Saturday, 6 September 2008

Oasis - Where should I live in Cairo?

Where Should I Live in Cairo?
Karishma Pais (Kim)

The question I get asked the most by newcomers to Egypt, often before they even arrive, is “Where should I live?”

Quick Orientation :
Cairo is the capital of Egypt & the business centre.
Alexandria is a lovely Mediterranean Seaside town 4 hours drive away from Cairo and has its own international airport too.
Port Said & Port Suez are along the Suez Canal. A lot of people who work in the shipping industry are posted in these towns.
Sharm el Sheikh & Hurghada are the party towns on the Red Sea Coast. But if you work with a hotel chain, you are likely to be posted here.
Luxor and Aswan are in Upper Egypt and are the ancient Pharonic towns.

These are the main cities that expats live in.

This article is about places to live in Cairo.
The best advice I can give you is: Stay as Close as Possible to your Area of Work or Study!

Traffic in Cairo means that it can take ages to reach from point A to point B. It's better to live as close as possible to your office or college/university so you can save a ton of time on traveling and use that time more productively.

If you are an Expat with kids then your child's school is another major consideration to keep in mind. Which school? How long will it take your child to travel from home to school? Is there a school bus facility? Is there a convenient pick-up location?
In a toss up between your own/spouses office location & child's school location, you need to take a call for yourself and your family that will best suit your needs.

If you are a student, then you may also like to stay in walking distance to a Metro station. The Metro service in Cairo is efficient & extremely beneficial to anyone who doesn't have their own means of transportation in this city or who doesn't want to drive here.

Areas to live in :
Maadi : The choice of a majority of expats. Close to many international schools. Maadi is a lot greener than a lot of other areas in Cairo. It boasts plenty of organizations catering specifically to or of interest to expats like the Community Service Association (CSA), Cairo Rugby Club, Studio 206, Ace Club - Association of Cairo Expatriates, Cairo Hash House Harriers, Cairo Petroleum Wives, Maadi Womens Guild, Serafis among others.

There are bungalows (stand alone houses) 2/3 floored buildings as well as a couple of high rises.

Rents are higher in this part of town. But it is worth it for the benefits of the greenery, community living and established conveniences for foreigners.

Zamalek : An Island on the Nile in the centre of the city. It is the location of choice for embassy employees (a lot of embassies are located in this area) and students. The old AUC hostels are located in this area. The constructions are older here but not necessarily in bad condition. The apartments are really huge and spacious with high ceilings and wooden floors.

Garden City: Similar to Zamalek. The rent rates would be slightly lower than Zamalek. It is just across the river towards Maadi and boasts wonderful views of the Nile from most apartments.

Mohandaseen: The business part of town. It started as a residential area for and is an extremely busy part of town. A lot of offices are based in this area. There are plenty of restaurants and cafes in this part of town.

Dokki: A residential area between Mohandaseen and downtown. Slightly secluded and not as chaotic as downtown for those who have to travel there for work or to study.

Most of the restaurants and clubs are clustered around these areas of town.

There are other areas of town that are comfortable to live in too. These include downtown Cairo, Heliopolis, Nasr City, 6th of October city and El Rehab City.

Excepting downtown (which is logically in the centre of the city and close to everything) the others are on the outskirts of the city and it takes some time to reach the city centre from these locations. But they are better planned with more greenery, parking spaces and less traffic.

Nasr City is also home to City Stars the largest mall in Cairo. A shopaholics delight with tons of stores, restaurants, food courts and cinema halls.

There are plenty of malls planned for 6th of October City, Rehab City, Kattameya, Ain Shams and other newer parts of town. A lot of the universities have been moving out of the congested heart of Cairo into these new and developing areas. In some places like Kattameya it may be difficult to find furnished apartments right now. So the choice would be between apartment fixtures and time taken to travel

This is just a quick primer on some residential areas in Cairo. Rates will depend on size of apartment/house and location. For example within Garden city itself similar apartments may rent for different rates based on quality of construction, amount the owner has spent on doing up the place etc.

So find yourself a good "semsar" - real estate agent - and happy hunting.

Karishma Pais (Kim) is an expat trailing wife in Cairo. She has a Masters Degree in Human Resources and Behavior. She consults on HR projects, delivers intercultural training at the CSA, counsels new and experienced expats, writes for several magazines – online and offline, she runs and among other activities. Her Social Commentary and blog about life in Egypt can be read at

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