Living in Cairo
Egypt is an adventurous experience for incoming students, faculty and staff. Here are some tips on how to make a smooth transition; find out more about Egyptian people, culture, availability of goods and services and transportation.
It is quite possible to arrive with little more than the clothes on your back and survive in Cairo. Nearly anything you could possibly need is now available if you are willing to pay the price. In an effort to balance trade and encourage local industries, Egypt imposes high duties on most imported consumer goods. As a result, such products may be more expensive when compared to locally manufactured goods.
In this section, we mention some things that you might want to consider bringing from home. Obviously, not enough consumables can be brought for a whole year but a small supply of family favorites to be used on special occasions will make for a happier transition. A few pictures, posters or special mementos carried in your suitcase can go a long way in ensuring that you and your family feel instantly at home. Note that if substantial quantities of foodstuffs, toiletries, and cosmetics are imported into your air freight, they will be subject to Egyptian customs duties.
This is a basic list to help you with ideas for packing and preparing for your time at AUC, but make sure you take into account your personal style, comfort, and needs. Most things are available in Cairo, so don’t weigh yourself down with things that can be purchased abroad. Remember that in Cairo you will find a drastically different climate, as well as a very different culture – we suggest reading up on Egypt to help you decide what to bring. Remember, this gives you a basic idea of what you might need while in Cairo, but is not exhaustive – you will be your best judge of what you need to bring!
- Airline Tickets
- Driver’s License
- SIC Card/Student ID (You will be issued an AUC Student ID as well, but it is helpful to bring your home institution’s ID along too! Having a Student ID will make it easier to get reduced fees for many tourist destinations in Egypt.)
- Credit/Debit Card
- Photocopies of Important Documents (passport, ATM/credit card, medical documents, immunization records, birth certificate, etc.)
- Important phone numbers (Bank, Home Institution/Study Abroad Advisor, Parents, etc.)
- Guidebooks to Egypt and/or Cairo
- Money belt or pouch
Remember to look into what is considered culturally appropriate when choosing what to pack. If you think you will feel uncomfortable in something, or if you think you will stand out, you probably will. Layering is a great idea, as the weather tends to change throughout the day. Also, don’t overload yourself with clothes. Pack light – you can purchase clothes in Cairo, as well as use the University’s laundry services.
- 1 pair dress shoes
- 1 pair comfortable sneakers
- 1 pair sandals
- 5 dress shirts
- 5 casual shirts
- 1 nice outfit for special events
- 2 pair of dress pants/skirts
- 2 pairs of casual pants/jeans
- 10 pairs socks/underwear
- Workout clothing/footwear
- 1 bathing suit
- 1 warm coat or jacket (it can get cold at night, even in Cairo!)
- Sunglasses (the desert sun can be harmful to your eyes, you will definitely need these!)
Most toiletries can be purchased in Egypt, so pack only name brand items you think might be hard to get abroad. A good idea might be to bring a small or travel-sized amount of toiletries, then buying more once you get to Cairo from a store or pharmacy.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Glasses/Contact Lenses (with contact solution, spares, and carrying cases)
- Prescription medication (see Medical Section of Information Packet)
- Shampoo/Conditioner/Hair Products
- Travel towel/hand towel (If you are staying in the dorms, towels are provided with your linens)
- Feminine hygiene products
- Basic first aid kit and medications (Advil/Tylenol, Pepto Bismol, Immodium, etc.)
Remember, if you think you can’t live without something, you might regret not bringing it. We suggest only packing essentials and avoiding extras or irreplaceable items. Don’t weigh yourself down with things you don’t need!
- Battery operated alarm clock
- Backpack/bag for school, day trips, or exploring the city
- Camera/Film/Digital Card Reader/Chargers
- mp3 Player and headphones
- Adapter plugs/Convertor (These are also easily available in Cairo – Egypt uses European style, two-pronged plugs)
- Refillable water bottle (We recommend students ONLY drink filtered or bottled water in Egypt, but the New Cairo campus has filtered water fountains that are safe for drinking.)
- Bug spray
- Extra batteries
- Sewing kit
- Arabic language phrasebook and/or dictionary
- Special school supplies
- Addresses and photos of family and friends
Note: If you are planning on traveling around the Middle East or North Africa a great deal, it might be a good idea to invest in an internal frame or backpacking pack – it might not always be easy to carry a large suitcase, and it will give you more flexibility when traveling.
Cairo is undoubtedly a populous urban center; however the majority of Egyptians inhabit rural areas. These are mostly the fellahin (farmers) whose way of life has centered in villages and the fields surrounding them. The construction of the High Dam in Aswan ended the flood cycle of the Nile and drew the fellahin even further into the world economic system. Other elements of the Egyptian population traditionally rooted in non-urban areas are the Bedouin, and the Nubians, people who lived in an area south of Aswan along the Nile. When the rising water behind the High Dam displaced the Nubians, the Egyptian government relocated them to new villages, mainly north of Aswan. Cities like Cairo and Alexandria are a blend of many peoples and cultures resulting from successive invasions and migrations since pharaonic times. Greeks, Romans, Jews, Armenians, Arabs and Italians, among others, came from outside Egypt. Some groups formed their own communities and others mixed more readily with the local population. Today’s migration to the urban centers is composed mainly of Egyptians from rural areas who swell the ranks of the urban poor — people beginning the transition from an agricultural economy to the industrial and service sectors. The urban middle class is growing as the modern economic sector expands; it includes businessmen, educators, government officials and other professionals. The urban upper class consists of families that have been prominent for generations as landowners and the educated elite, as well as newly arrived members from the middle class who achieved prosperity during and since the Nasser and Sadat eras. The children of the urban middle and upper classes are AUC’s main constituency.
