doing so)
  • Syrian fashion shawerma (like a doner kebab): 25 ($1.25) — a particular luxurious for an area, however an reasonably priced dinner for us
  • Pack of chewing gum: 1.25LE (6 cents)
  • Bag of 5-10 items of baladi bread from a street-side vendor: 5 LE ($0.25)
  • 30 minute journey in an uber throughout a few inner-city suburbs (5-10KM, 3-7 miles): 20 LE ($1)
  • 1 month membership at a very good health club: 300 LE ($15)
  • Metro journey midway throughout the town: 3 LE (15c)
  • Native personal bus (microbus): 1-2 LE (5-10c)

The exception to those low costs (for foreigners) that is how costly vacationer stuff is. There’s a native worth and a overseas worth, and the distinction is giant.

  • Pyramids: 160 ($19) vs native worth of 5LE ($0.25)
  • Cairo Tower: 200 ($21) vs native worth of 35 ($2). (Notice: don’t go to Cairo Tower. The view is boring, and the tower is principally constructed as a center finger to America.)
  • Museum: 80 ($8) vs native worth of usually free
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It is smart — make the points of interest obtainable to locals. Nonetheless, the costs for a lot of of these items are nonetheless giant for a lot of of these attempting to outlive, particularly contemplating the transport required to get out of city to the close by points of interest.

Money in Cairo is King, however Foreign money Merchants are Honest

Egypt is a particularly cash-based society. If you happen to’re residing in Cairo, count on to take out money many instances from ATMs or to vary them on the many banks that provide the trade service. You completely have to develop into acquainted with the cash.

Whereas some higher-end eating places and motels settle for bank cards, Egypt isn’t the sort of place the place you go and cut up the invoice amongst a number of playing cards.

By “higher-end” we don’t imply busy, both; we imply the sort of place that’s extra higher crust. It could be a restaurant that provides cappuccinos or a restaurant that provides wine, for instance.

The perfect factor we discovered is that no person tries to tear you off with the trade fee — not even on the airport! The speed they provide is extraordinarily near the one you’ll discover on Google Finance, and the buy-ask unfold may be very slender.

For instance, when the trade fee was at 17.8, we’d see trade cubicles shopping for USD for 17.76 LE and promoting USD for 17.84 LE. This was an enormous consolation.

In contrast to a lot of the creating world the place you get the most effective costs on the black market (i.e. some man with a wad of payments on the facet of the street, who could provide the flawed amount of cash), you simply go to trade cubicles in Egypt and it’s all very above-board.

In a world the place costs have been at all times semi-random, it was good to not be ripped off on forex, particularly as greater than the rest, we all know how a lot Egyptian Kilos ought to price. From Google.

A couple of good Egyptian cash phrases to make use of whereas residing in Cairo:

  • filoos (فلوس): cash. “ma3leish, ma3indish filoos” means “Sorry, I don’t have any cash.
  • fakkah (فـكّـة): change. “ma3ak fakka?” means “Do you’ve gotten change?
  • gineeh (جـنيه): Egyptian Pound. “khamsa ginee” means “5 Egyptian kilos”.

See right here for our basic information to helpful phrases and phrases in Egyptian Arabic.

It’s Nearly Inconceivable to Purchase EgyptAir Flights On-line

Our bank cards virtually by no means labored on-line when shopping for flights on-line from EgyptAir.

It didn’t matter what we did. We tried the next:

  • Completely different bank cards — all from world-class banks (each Australian and US) like Chase, Commonwealth and Charles Schwab
  • Shopping for tickets when bodily in several nations (e.g. in Australia), or from Egypt
  • Utilizing a VPN to fake we’re some place else — US, Europe, UK, Egypt, didn’t matter
  • Shopping for direct from the airline, or utilizing any of half a dozen intermediaries like Expedia or Kayak
  • Calling the telephone numbers on the web site… none of them labored.
  • Calling the native workplaces, with telephone numbers from the web site or Google… none of them labored.

It was simply not possible. EgyptAir’s on-line/distant customer support is totally non-existent. Not one of the telephones labored!

We scoured TripAdvisor for options and located many individuals with the identical drawback, with no answer.

After coming into all our particulars into the annoying EgyptAir web site eight instances we needed to fly to Egypt utilizing a unique airline (Emirates).

The one manner to purchase EgyptAir flights reliably is in particular person. In Egypt, after we needed to fly from Aswan to Sharm el-Sheikh, the one manner we may purchase tickets from EgyptAir was to go to a customer support desk within the metropolis of Aswan, which was (shockingly, after the absence of assist by way of telephone or on-line) a terrific customer support expertise. Simply very inconvenient.

In fact, you’ll be able to remedy this with an area bank card, in case you’re a resident. Regional playing cards would possibly work too. If anybody else solved this, please inform us!

All Egyptian Meals is Superb and All Eating places Ship

We knew middle-eastern meals was nice, however we didn’t count on each single factor we ate to be this good.

We’re blessed to suppose in US {Dollars} and thus in a position to afford the various various meals that Egypt has to supply. Kebab and Kofta are staples right here, and we think about ourselves very lucky to have the ability to eat them each few days (greater than that isn’t actually good in your abdomen).

Our favorite factor whereas residing in Cairo on chilly days turned how a lot we may order over the telephone. Sure, we did attempt to get on the market and converse to individuals in native eateries on most days. However due to the loopy sport scenario in Cairo, it’s not sensible to get to most elements of the town.

You possibly can order meals in Cairo utilizing two apps: Uber Eats and Otlob. However you’ll be able to order a lot extra in Egypt just by calling any restaurant and asking them to ship. They don’t even cost a supply price (however suggestions are appreciated!)

