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New boy in Cairo
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PierogiMonster



Joined: 17 Jun 2010
Posts: 136

PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2012 2:22 pm    Post subject: New boy in Cairo Reply with quote

Hi all

I've just accepted a job offer in Cairo (at the B.Council). Now, whilst I've been around Asia quite a bit, I'm sure Cairo's a whole different kettle of mixed metaphors ...

Any advice before I come over (leaving aside the more serious topics) e.g. which brand of toothpaste to pack, which side of the road to look while I'm accidentally giving out culturally offensive hand gestures? That sort of thing. Cheers. TTFN.

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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16066
Location: USA

PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2012 3:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Stay away from demonstrations? Laughing

Things are so unsettled right now that it is hard to even give advice... not that I have anything very up to date for Cairo because most of my friends have decamped. In the past, shopping was a bit time consuming to find things one might want, but that improved greatly... but with the current situation, I'd just be guessing.

Will you be in Agouza or Heliopolis or both? Hopefully you won't have to be shlepping yourself back and forth. If you are in Agouza, I would try to live in Zamalek. They have developed a pretty good neighborhood watch program to take over for the lack of organized police these days and the shopping is good.

Crossing roads is nearly an Olympic sport in Cairo... with dedication from both the drivers and crossers. But the drivers really will try to not run over you... depending, of course, on the hand gestures. Laughing I got very good at it... (the crossing, not the hand gestures)

VS
(BTW... you have to look in all directions all the time. The only time I was hit, someone backed into me. And the bicycles are often more dangerous than the cars)
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PierogiMonster



Joined: 17 Jun 2010
Posts: 136

PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 8:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

veiledsentiments wrote:
Stay away from demonstrations? Laughing

Will you be in Agouza or Heliopolis or both? Hopefully you won't have to be shlepping yourself back and forth. If you are in Agouza, I would try to live in Zamalek. They have developed a pretty good neighborhood watch program to take over for the lack of organized police these days and the shopping is good.



Thanks for the accom advice, VS. I'll be in Agouza so I'll check out the Zamalek district (these two words increasing my Cairo knowledge by approx. 50%). Any other advice, prices, etc, good people, on accommodation for a single man who's more into quiet nights than parties?
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16066
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 2:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does BC not provide housing? Or do they just give you an allowance to send you into the teeming streets?

Zamalek is the island just across the Nile from the BC. I used to walk from my flat there to the BC when it still had a library. (was sad to hear that they closed all these great little libraries that BC used to have... it was a great collection) It is walkable, but I'd probably take a taxi at first so that you figure out traffic flow before joining the fray. Stoplights and crosswalks are mainly decorative and optional, and sidewalks/pavements are scarce or have cars parked on them.

Hopefully your fellow BCers will help with the flat search. Flat that are advertised on the net or listed with real estate agencies are usually out of our price range. Though the departure of so many expats has likely helped the market. Cairo still uses an informal system of rentals that uses a little man sitting in a tea shop on the corner who consults with local owners and their boabs/bawabs (doormen - the fellow that supposedly cleans the halls but you tip him every month whether he does or not.)

I hope by quiet nights you don't mean a "lack of noise." Cairo is a cacophony of blaring horns for most of the 24 hours. While there are bars and clubs going until all hours (hopefully not across the street from you), there is also a coffee shop scene... of the Starbucks sort though with a local flavor rather than Seattle.

I'd start learning a bit of Arabic... it is really crucial to have the basics. Few taxi drivers speak English. Hopefully, the BC has a course you can take. I actually used my students. Between them and the taxi drivers, I pretty quickly picked up the basics. Cool

VS
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PierogiMonster



Joined: 17 Jun 2010
Posts: 136

PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 8:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Cheers, VS. Yes, I think the BC are going to help me out with accom, one way or another.

Re. learning the language: I learnt a bit back in 2010: you may recall (quick: search function!) I nearly went to Oman via TATI that year, only, of course, to be let down by a last-minute administrative hitch on their side.

Here's hoping BC are a bit more together!
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16066
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2012 3:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

PierogiMonster wrote:
Cheers, VS. Yes, I think the BC are going to help me out with accom, one way or another.

Re. learning the language: I learnt a bit back in 2010: you may recall (quick: search function!) I nearly went to Oman via TATI that year, only, of course, to be let down by a last-minute administrative hitch on their side.

Here's hoping BC are a bit more together!

One can only hope!!