The weather in Cairo is hot in the summer and chilly in winter. The average annual rainfall is 1.6 inches. Most of the rain falls during the winter, usually as brief showers. Winter days in Cairo are often sunny, but after sundown the temperature drops sharply to as low as 45 degrees Fahrenheit (8 degrees Celsius). Warmer temperatures in the spring are sometimes accompanied by the khamaseen, a hot, dry wind from the south, which fills the air with fine dust, intermittently, over a period of fifty days. Newcomers not familiar with a desert climate are usually prepared for the heat, but not for the cold.
Dust and pollution are to be expected when one is dealing with the Sahara Desert and life in a big city. If you have respiratory problems that may be exacerbated by the dust, seek your physician’s advice. Air pollution by industry and automobile exhaust is a year-round problem. Smoking is not the social taboo it is in Western countries, so be prepared to find smokers everywhere. Some attempts are being made to create smoke-free environments and AUC has instituted a no smoking rule applied to all AUC buildings.
Sometimes newcomers wonder why we are not asked to separate our garbage in our homes for recycling. In fact, Egypt has one of the most thorough recycling systems in the world. The garbage collectors ("zabbaleen") take all of the garbage to an area where every single thing is sorted by hand and then recycled. What cannot be recycled is very often burned, which, unfortunately, adds to the pollution. You can find more information about the garbage collectors here.
Traffic in Cairo is something to be considered. Getting around Cairo has become in the recent years a problem throughout the day. Traffic and car horns also contribute heavily to noise pollution. Some AUC relocated faculty members own cars but others, daunted by the traffic and parking problems, manage without one. There are taxis, buses and minibuses. The Cairo metro provides convenient low-cost transport to areas of Cairo, but is often crowded during rush hours.
Travel within Egypt
Travel within Egypt is easy and affordable. Inner Egypt travel can be accommodated via comfortable A/C buses, first class sleeper trains and domestic flights. However, for security reasons there are still some areas off the main roads and away from the heavily frequented tourist sites where foreigners may not usually travel without a police escort. It is also very common to see police cars escorting tourist buses.
The Arabic Language
As a result of historical, cultural and regional factors, spoken and written Arabic have evolved differently through the centuries. Colloquial Arabic is the term used to describe the various dialects that most Arabs use in conversation. These dialects differ from one another on several levels. Customarily, colloquial Arabic is not a written language, although today there is a body of modern literature, especially plays by distinguished playwrights, using colloquial dialects.
Classical Arabic is the term used to designate the traditionally written forms of Arabic. There are essentially three forms of Classical Arabic: Quranic, literary, and modern standard. Modern standard Arabic is the form used by educated Arabs today for reading and writing, and occasionally for speaking. It evolved from Quranic and literary Arabic much as modern English evolved from the English of Chaucer and Shakespeare. A special form of modern standard is media Arabic, which one hears on radio and television, especially in news broadcasts. Media Arabic is a somewhat simplified form of modern standard and is influenced from one region to another by local dialects.
When taking up the study of Arabic, one must be reasonably sure of one’s purpose. Learning colloquial Arabic and the Arabic script, while not obligatory, will help the newcomer feel more at ease and independent. It certainly helps in communicating orally in everyday situations and in reading store and street signs. Those with a long-term commitment to learning to read standard Arabic will then later want to study modern standard Arabic. Egyptians appreciate any efforts foreigners make to learn Arabic, so one need not feel uncomfortable as a beginner.
An introduction to basic Egyptian Arabic course is offered at the New Faculty Orientation before the fall semester starts.
In most respects, professional and collegial relations in Egypt are very much like their counterparts elsewhere. Faculty relocated from Europe, North America or Australia may find that the personal lives of their Egyptian friends and colleagues are more conservative than they are accustomed to, however, since tradition, family, religion, paternal authority and social-class distinctions are very important, It is important to be respectful of the protocols of Egyptian society. A few aspects that warrant special attention are: ethnic identity, clothing, male-female relations, drugs, alcohol, gambling and religion.
While Egypt (with the exception of the Sinai Peninsula) lies geographically on the African continent, most Egyptians consider themselves to be more Mediterranean and Arab than African. In fact, Egyptians often refer to themselves as the descendants of the pharaohs in describing how they are different from other peoples, including other Arabs. Except for sharing the same continent, Egyptians often seem not to relate to the cultures of sub-Saharan Africa. African and African-American people are often surprised by this fact when they come to Egypt. Even if you are Muslim, you will still be primarily identified as a foreigner in Egypt and will be expected to adjust yourself, as sensitively as possible, to the prevailing customs and norms.
The first concern of most young Egyptians is their family. Most live at home in a close-knit family atmosphere and have social obligations to family members. Traditionally, any major decision for the child, such as the choice of a school or a mate, is a collective family decision. A primary concern in such decisions revolves around how that choice will reflect on the family and be perceived by broader society. With the advent of modern university co-education, young people have more opportunities to meet and work with members of the opposite sex without parental supervision, but social life on or off campus still occur mainly in groups, often at parties in homes. Dating before becoming engaged is not a common practice.
In Egyptian society as a whole, the degree of social conservatism of a woman’s background may govern where and in whose company she may go and what she may do. Most non-Egyptian women enjoy considerably more latitude than their Egyptian counterparts but any woman, Egyptian or foreign, needs to be sensitive. The woman who ignores social conventions may face social disapproval and unwelcome advances.
While young Egyptian men are free to associate with the opposite sex and may date, women—both Egyptian and foreign—who do so risk being assumed to be sexually available. The international media convey an often exaggerated picture of the lives of young people in Europe and North America as quite libertine and amoral; obviously, this is inaccurate, but it does color how Egyptians interpret the behavior of foreigners, particularly young women. Some of this is situational: male foreigners have found that some young Egyptian women who are willing to talk to them on campus are shy to do so off campus because convention dictates that unmarried men and women should not mix freely unsupervised.
Although the conventional greeting among friends and often colleagues is a light kiss on both cheeks, particularly religious men sometimes prefer not to shake hands with women. Beyond holding hands, public displays of affection, even between married couples, are inappropriate and embarrassing to Egyptians.