Sadly, to order meals straight, you completely must name eating places on the telephone — you’ll be able to’t textual content them. It took me a couple of month of residing in Cairo and studying Arabic to work up the braveness. When the meals arrived, it was like magic.

Pictures in Cairo is randomly unlawful

We now have gotten in hassle simply a few instances, however have heard of different individuals being practically arrested for taking a photograph of the wing factor.

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The abstract is: in vacationer locations in Cairo make certain images is permitted. Purchase a allow if you might want to. Don’t attempt to cheat, since you’ll be requested to depart. And in case you’re undecided, be clandestine or simply don’t take pictures.

Here’s a extra detailed record of issues we’ve been instructed you’ll be able to’t do:

  • Don’t take pictures from home windows, for arbitrarily enforced safety causes by bawaab.
  • Don’t take pictures of random buildings as many are political, underground political or army installations. (Chances are you’ll not have seen or been in a position to learn the indicators saying what the constructing is.) You’ll be approached shortly by a guard and instructed to delete the pictures.
  • Don’t let any guard at any web site smile and maintain your digicam for you until you’ve gotten small change available for a tip (5 LE is ok). You don’t must do it.
  • Don’t take pictures of individuals with out their categorical permission as they might consider you’ll use the images towards them, and would possibly trigger a scene. Ladies, particularly, don’t like being photographed. Maintain 5 LE notes available for sometimes-expected suggestions (we haven’t carried out this, though have been provided suggestions for pictures of us!).
  • Don’t take pictures of locations of strategic significance, like airports or army amenities.
  • Don’t take pictures within the museums, tombs or pyramids. It’s principally not allowed.
  • In locations the place images is allowed, count on pay an enormous worth (normally 300 LE, typically greater than 10x the entry price) for a allow. If you happen to don’t have this allow, count on to be noticed taking unlawful pictures and escorted out along with your digicam, and for all of your pictures to be inspected by strict guards. We noticed it occur a number of instances within the Valley of the Kings.
  • Don’t take pictures of — and even close to — police. They’ll and can ask you to delete all of your pictures.
  • Don’t use an enormous digicam, a tripod or different tools on the street.
  • Don’t bribe anybody to allow you to take pictures (it’s not going to finish effectively for you)
  • Don’t take pictures of public demonstrations, protests, riots and the like in case you’re an Egyptian. That’s positively not going to finish effectively.

Simply get a allow. And don’t convey your drone to Egypt.

Undoubtedly Don’t Deliver Drones to Egypt

Don’t convey drones into Egypt. Drones are principally unlawful in Egypt. They’re a safety threat. You may get a allow in idea, however they’re arduous to acquire. Suppose: you will get a drone allow in case you’re a significant media manufacturing company or movie studio.

If you happen to attempt to convey a drone into Egypt they usually catch it, they could confiscate it (it has occurred, from what we’ve heard). We have been fortunate after we arrived; the scanner was very crowded so we have been waved by way of. We nonetheless don’t dare to make use of it, clearly.

If you happen to’re bringing a drone, hold it in your checked baggage. The distant, too. We’ve examine some instances the place on the way in which out, guards discovered a drone in hand baggage. They requested to see the reminiscence card. After confirming the drone hadn’t been used, they requested for it to be put into checked baggage.

Once we exited Egypt, they discovered our drone, however we “gifted” them one thing else from our baggage they usually waived us by way of. They have been glad and stunned we spoke Arabic, in order that helped!

Males Maintain Arms in Cairo Extra Usually than {Couples} Do

{Couples} normally don’t maintain fingers in public in Cairo. It’s not unlawful to carry fingers; the truth is, I doubt it could be frowned upon. However we noticed few individuals doing it. For {couples}, the standard type of women and men interacting (aside from no touching in any respect) is for the girl to string her arm by way of the person’s, or to carry on to it.

Nonetheless, we do see some uncommon methods through which individuals contact in public or show affection in Cairo. Listed here are a few of them:

  • Males kiss one another on the cheek twice. That is frequent within the area. Equally, however in a different way to Europe, women and men by no means kiss one another in any respect in public — positively not on the mouth. (Once more, a married couple kissing wouldn’t be unlawful, however could also be frowned upon and appeal to undesirable consideration from bawaab, police and so forth).
  • Males could embrace one another, however women and men don’t usually embrace until the girl is a foreigner. It’s not dangerous or embarrassing once they do, however an area man typically feels uncomfortable.
  • Males usually maintain fingers, nevertheless it’s nowhere close to as frequent as India or Pakistan. Ladies maintain fingers too clearly.
  • When joking round, there’s loads of hand slapping, like high-fiving. Form of like an aggressive handshake the place you slap fingers and snort. “Yeah man! Woo!”
  • When greeting a lady, let her provoke any bodily contact, equivalent to extending a hand to shake it. This is applicable whether or not you’re a person or a lady.
  • All handshakes are extraordinarily limp, whether or not with males or ladies. They’re principally simply holding fingers and shifting them barely.

Go See the Metropolis Earlier than Prayer Time on Friday

Friday is the primary day of relaxation in Islamic nations. And in Islam, the Friday midday prayer is crucial prayer of the week. Earlier than the midday prayer, the town of Cairo is principally a ghost city.

If you happen to’re in search of that excellent Instagram shot with empty streets, go at daybreak on a Friday. Irrespective of how busy the place you’re going to (aside from the caveat under), you’ll have it to your self.

One caveat: Mosques are busier on Friday. If you wish to go to a well-known mosque, higher to go on any day however Friday.

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