You will have to learn Egypt dialect to lower your taxi fares. For example... in Cairo, only Muslims use "Salam aleikum" with each other. If you appear to be an expat... Westerner... and likely Christian, one uses "Sabah al Kher." I'm sure that there are Egyptian teachers at BC. Have them sit down with you and teach you the polite response structure and Arabic for Egyptian Taxis 101. Invaluable...

You don't really expect me to remember everyone's histories, do you? ...unless you did something scandelous. Cool

VS
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justcolleen



Joined: 07 Jan 2004
Posts: 646
Location: Egypt, baby!

PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I say "Salam aleikum" to everybody and, lately, "Ramadan kareem."

Here's my advice:

About your flat.

DO NOT agree to live in a building without a live in bawaab (a doorman, who actually prefers to be considered "security"). A bawaab will: keep someone from stealing your building (true story), run your errands (for a small tip), keep the common areas of your building clean, hike your trash out, arrange for repairs, keep the homeless/beggars/stray cats out, and generally take care of the building and everyone in it.

Not all buildings have elevators. Climbing stairs loses its luster after 11 or 12 floors, so you might want to be sure your building has one.

Not all buildings have constant electricity or water these days. You'll want to know if your neighborhood/building is part of the outage areas (mine isn't for some strange reason!). You don't want to be in an elevator when the power goes out, or soaped up in the shower when the water goes off. It's NOT unreasonable to ask about this.

Not all buildings have hot water in the flat itself. That's fine during a stinking hot African summer because the cold water is just about hot enough for washing dishes but it's going to be a big problem in January because, yes, it gets cold in Egypt and I've seen both snow and hail so, yeah, you will want hot water in your flat.

The building's windows make a difference in personal comfort. If the windows are the metal, sliding windows, the building will be horribly hot in summer and colder than it is outside in the winter.

Rule of thumb: the amount of clothes seen hanging outside to dry is directly proportional to the level of "class" of the building's inhabitants.

If an advertisement for a rental is in English, know that the rent rate will equate to a severe price gouging because foreigners, as a rule, pay more.

Trying to rent anything between now and the end of the month is going to be expensive as this is the end of the tourist season (for the tourists that stopped coming a long time ago and, yes, Denial IS a river in Egypt).

About taxis.

Do not EVER just jump into a taxi. Instead, your fellow teachers will have phone numbers of trusty drivers, so share their drivers.

About the language.

At least learn to recognize the numbers in Arabic.

Egyptians will be thrilled to bits if you attempt to speak Arabic and happy to help you learn.

About shopping.

These are great gift ideas and, really, you should arrive with gifts.

Pens
Packs of college-ruled notebook paper
Pocket folders
One subject spiral bound notebooks

Anything else?
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16066
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2012 7:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

justcolleen wrote:
I say "Salam aleikum" to everybody and, lately, "Ramadan kareem."

Glad you showed up to help Pierogi.

It must be quite different in Alex than Cairo. It was almost considered "improper" to use Salam aleikim if you weren't Muslim... like politically incorrect. The only Egyptians that ever used it with me was someone in the same "class" as a bawab.

I remember when I first went to the Gulf, it was a bit of shock when everyone said "Salam Aleikum" although I knew the proper response. It took me awhile to use it comfortably.

And in Cairo, they used "kulli sena winti tayyiba" for everything... be it Ramadhan, Eids, Christmas, Easter, your birthday... Laughing

Interestingly in Cairo, I have never known anyone to have regular taxi drivers. You just flagged them in the street... know your fare before you go... never discuss it... when you get where you are going, you get out, hand him the fare, and walk away before he can argue about it.

VS
(oh... I used to hang my clothes out off my balcony... I guess the word is out on me then... Cool)
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justcolleen



Joined: 07 Jan 2004
Posts: 646
Location: Egypt, baby!

PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

veiledsentiments wrote:
justcolleen wrote:
I say "Salam aleikum" to everybody and, lately, "Ramadan kareem."

Glad you showed up to help Pierogi.

It must be quite different in Alex than Cairo. It was almost considered "improper" to use Salam aleikim if you weren't Muslim... like politically incorrect. The only Egyptians that ever used it with me was someone in the same "class" as a bawab.

I remember when I first went to the Gulf, it was a bit of shock when everyone said "Salam Aleikum" although I knew the proper response. It took me awhile to use it comfortably.

And in Cairo, they used "kulli sena winti tayyiba" for everything... be it Ramadhan, Eids, Christmas, Easter, your birthday... Laughing


I use it all of the time. My friends who are quite happy to educate me in the social graces (and I use that phrase loosely) have never taken me to school and told me I should do otherwise.