Safety and Harassments
The crime rate in Egypt has considered low and violent crimes are rare compared to many big cities in the world. However, since January 2011, pickpockets, purse-snatchers and car robberies have increased. Women harassment in the streets, especially in crowded areas, has also dramatically increased, whoever women are or wear. There is still considerable social self-policing in Egyptian society; often a woman in distress will find someone coming to her aid.
Drugs, Alcohol and Gambling
Egyptian law prescribes severe punishments for persons found guilty of using illegal drugs and even more severe penalties for those selling them.
Egyptian law prohibits the serving or drinking of alcohol in public except in licensed restaurants, hotels, tourist establishments and clubs. Locally made beer and wine are available in shops around Cairo. Imported wine and spirits can be purchased at Duty Free Stores within 48 hours after each arrival in Egypt, up to a maximum of four arrivals per calendar year. There are several duty free shops in Cairo, in addition to the airport shop. A passport confirming date of arrival must be presented by the owner at the time of purchase.
Gambling is also frowned upon and is actually forbidden by Islamic religious law. There are gambling casinos in Cairo serving the international tourist trade where Egyptians are not admitted.
All foreigners in Egypt are subject to Egyptian law. If an American is arrested, the American consul can only provide the individual with a list of Egyptian attorneys, visit him or her in prison, and help him or her to communicate with relatives.
Religion is a powerful influence in Egyptian life. Whether Muslim or Christian, and despite many different levels of adherence, all Egyptians take religion seriously. Most Egyptians cannot conceive of one being agnostic or atheist. Phrases like "enshallah" (God willing) and il-ham-du lil-leh (thanks be to God) are heard frequently in conversations among Egyptians, and they are usually spoken with heartfelt sincerity.
Take care to show proper respect for Egyptians’ attitudes and sensitivities concerning religion. Refrain from initiating conversations with Egyptians in which you compare Islam or Coptic Christianity unfavorably with your own religious beliefs. Keep in mind that proselytizing is forbidden by law in Egypt and can lead to the non-renewal of a foreigner’s work permit, deportation or jail.
While you are in Egypt, you might need services from the consular section of your embassy. We encourage you to visit your embassy's website to get familiar with the services they can provide you in Cairo. You might want to avoid potential difficulties by bringing originals of official documents (some are listed below) with you when you move to Cairo.
If you think you will need to have documents notarized while you are in Egypt, resident Americans strongly recommend you consider designating someone with the power of attorney who will then be able to have a document notarized on your behalf. This can be a complicated matter and it is best if it can be done in the United States. The American Embassy in Cairo provides a notary service, you will need to contact the Embassy and ask for an appointment in advance.
If you have a particular medical problem, carry a card specifying your condition and describing any medications that should or should not be given. The World Health Organization immunization card is a handy record of your immunizations, blood type and other data and may be required if you travel to certain areas of the world with endemic diseases.
International identity cards:
An international identity card, available for high school or college-age students and faculty /teacher members, might be useful. This is the only internationally recognized proof of student or faculty status that will give the cardholders access to discounts in many countries, including Egypt. The student and teacher cards are valid for one year. You may search on Google for an organization in your country that issues the international student/faculty card. You may also get these cards online. For more information, you may visit one of these organizations' website.
International driver’s license:
This document has to be arranged from your home country before coming to Egypt. With this license and one’s own driver’s license, the bearer can drive in Egypt until a temporary residence visa is issued. Then an Egyptian driver’s license can be obtained. With an Egyptian driver’s license, a bearer can get an International driver’s license issued by the Automobile and Touring Club of Egypt.
International credit cards:
Read the money matters section in this document.
Married couples sometimes find it necessary to carry their original marriage license when traveling in the Middle East. If the husband and wife don't use the same family name, the certificate will also be required in Cairo to document a spouse's application for a residence visa.
This is essential for renewing passports and may be useful as additional proof of age.
Academic credit and transcripts:
In case any AUC employee or dependent wishes to enroll in undergraduate, graduate or Arabic courses while at AUC, you should bring any relevant academic transcripts.
Voting registration cards:
If you are American and will be in Cairo during a federal election in which you wish to vote, you should check before departure with your hometown election board to confirm that you are registered in order to apply for an absentee ballot. The same advice applies to other nationalities.
Any necessary tax documents should be brought in your personal baggage. You might arrange prior to your move to Egypt for a professional to file your taxes while in Egypt, or at least get as much information as you can on how to file your taxes while abroad. Please note that neither AUC nor the U.S. or other embassies in Cairo provides tax-related services. Thus, you should plan accordingly. If you plan to have tax documents sent to you in Egypt, you can have them sent via the AUC New York Office. In that case, we advise you to inform the New York Office in advance so they will send it with their weekly mail pouch to AUC Cairo.
U.S. Postage stamps:
The AUC faculty services office arranges a bi-monthly Federal Express mail pouch for personal faculty mail (documents only) to the AUC New York Office, which then sends them via standard US Mail. Therefore, Americans should bring sufficient U.S. postage stamps with them if they wish to send letters on a regular basis via this service. They may also want to send stamped letters with a traveling colleague.
You should also bring some small denomination stamps to cover increased postal rates, should they occur. If at one point you run out of your own stamps, you can buy the needed stamps from the Office of Faculty Services Office or the Office of the Provost until you are able to get more. Non-Americans who would like to use this service can buy U.S. stamps from these offices.
Ready-made clothes in many styles can be found in Cairo, including many with international brand names. There are also tailors and dressmakers who can copy clothes or make clothes using magazine photos. Many types of fabrics and sewing notions are available. Commercial patterns are not.
Socks and underwear (for men, women and children) are readily available in department stores and specialty shops. Because of different sizing and limited styling, it is recommended that women bring whatever bras they think they may need until they locate a shop that has their styles.
Egyptian-made sandals and shoes are available in a variety of sizes and styles. Imported shoes are also available but can be extremely expensive. Narrow widths and half sizes are hard to find, even for imported shoes. You should plan on bringing sturdy, everyday walking shoes for each family member. Parents should consider bringing larger, extra size shoes for children to grow into. Specialty shoes for a particular sport such as baseball or track should be included in items to bring.
