Egypt is at the crossroads of the Middle East and Africa. As such it has a rich history stretching back from before the time of the pyramids, through to the Roman conquests, the crusades and the Ottoman Empire. Modern day Egypt can be dusty, dirty, chaotic, and downright bewildering to a newcomer. And yet there is something very seductive about this country steeped in history. The people are warm and very hospitable. Whilst the cacophony of noise can be overwhelming, it is also fascinating as you witness people going about their everyday lives.
In many places outside of Cairo a traveller can still see glimpses of what life was like in medieval times. However, international investors continue to pour money into infrastructure projects in Egypt as they seek to get a foothold in this developing market. New highways, malls and state of the art housing developments are springing up everywhere.
If you come to work in Egypt, you will need to expect things to go wrong from time to time. Things are done differently and at a different pace than in Western countries. The driving in some parts of Cairo can mimic a crazy play station game. However, once you come to understand how Cairo works, it is possible to discover logic, even advantages, in the chaos.
It is very possible to maintain a good standard of living, travel regularly, eat frequently at restaurants and still put aside a sizeable sum of money in savings each month. The cost of living in Egypt is very low for the average expatriate teacher.
There is a lot to do in the evenings and weekends, with a very active social scene amongst expatriate and local nationals. A host of gymnasiums and sports clubs are available for the more active, while there is a thriving arts scene in Cairo. It is very easy to get away to countries in Africa and Europe, or local desert areas and beaches.
Most staff live either near the school in New Cairo or in a historic area of Cairo called Maadi. There is a variety of accommodation on offer and much of it within easy walking distance to the school. Single staff tend to opt for Maadi, where there is more expat night life, restaurants, and weekend activities. Families tend to opt for New Cairo, close to the school so that their children are close to where many of their new classmates will be living. The staff housing subsidy will cover a 1 or 2 bedroom furnished flat in historic Maadi, but many staff choose to pay a little more and select the residence which most equates to their new ex pat life style. School transport carries staff on a daily basis to school, with a choice of 3 bus times for the return journey, depending on afternoon school commitments.
Local supermarkets provide a wide range of foods and British cereal products and international brands are readily available. Branches of the Carrefour chain offer a wider selection, as well as electro-domestic products like toasters, kettles, microwaves and IT equipment. Alcohol and pork products are available from designated suppliers.
There are also local furniture and furnishing department stores for household products at prices similar to the UK, and this has improved still further with the recent opening of IKEA. Marks and Spencer and a (small) Debenhams. Cairo Festival City and City Stars malls provide a full range of fashion clothes, shoes, sports ware, book shops and in fact every type of product you would expect in a major city mall.
Cairo is a huge city and weekends (Fridays and Saturdays) offer a chance to explore the city, gardens, architecture, museums and the pyramids. The expat BCA clubs show premier league football, cricket and rugby. At holiday time and long weekends, most staff take advantage of the proximity of the Red Sea Coast, the desert oases, or a flight to Luxor or Aswan. Many go further afield to Dubai, Cyprus, the Maldives, or return to see relatives in their home nation. There is a travel company representative in school to help with travel arrangements. There is also a school social committee and the Parents’ Group offers induction days and local visits for spouses and new families in both the local area and downtown.