Walk like an Egyptian in Cairo

Last updated 05:00 02/02/2014
Expat Tales Shireen Harper

EXPAT: Shireen Harper larking about with the pyramids.

Cairo
Getty Images
CITY TREASURES: The Muhammad Ali Mosque, completed in the 1850s, is one of Cairo's major tourist attractions.

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Why did you move to Egypt? I moved to Cairo with my mother so she could teach at a school there.

What do you do there? I go to a British international school.

What do you like or dislike about life in Egypt? I like the cultural experience of living in Cairo. I have learnt a lot about the people and their way of life. I also like going to an international school. I have met a number of people from around the world and been able to learn about their cultures as well. I also like the aspect of easy travel to the nearby countries. Flights are a lot cheaper from Egypt to Europe, the Middle East and Africa than from New Zealand, so I have been fortunate enough to travel quite a bit since moving here. I dislike having to cover up all the time when going out in summer as it can get quite hot and being from New Zealand I'm used to just wearing shorts and a T-shirt around all day.

How does the cost of living compare to New Zealand? Cairo is very cheap to live in. Our three-bedroom apartment costs around $800 a month to rent. Food is also cheaper than New Zealand. A loaf of bread is only $1, and fruit is very cheap, too. Eating out at a mid-range restaurant would cost around $5-$10 for a main course.

What do you do on weekends? On weekends I generally go to my school where the other international schools have set up a rugby and netball league, so we have friendly games each Friday. I also hang out with friends at the pool in a housing compound or go the mall. Some weekends we go to the beach which is a 40-minute drive away.

What do you think of the food? I love the food here, it's so cheap and easy to get. Chicken shawarma would have to be my favourite food here, along with koshari, both of which you can buy for less than $5.

What's the best way to get around? Taxis are extremely good in Egypt. There are so many and they are very cheap - a 30-40 minute trip to Maadi usually costs me around $10.

What's the shopping like? The shopping is good, the Khan Al-Khalili is the main tourist market in Cairo but many locals also shop there. You can buy anything from gold jewellery to cleaning products at very reasonable prices. Cairo has a few big malls that have all the clothing stores like Mango, H&M, Zara, etc. Supermarkets are good, they have plenty of international food, I even managed to find Marmite once!

What's the nightlife like? A popular thing to do at night in Egypt is to go to a shisha cafe and play cards, or just socialise. But there are also a few bars and international restaurants which serve alcohol.

What is your favourite part of the city? My favourite part of the city is a place called Maadi. It is where a lot of the expats live and therefore there are a lot of international cafes, restaurants and bars/pubs to cater for them. I love it because you can meet some really interesting people from all around the world there.

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What time of year is best to visit? November to March would be the best time as it's not too hot then.

What's your must-do thing for visitors? Visit the Pyramids of Giza, a Nile cruise, go camping in the desert, and smoke shisha in a local coffee shop, tour round Coptic Cairo.

What are your top tips for tourists? Take cash (Egyptian pounds) as there aren't a lot of ATMs and some are usually not working anyway. Females should cover up a bit to be respectful, cover to your elbows and knees at least. Know what the cost of your taxi ride should be, and only go in taxis with meters to avoid being ripped off. Try to learn some Arabic and try it out on the locals; they will applaud your effort no matter how bad it is!

How easy is it for you to get back to New Zealand? It's not too bad, but there is no direct flight. The most common flights are with Emirates going via Dubai and Melbourne or Singapore Airlines via Singapore and Australia.

If you know an expat who wants to share the inside knowledge on their home away from home, email escape@star-times.co.nz with Expat in the subject line.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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