Sporting Clothing and Supplies:
Quality clothing and equipment for sports can be expensive or difficult to find. You should consider bringing specialty sports items or apparel with you. Tennis balls, wood racquets and nylon strings are available but can be very expensive.
Those who plan to go snorkeling in the Red Sea will find a full range of good quality equipment for rent or sale. If you already have your own gear for scuba diving, you may as well bring it. A mask, lightweight wetsuit and dive computer will suffice.
Kitchen equipment and household supplies:
AUC flats come supplied with basic kitchen equipment including utensils, linens and tableware, all of which can be supplemented from the local market. You may find the inventory of the AUC flats on the AUC housing office website. Paper products, cleaning and laundry supplies are readily available.
Cookware and electrical appliances:
Cookware and electrical appliances are also available throughout Cairo, but if you already have small kitchen appliances you may consider bringing them. See tips under Electricity in Egypt to help you make your choice. Also remember that appliances imported to Egypt under temporary admission must be taken out of Egypt at the end of the owner’s stay, even if they no longer work. You may want to bring specialty kitchen utensils that may make you feel at home, such as special baking tins, paring knives, a meat thermometer, or holiday cookie cutters.
Computers and printers:
AUC provides faculty with up-to-date computing facilities and services in their offices. Computers, laptops and printers are available in Cairo at a wide range of prices depending on desired amenities.
Small electrical appliances:
Radios, televisions, satellites, audio and video equipment, vacuum cleaners and microwaves are available in plentiful supply on the local market.
You will need to determine how important these things are to your individual family and weigh the convenience against the cost. If you bring such items in your freight shipment, therefore, under the temporary admission status (otherwise you will need to pay the customs duties upon entry of these items in Egypt) you must take them with you when you leave, regardless of their condition.
Small radios and regular cameras are not a problem. Note that taking pictures of airports, bridges, military areas and other special installations is forbidden in Egypt.
AUC does not provide washing machines. There are laundry rooms in AUC New Cairo housing that are accessible for all tenants at an extra charge. Outsource laundry and dry-cleaning services are not expensive by western standards. New washing machines can be purchased locally for about EGP 5,000.00 (used machines for less). Depending on the condition, washing machines can be sold for a fair price when leaving the country. It should be noted that some people who are leaving Egypt would be selling washing machines and other items that they no longer need. Ads are posted on the AUC Faculty Services Committee website.
There is an abundant supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and fish in the markets of Egypt as well as a growing variety of frozen and processed items. Some, but not all, spices for Asian and Indian food are available; if not available in the supermarkets, they might be available in spices shops. Very serious "chefs" who cannot find substitutes bring small supplies of their favorite spices and ingredients that are not available in Cairo on their annual trips back home.
Medical supplies and toiletries:
Toiletries, cosmetics and medications are available in Cairo, although not necessarily in the brands you use. You might bring an extra unit of your favorite items, just to give yourself time to locate local equivalents. See Healthcare in Cairo mentioned below for a shortlist of Egyptians over the counter-drugs with their American counterparts for common ailments (diarrhea, sore muscles, lack of sleep, headache, gas, heartburn, colds, seasonal allergy).
Sunscreen is available. If you wear contact lenses, you may want to bring the necessary cleaning supplies. Tampons and panty-liners are available in pharmacies and supermarkets. Those who use contraceptives should bring an adequate supply of your own brand.
The University clinic advises anyone using prescription drugs for long-term maintenance of any chronic ailment to bring at least a three-month supply of the required medicine. The medicines should be in their original, labeled containers along with the prescriptions, to avoid problems with customs officers. You should also know the generic name of the drug. Although most prescription drugs are available in Cairo, not all pharmacies are well-stocked or they may carry a similar product, but not the one you use. Also, on occasion, the Egyptian pharmaceutical industry has quality control problems.
Good quality eyeglasses with glass or plastic lenses can be made in Egypt for a reasonable price. This includes bifocals and multi-focal, but not trifocal, lenses. Contact lenses are available; however, dust can cause severe irritation and infections for some people. If you wear contact lenses, be sure to bring regular eyeglasses in case lens wearing becomes impractical.
Many different makes and models of new and used automobiles are available on the local market and can now be purchased on the installment plan. For short-term use, cars can be rented (with or without a driver) from several internationally known agencies. There are taxis, buses and a metro that will serve your transportation needs in the greater Cairo area. First-class buses and trains are very well developed for trips outside Cairo. Uber services are also available and widely used.
AUC is providing free bus transportation for its employees from different neighborhoods to the New Cairo Campus. You may visit AUC’s transportation website to learn more about the routes and the schedules.
AUC provides furniture and household utensils, bedding (measurement for bedding is stated in the housing inventory online), and towels. You may want to look at the AUC housing office website where you will find a link to the Manual for Faculty Housing and the housing inventory.
The electricity in Cairo, as in Europe, is 220 Volt and the electricity in the United States/Canada is 110 Volt. In addition, the 220V wall outlets in Egypt might be different from the 220V wall outlets in Europe, but certainly, have different style plugs than the 110V U.S. outlets. The prongs are round and may be of different sizes.
All equipment and appliances have power ratings written on them,
e.g.: A/C: 110 V 60 Hz 50W used in the U.S. only
Or A/C: 110/220 V 50/60 Hz 10W can be used in Egypt
Normally laptops and notebook computers come with the power supply rating of input 100-240 V 50/60 Hz. Can be safely used in Egypt
Plug adapter and voltage transformers:
In order to adapt a 110V appliance with flat prongs to an Egyptian socket that requires round prongs, you will need a plug adapter. A variety of adapters are readily available in Cairo. Using a plug adapter absent a voltage transformer or regulator will result in destroyed appliances. Be particularly cautious about voltage regulation when setting up household appliances.