The Cairo/Alexanria divide is indeed wide. Whatever. It's always going to be fuul and falafel to me. Very Happy

veiledsentiments wrote:

Interestingly in Cairo, I have never known anyone to have regular taxi drivers. You just flagged them in the street... know your fare before you go... never discuss it... when you get where you are going, you get out, hand him the fare, and walk away before he can argue about it.


Yeah that was before the revolution. I used to do the same thing. But, before the revolution, I could walk down the street at two in the morning with an authentic Coach bag swinging on my shoulder. Not anymore. Car jackings, kidnappings, and all sorts of violent crimes are common.

Taking a taxi off of the street is a huge risk for anyone, but even more of a risk for a foreigner - or a foreigner that looks as if they have money. There is no police protection. The few police that are on the streets are directing traffic and they are always in groups (because they're scared).

I just met a foreigner who arrived at the train station and was immediately surrounded by a group of young men. When they moved away, her iPhone was gone. She spent three hours at the police station, laughed at by police officers because she wanted them to make a report so she could file an insurance claim, and wouldn't pay them.

It's a very different place and far safer to have a driver's number on hand.

veiledsentiments wrote:
(oh... I used to hang my clothes out off my balcony... I guess the word is out on me then... Cool)


Of course we all have to hang our clothes to dry, however the "classier" areas hang theirs toward the interior of the building instead of having their "unders" on public display. I remember my jaw dropping when I first saw the new 6 October settlement and asking where the laundry was because there was none to be seen.
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osiris1176



Joined: 28 Sep 2010
Posts: 2

PostPosted: Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

As far as the taxis go what some of the other posters here is certainly on point. In Cairo they have, somewhat recently, started to introduce taxis with meters. I may be incorrect here but I believe all of the taxis that are black and white don't have meters and you have to negotiate the fare with them. The newer taxis are yellow and all of those have meters which I would certainly recommend. Of course you'll still have to be wary of drivers with meters that will take you on some long roundabout route to get to your destination but overall I'd prefer those over the black and whites.
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16066
Location: USA

PostPosted: Mon Aug 13, 2012 1:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Since all my Cairo friends are currently not in Cairo, I can't confirm the changes... but I do know that things have changed dramatically as far as safety. Hopefully the area around Agouza should be better than most.

So Peirogi... just consult with your fellow teachers at the BC and they will point you in the right direction on this.

VS
(osiris... in all of my years in Cairo, I never once negotiated with a taxi driver and I always advised new expats to never do so. I would go into the nearest shop and ask them the fare to where I was going. One knows the scale (egyptians pay X, expats pay X+1, tourists pay X+2, Gulf Arabs pay X+5 Cool)
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PierogiMonster



Joined: 17 Jun 2010
Posts: 136

PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 11:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for your thoughts, guys.

Things are progressing nicely BC-side and there'll be loadsa help with accom.

Umm ... that's all. Pierogi out!

(BTW, what's the Egyptian version of a pierogi? I might have to change my moniker Cool

(BBTTWW, VS, I'm disappointed: I thought we had something there ...
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16066
Location: USA

PostPosted: Tue Aug 14, 2012 1:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

PierogiMonster wrote:
(BTW, what's the Egyptian version of a pierogi? I might have to change my moniker Cool

(BBTTWW, VS, I'm disappointed: I thought we had something there ...

Are you one of those guys that always gets the wrong idea? Laughing

I doubt that there is a word for pierogi in Arabic. After all, we don't have a word in English either. Cool I don't recall anything similar in the local cuisine...

VS
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PierogiMonster



Joined: 17 Jun 2010
Posts: 136

PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2012 11:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

'Me again.

I'd appreciate any advice on money matters ...

What's the typical arrangement for payment of rent? e.g. one, two, six months, etc up-front payment? What kinds or currency/payment methods are accepted by rental agencies? Should I pay commission etc?

And any advice, please, about what kind of, and how much, currency to bring over on the plane to last me until payday? (I'll be paid at the end of my first month).

And any last-minute things I might have forgotten to do and anything I really should bring over to Egypt with me (I fly next Saturday)?

Thanks y'all.
PM
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16066
Location: USA

PostPosted: Mon Sep 03, 2012 11:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not sure that Cairo has a "usual" procedure. (for anything? especially these days) It depends on the landlord... or at least has for me. I've paid monthly... and on short term lease - full amount up front. Cairo has ATMs to bring more money in as needed. I would have access to enough cash to deal with anything. Cool Dollars or Euros are fine.

I suspect that expat numbers are down, so that should mean that you can negotiate a better rate. I'm sure the BC people will help you with this process. I tended to use friends or friends of friends with this process. (even better of an Egyptian is helping you with this)

VS
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