A voltage transformer is used to convert the local 220V electricity to 110V. However, the electricity in Cairo varies i.e. the voltage is not always 220V. It can surge as high as 320V or drop as low as 160V. This fluctuation in voltage can damage appliances like computers, printers, televisions and stereos. Voltage regulators or stabilizers can be used to keep the voltage between acceptable levels. Voltage transformers and stabilizers are readily available throughout Cairo. They come with capacities from 50 to 2500 watts. A 500-watt model will work well with a computer, printer and stereo, and a 1000-watt model may be required for a laser printer and a microwave.
The AUC housing office can provide, on request, relocated faculty with one transformer and plug adapters for their apartment. An AUC electrician will go to inspect the machine that needs a transformer and will buy the transformer accordingly.
You might need a power strip in conjunction with a voltage transformer for electronics utilizing 110V. Power strips are not transformers. Usually, the power strips available in Cairo don’t have built-in surge protectors. Make sure that you buy a power strip of good quality with an appropriate power cord, and adaptor to suit your needs. In doubt, when you are in Cairo, please contact the AUC housing office for advice.
Although electrical appliances are usually more expensive in Cairo it is advisable to buy them when you get to Cairo, unless you come from a country that uses 220V. The convenience of being able to just plug it in is worth the cost. You can usually sell these items very quickly when you are planning to leave Egypt.
In summer, lightweight, loose-fitting, all-cotton clothes are the coolest and the most comfortable. Cotton-synthetic blends are serviceable in the spring and fall. Breathable fabrics are best for the hottest days. Note that many places in Cairo do have air conditioning including cinemas, restaurants and AUC New Cairo campus, so you will need to dress accordingly.
In winter, central heating is available in some buildings but not in others. As such, one should plan to wear layers of clothing. It can be cold in the mornings and evenings but hot in the mid-day, so layers work best outdoors. Wools and wool/synthetic blends (preferably washable) will be a welcome addition to your winter wardrobe. Cotton turtlenecks are great for layering under sweaters, and a durable and versatile winter jacket is essential, as well as lightweight long underwear. For women, cardigans, shawls or scarves are highly useful. Heavy winter sleepers are recommended for small children.
What to wear versus what Egyptians wear:
Dress in Egypt can range from traditional to contemporary and everything in between. Generally speaking, Egyptians take pride in dressing as well or as neatly as their budgets will allow. Dress amongst Egyptian women is sometime conservative. In most areas, Egyptian women do not wear sundresses or halter-tops, shorts, miniskirts or clothes made of see-through or translucent fabrics. Egyptian women might wear bathing suits, only in very exclusive holiday resorts. Women typically wear athletic outfits that cover their legs and part of their arms.
Most new faculty will find their present mode of dress quite acceptable in Egypt. Any clothing regarded as unconventional in your home country will be considered unconventional in Egypt. Those inclined to be mavericks in their style of dress may not be understood or appreciated. Unusual styles of dress may inhibit communication with many Egyptians by conveying non-verbal messages that offend, embarrass or mystify them.
Generally, men can dress as they do in their home countries. A suit, slacks and/or blazer combination is generally appropriate for most social and official functions. At the Grand Hall of the Opera House, men are required to wear jackets and ties. On-campus, male faculty members dress casually in sports shirts, slacks or jeans, adding a jacket or sweater in cooler weather. However, some professors prefer suits and ties.
In hot weather, female foreigners can manage with short-sleeved blouses. Sleeveless blouses or dresses should be worn in the streets with a cover-up such as a shawl. This stems from the fact that tank tops, halters, and other sleeveless attire can attract unwelcome attention, especially when worn by women walking alone. In the classroom, many female faculty members wear slacks or jeans. Dresses, t-shirts, and blouses should have modest necklines and hems should be below the knee.
Reliable medical and paramedical personnel staff the AUC clinic. If necessary, the University physicians will refer patients to specialists outside the AUC clinic. There are very good doctors and dentists in Cairo, many of whom have studied abroad and spoken English. There are government and private hospitals, as well as health clinics throughout Cairo and other major cities. It is common that office receptionists, nurses and lab technicians do not speak English.
Pharmacists usually speak English. Below is a shortlist of Egyptian over-the-counter drugs with their American counterparts for common ailments (diarrhea, sore muscles, lack of sleep, headache, gas, heartburn, colds, seasonal allergy).
Category American Product Egyptian Product Anti-Fever Tylenol Cough and Cold/Tylenol Fever Panadol Cold, Adol Extra, Paramol Constipation Philips’ Colon Health/
Purgaton, Royal Tea Anti-diarrhea/heartburn Pepto-Bismol/Prevacid Smecta, Intitrex, Antinal Common cold Tylenol Congestal, 123 Antispasmodic Spasmopyralgin, Buscapan, Viceralgin, Petro Headache Advil/Sudafed/Benadryl/ Excedrin Migraine Excedrine Vitamins Centrum Vitamax, Centrum Hay fever (allergy to pollen/dust) Alavert/Loratadine/Claritin Claritine Pain reliever/cream Bengay/Mineral Ice Execdrin/Buprofen/Bayer Bengay, Celedrex, Algesal Contraceptive pills Morning-after pill Morning-after Cough/drops Robitussin /Cepacol Tussilar Pain and sleep disorder Melatonin Exatin, Vivamax
However, it is recommended to consult a doctor for any health problems. The AUC clinic doctors are available in the AUC Tahrir Square and New Campus clinics, and after the clinic’s working hours, one can reach them through their mobile phone numbers, which we will available upon your arrival in Cairo.
Although there can be health hazards, keeping healthy in Egypt is generally a simple matter of practicing good sanitation and health habits. A session on health will be a part of the newcomers’ orientation.
This section has been specially developed for faculty members and other individuals who are coming to AUC from other countries and will be bringing children with them, and for individuals who plan to have children in the near future.
Based on the personal experiences of parents who helped develop these pages, we have used a variety of schedules to convey cost and other information to assist potential and new arrivals in making a variety of childcare decisions. To assist in comparisons, all prices, except as otherwise noted, are reflected in U.S. dollars. Additionally, if an email address is indicated, the specified individual invites your questions based on his/her own experiences.
Nannies are available to work part-time, full-time or live-in. They might be Egyptian but also could be Sudanese, Ethiopian, Nigerian, Filipino or Indonesian. Salaries may vary according to their nationality and the demand, as there is no standard wage.
Salaries for full-time (five or six days a week) nannies may range from $450 to $700 per month depending on the requirements of the employer, which may include some or all of the following: working hours, education, language skills, literacy, previous experience/references, driving skills, safety/first aid knowledge and training.
As is the case throughout the world, locating a nanny who best suits your individual expectations can be a laborious process. You must be prepared to try several candidates until you find someone who meets your requirements. Nannies are generally recruited by word of mouth, although some individuals report success through classified advertisements. Departing faculty or those who don't need a nanny anymore may provide reference letters to the AUC Faculty Services Office so you may start your search from there. Other AUC parents may also be a good source of information.
Babysitters are available on an as-needed basis. Middle and upper-middle-class Egyptian families generally do not permit their children to babysit, except as a favor (i.e. no payment). Egyptian babysitters are considered domestic workers and can be located in the same manner as nannies. American students or interns, either from AUC or Cairo American College (CAC), are very often available to babysit and can be located through an ad or by word of mouth. The typical fee for a babysitter is between $5 and $7 per hour.
Preschool nursery/daycare centers:
There are several preschool nursery or daycare centers in Cairo that teach in English, usually operating between 7:30 am and 4:00 pm five or six days a week. Recommendations from other AUC parents can be provided on request. A private daycare center operates on the AUC New Cairo campus and gives priority to AUC employees. Interested parents can visit the center's website and reserve a place before moving to Cairo.
For families needing special assistance with their children, there are a few recommended places, among them the Learning Resource Center, the Maadi Psychology Center and the elementary/special needs department of the American International School (AIS).
Most childcare equipment (e.g. strollers, walkers) is available for purchase in Egypt. Items not manufactured locally are substantially more expensive. Additionally, there is limited retail competition, which keeps the prices high for specialty items. Although used items are difficult to find at reasonable prices and should not be seen as a readily available alternative, occasionally items will be posted for sale on the Faculty Services website, under “Used Items for Sale.”
Many sundry items (e.g. disposable diapers, baby bottles, bottle warmers) are available for purchase, although some items may be more difficult to locate. Children’s clothing and toys are widely available, for all ages. Items manufactured locally can vary greatly in quality, and those not manufactured locally are substantially more expensive.
Diaper services are not available. Cloth diapers are available in Egypt. The well-known U.S. brand bumGenius manufactures some of their products in Egypt. If they cannot be found in your local neighborhood, then they can be purchased directly from the manufacturer from here.
Packaged food, including prepared baby food, although processed locally, is substantially more expensive than in the United States. Home preparation utilizing a food processor is an option, particularly with the abundance of good quality, cheap local fruit and vegetables.
Family health care:
A list of recommended child health care providers will be available when you arrive. The AUC clinic can also provide recommendations. All physicians speak some level of English but office personnel may not. Vaccines are available, although they are not always ‘on hand’ so may need to be ordered in when you require them.
You should keep a schedule of what vaccines to request, as physicians may not specifically recommend them. Tipping is customary for non-physician personnel in a hospital setting.
Health care products which can be acquired locally:
Item Description Comments Bottled water Can be purchased or water should be boiled for young children Family planning Some barrier methods and spermicides not available; Condoms, birth control pills (limited brands), depo provera and IUD available Child medication Baby/infant Tylenol, multiple vitamins, Orajel and their equivalents have limited availability and can be up to 10 times more expensive than in the United States
Parks and other recreational facilities:
There are very limited public parks in Cairo. Recreational activities areas include social private sporting clubs (with membership) in different areas in Cairo and its suburbs where Egyptian families gather in the evenings and on weekends. These clubs include restaurants, swimming pools, sports facilities and children playground. Some have temporary and annual memberships for foreigners.
Registering a child’s birth in Egypt:
Registering a child’s birth with the Egyptian authorities is a long and complicated process for foreigners. For that reason, the AUC Business Support Office helps AUC relocated parents to go through that process, as it is all done in Arabic. Therefore, it is worth contacting the AUC Business Support Office before the baby’s due date, so they can explain what documents you will need before checking out of the hospital, which will then be used for the Egyptian birth registration. When you get the official birth certificate you can then proceed with getting the child’s passport from your own embassy.
Your lifestyle in Cairo will differ from your routine in your home country. Cairo is a dusty city, keeping things clean is difficult. You may find that even the simplest tasks take longer to accomplish. Therefore, it is very common for people, foreigners as well as middle-upper class Egyptians, to hire a domestic worker to help with household chores or childcare. New faculty will have time to assess their situation and decide whether or not they need household help. Upon arrival in Cairo, you may ask existing faculty members or the Faculty Services Office for recommendations. Because this kind of service is unofficial, it is difficult to set fee standards. Salaries of housekeepers may vary according to the nationality of the employers. It is not uncommon that salaries for domestic workers are paid in U.S. dollars. A housekeeper may work full time for one employer or several. At the time of this writing, it might be EGP 1200.00 / EGP 1500.00 per month assuming one day of work (three to four hours) per week. If one desired five days of work per week, the price might be up to EGP 3000.00 per month. The fees will be higher if the housekeeper cooks in addition. Therefore, it is suggested to ask previous or current employers about appropriate fees and expectations for domestic help.
There are limited opportunities for full-time local employment. The spouse of a new faculty member who wishes to teach at CAC or any of the other K-12 programs should apply well before arrival in Cairo. If full-time openings are not available, qualified individuals can often find work substitute teaching in several of the private English schools. At AUC, the Department of Rhetoric and Composition, the English Language Institute and the English studies division of the School of Continuing Education occasionally need an English language or writing instructor. However, a master’s degree is required and applications must be submitted in advance. Other AUC departments might also need to hire teachers locally for a semester or two. Freelance typing and editing are also possible, but salaries are often low. Someone with writing talent might be able to freelance for one of the several English-language magazines in Cairo. This may not pay well but could bring the satisfaction of seeing one’s prose in print.
Even so, anyone planning to seek employment in Cairo should bring a current resume and official university transcripts. You may also want to become a member of the Cairo Scholars group, where you may hear of work opportunities in Cairo. If satisfactory employment is unavailable, faculty spouses should be prepared to take up other pursuits such as earning a bachelor’s or master’s degree at AUC. There are many opportunities for volunteer work as well.
The basic unit of currency in Egypt is the Egyptian pound (LE) subdivided into 100 piasters (PT). One may buy or sell hard currencies through banks or through licensed dealers. It is possible to open a U.S. dollars bank account in Egypt and transfer money.
International Credit Cards:
It is important to remember that Cairo is very much a cash-oriented society. However, major credit cards, including American Express, Visa and MasterCard are sometimes honored here, but not at all establishments.
There are ATMs in Cairo and other major cities in Egypt that accept any hard currency credit cards. Your account will be debited with the equivalent of the Egyptian pounds withdrawn, often in addition to a foreign transaction fee.
International and national banks in Cairo, including Commercial International Bank (CIB) and Citibank issue Visa and MasterCard, but some require a deposit. You may want to arrange for an international credit card from your country if you are planning to travel abroad while residing in Egypt. However, CIB in Cairo offers a debit card that you can use abroad with a substantial fee.
CIB is utilized by most AUC faculty members to receive their local salary. CIB has a branch in AUC New Cairo as well as AUC Tahrir Square. These locations will cash personal checks drawn on foreign banks as well as exchange dollars and other major currencies or Egyptian pounds. If the check is drawn on Citibank in New York there is no delay. If the check is drawn on any other foreign bank it may take 14 days to one month to collect it.
Tips in Egypt:
A lot of people improve their standard or living in Cairo via tips received for a variety of services. Therefore, occasions to give tips are countless. Here are the most common occasions, with an idea of how much to give. People delivering goods to your home (EGP 3 – EGP 5), laundry or ironing services including home delivery (EGP 3 - LE 5), parking assistance (EGP 3 - EGP 5), doorman (EGP 1), hairdressers (usually EGP10 for the hairdresser and EGP 5 for each additional individuals that helps i.e. washing or styling), butcher or produce assistance (EGP 1 - EGP 2), public toilet attendants (EGP 1), waiters (10 percent in addition to 12 percent service charge).
The postal service is usually adequate for regular letters. Mail to and from the United States and Canada usually takes a week or two. Irregularities with mail, including censorship or total loss, are not uncommon. Therefore, personal mail (credit cards and bills) can be sent with a traveling colleague, courier or via the AUC New York Office. Obviously, online banking is preferable. For more details check here
Address in Egypt for personal mail:
Besides your personal Cairo home address, the following are other addresses that you may use:
It is suggested to receive your personal mail (for professional periodicals and books, see "Address for subscriptions" below) at the University using the address below. It will be delivered to your office through campus mail. Mail to family members should be addressed in care of the primary employee:
The American University in Cairo
Name of faculty/Dept.
P.O. Box 74, New Cairo 11835, Egypt
For an mail sent with a courier, use the following street address, as couriers do not deliver to a P.O.Box address, and add the phone number of your department:
5th Settlement, End of Street 90, New Cairo
Important documents (paper only) such as marriage and birth certificates, driving licenses, credit cards, bank statements, etc. may be sent to the AUC New York Office to be delivered to Cairo with their weekly courier mail pouch. The address to use is:
The American University in Cairo
Name of faculty/department
420 Lexington Ave., Suite 1644,
New York, NY 10170
Address for subscriptions to professional periodicals:
AUC permits faculty to receive their professional periodicals and books through the AUC New York Office. If books are mailed in through this service it has to be one copy per book only. The New York Office will not send multiple copies of the same book. The New York Office sends such documents twice a month through a shipping company. It usually takes around 15 days to get such shipments. Ask your publisher to mail the requested items to the following address:
The American University in Cairo
Name of faculty/department
420 Lexington Ave., Suite 1644,
New York, NY 10170
Important note: Non-printed material is not accepted at the AUC New York Office for shipment to Cairo.
Most people agree that there is no dependable, inexpensive way to mail packages to Cairo. Packages sent either by air or surface mail come through irregularly and are often delayed for long periods in customs. Customs duties are high, and actually claiming a package is formidable and usually involving several hours in line at the post office. An exception seems to be CDs and DVDs, which some people receive with fair regularity as personal mail from commercial sources such as Amazon.
Any special or emergency needs (medicine, glasses and the like) should be sent with a traveling colleague. You may ask the New York Office to determine if anyone is traveling from Cairo to New York and willing to bring such items.
Essential packages can also be sent by courier companies such as Federal Express or DHL. Couriers need the street address and phone number of the recipient, as a PO Box number is not sufficient. It is strongly recommended that you use your AUC address. Essential packages should be sent to the New Cairo campus address including department and office number. In addition to this provide the phone number of the assistant chair of your department in case you are in class or not on campus on that day. The courier company can provide the sender with a list of the items that are either prohibited or restricted for shipping to Egypt. The package should be consigned to the recipient, and the sender should mail or fax to the recipient the list of contents and a copy of the shipping documents. The courier company may provide customs clearance service, but the recipient will still have to pay any duties assessed. Shipping by courier is expensive and again, customs duties are high, so the wisest course is to discourage family and friends from sending any packages.
Courier mail pouch to the U.S. through AUC faculty services office:
The Office of Faculty Services arranges a bi-weekly courier mail pouch to the AUC New York Office for printed items only in regular envelopes (packages are not accepted). Upon reception of the courier mail pouch at the AUC New York office, the letters are deposited in a US mailbox. If you wish to use this system, you will need sufficient U.S. postage for each item mailed. If at one point you run out of your own stamps, you can buy the needed stamps from the faculty services office until you are able to replenish your supply from the States.
Calling overseas from your Cairo home phone:
The majority of the apartments provided to faculty members in Cairo do not have an international line for dialing out. Getting an international line at home is possible but expensive. To make a phone call overseas from your Cairo residence phone, you may call the AUC switchboard operator (19282), who will place the call for you through the Cairo Telephone Central, and then the central will call you back. Charges for international calls will be deducted from the employee’s salary.
A second option is to use a rechargeable prepaid calling card, such as AT&T and Sprint, which you must buy in your country before coming to Egypt. For AT&T, click here to obtain information on the different systems. To call with an AT&T card, you dial the AT&T access number, either 2796-0200 or 2510-0200.
Egyptian international prepaid calling cards are readily available throughout Egypt to call from any landline.
Toll-free calls (800 numbers):
You cannot make 800 number calls through the Egyptian phone system. However, in case of an American company with an 800-phone number has an agreement with AT&T (such as vanguard, the pension plan provider that AUC deals with), it is possible to call this number through the AT&T access number in Cairo, either 2796-0200 or 2510-0200. If you want to call any other 800 numbers, you need to have an AT&T calling card, which you can purchase in the U.S. You may call 800 numbers through the Internet.
Collect calls in Egypt:
You cannot make collect calls through the Egyptian phone system.
Calling through the Internet:
You may also make voice calls, calls to landlines and call to 800 numbers over the Internet on Skype, Yahoo Voice Out, Vonage or Magic Jack.
Calling Egypt from abroad:
Family members or friends can directly dial any Cairo residence or mobile telephone. One must dial the international access code of the country one calls from (such as 011 for the USA and Canada), then dial 20 (the country code of Egypt), then 2 (the city code of Cairo), and finally, the number one wishes to call. Thus the format is 011-20-2-xxxxxxxx (8-digit number of Cairo landlines). If family members abroad wish to contact you via your cell phone number in Cairo the format is different. Most Cairo cell numbers start with 010 (or 011, 012, etc). Since the 010 is a mobile operator you don’t need the code of Cairo. Thus, the number format to dial is 011-2-010-xxxxxxx.
Bringing a mobile phone from home or buying it in Egypt:
If you already have a phone and you want to use it in both the U.S. and Egypt, make sure that it uses a GSM operating system with a tri or quad-band model. You can then buy a SIM card in Cairo. Otherwise, you will not be able to use your phone while in Egypt or while traveling. If you decide to buy a phone in Egypt, and make international calls while you are in the U.S., you need to buy a tri or quad-band model.
While in Cairo, most faculty members use prepaid cell phone services widely available through such providers as Orange, Vodafone, Etisalat, and We. You will also have the option of subscribing to a monthly service with Orange that is offered to AUC staff and faculty. The monthly Mobinil bill will be automatically deducted from your EGP salary. Upon request, AUC can provide the appropriate contact information to set up this service.
The University has a fax machine with an outgoing international line for general faculty and administrator use. This fax machine also receives incoming traffic. This machine works from 8:30 am to 3:30 pm. The number of this machine is: 011.20.2.795.7565. There will be a charge for sending personal messages on this machine. Messages received on the AUC machine are not private, as they are open to inspection by the University personnel. Several offices and departments on campus have fax machines that can receive incoming traffic from overseas and can send out traffic to destinations within Egypt but not to international destinations. All incoming faxes should include the recipient’s name and department.
Your life in Egypt will be shaped by professional obligations. However, the opportunities to have a very active social life, on and outside the campus, are tremendous. The AUC Faculty Services Committee sponsors variety of activities for faculty and dependents. For example, cultural tours of historic sites (museums, pyramids, monasteries, Coptic churches and mosques in and outside Cairo) are common. Day trips to Red Sea coast, various oases and to the Sinai are often conducted throughout the academic year. Also AUC departments often host lectures by local and visiting authorities, receptions, parties, dinners and tours. Recitals and concerts by local and visiting musicians, art exhibits, plays and films are also offered on a regular basis.
Travel agencies in Cairo, including the AUC Travel Office, may arrange trips in Egypt and abroad. Booking flights, trains and buses may also be arranged by the AUC Travel Office. You may want to visit their website to familiarize yourself with applicable travel services.
In the broader Cairo community, cultural activities include cinema (foreign language as well as Egyptian Arabic films), theater, and concerts. The Cairo Opera House stages performances by visiting companies from around the world, and there are regular weekly concerts performed by the Cairo symphony during the winter. Foreign and local cultural centers offer exhibits, language courses, films, recitals. Among them are the British Council, the Goethe Institute and the French Cultural Center. The American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) offers a series of lectures and field trips in Egypt and abroad, as does the Egypt Exploration Society. The Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo also offers weekly lectures and films.
Community choral groups, including the Cairo Choral Society, perform a few times each year. Churches and religious groups offer social programs. The Maadi Women’s Guild arranges lectures as well as social and charitable activities. The Women’s Association of Cairo also sponsors activities, lectures, outings and philanthropic activities that help local charities. The Community Services Association (CSA), a non-profit American community organization located in Maadi, offers a variety of classes in subjects such as Arabic and French, art, cooking, physical fitness, Egyptian culture, and cross-cultural communication. It has a large lending library donated by members of the community.
You may visit the AUC website for a list of the sports facilities on the New Cairo campus. Occasionally there are enough sports enthusiasts among the faculty to muster a team or two. Several faculty members play on teams in the men and women’s softball leagues in Maadi. There is also a Frisbee team! swimming, sailing, golf and horseback riding are available at private clubs in Cairo, Giza, and Maadi. Local residents may also swim at the big hotels, where rates vary. Gold’s Gym has locations in Maadi and downtown Cairo with special rates for AUC faculty members. Runners and walkers can join noncompetitive running groups. You may also buy a membership at sporting clubs. A detailed handout of sports facilities in Cairo will be provided to you upon arrival.