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looking for the skinny on Cairo/Maadi

 
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saramaria



Joined: 30 Jul 2007
Posts: 3
Location: U.S.

PostPosted: Wed Aug 01, 2007 11:07 pm    Post subject: looking for the skinny on Cairo/Maadi Reply with quote

Hi everyone, I am a teacher from the Chicago area who will be teaching in Egypt this year. I am new here, but I have tried to spend some time reading through the links to gain information about what life in Egypt is really like and to prepare myself for the trip. VS and Sloth, you have given some insightful tips to people and seem to be quite knowledgeable about the area.

These are the questions I have for you (or anyone else who would like to respond):

1. Is it best to buy an adaptor for electrical items before I leave, or will I be able to get one easily there? (I taught in Spain last year and had a really difficult time finding adaptors for some reason).

I will actually be living in Maadi, not Cairo, which I understand is an area where many expats live, so I understand there are more stores geared towards foreigners. I would like to mention that I believe in truly immersing myself in the culture of the country where I am living, so I wonít be frequenting Starbucks or stores geared towards expats unless abolutely necessary to buy something like an adapter.

That said, my next question is about belly dance. I have been practicing belly dance for about three years, and I am very interested in taking lessons or perhaps joining a dance troupe when Iím in Egypt.

2. Does anyone know of a place or a person I could take lessons with? Iím not looking to take lessons from someone at the equivalent of a YMCA, I am looking for an authentic belly dance teacher, (preferably someone native to the area).

3. Do you suggest getting any vaccinations before going? I asked the director of the school where I will be teaching, and he said it isnít necessary, but I would rather be safe than sorry. Is Malaria or West Nile Virus a concern there? What, if any, are the major health concerns at the moment?

4. Speaking of mosquitoes, how bad are they really? I have read in prior posts that wearing bug repellant (especially in the evening) is necessary and that you can purchase something that you plug into your outlets to keep them out of your living areas. Can anyone recommend a good mosquito repellant that doesnít smell terrible and is feasible to wear on a daily basis? What exactly is in the blue stuff that you plug into the outletsÖare they safe, or is it something that could cause health problems down the road from carcinogens and the like?

6. What is the metro system like in the area? Is it safe, reliable, inexpensive? How late does it run?

7. If I want to travel from Maadi to Cairo, what is the best way to do so?

8. I am a great teacher who takes her job seriously, but I like to go out and have fun on my days off, and that means dancing. What are some of the best clubs or places with live bands to go? Please give suggestions for Maadi and Cairo.

9. I love outdoor markets. Are there any good street markets that sell jewelry, knick-nacks, clothes, (belly dance costumes), etc.? Where are the best ones and what days are they on?

10. I also love to do things outdoors. I read somewhere that there is a desert area outside of Maadi where people go to walk and runÖis this true? What other types of outdoor activities are there? Where is the closest place to snorkel or do water sports?

11. I am very interested in the Dynastic period of Egyptian history. If I want to visit mosques, tombs, the pyramids, etc., but not in a typical touristy type of way, what would be the best way to truly experience these places?

12. Are there any other websites for the Cairo area where teachers can meet other teachers or people who are new to the area, or expats who could give advise while there?

Whew! Thatís a slew of questions, but Iím hoping you guys can help me out with these things. I am a very open minded person, and I donít think Iím going to have a problem adapting to life in Egypt. I just believe in getting the true low-down on places, and to be as prepared as I can possibly be to make my transitions abroad even smoother.

Thanks for your time Very Happy
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16129
Location: USA

PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 2:48 am    Post subject: Re: looking for the skinny on Cairo/Maadi Reply with quote

saramaria wrote:
1. Is it best to buy an adaptor for electrical items before I leave, or will I be able to get one easily there? (I taught in Spain last year and had a really difficult time finding adaptors for some reason).

I believe that Spain uses the two round pins? Those should also work in Egypt. One frustrating factor is that there is no consistency in the size of the holes. It is easy enough to find more adapters there.

saramaria wrote:
I will actually be living in Maadi, not Cairo, which I understand is an area where many expats live, so I understand there are more stores geared towards foreigners. I would like to mention that I believe in truly immersing myself in the culture of the country where I am living, so I wonít be frequenting Starbucks or stores geared towards expats unless abolutely necessary to buy something like an adapter.

You're right that there are plenty of expats there, but also plenty of locals. Good shopping and good restaurants. Immersing oneself in the culture is good, but sometimes it is nice to have a taste of 'home' too.

saramaria wrote:
2. Does anyone know of a place or a person I could take lessons with? Iím not looking to take lessons from someone at the equivalent of a YMCA, I am looking for an authentic belly dance teacher, (preferably someone native to the area).

I only encountered classes in the Gulf actually. In Khan al Khalili there is a large 3 story shop that sells costumes and supplies for the professionals. I wish that I could tell you how to find it, but... once you go and wander the Khan for a few hours, you will understand my problem. Keep asking and eventually someone will know. It is not in the most touristy area where many shops have a tacky outfit or two. It is on a little side street near a main street that had many music shops.

saramaria wrote:
3. Do you suggest getting any vaccinations before going? I asked the director of the school where I will be teaching, and he said it isnít necessary, but I would rather be safe than sorry. Is Malaria or West Nile Virus a concern there? What, if any, are the major health concerns at the moment?

Your school is correct, nothing is needed. Naturally your tetanus should be up to date. All travelers should have the Hepatitis shots. There may be malaria way out in the oasis - not in Cairo. I have read that West Nile is endemic in all of Africa including Egypt, so I am assuming that I probably got it when I was there considering the number of bites I had over the 3 years. But I was never sick, nor did I ever hear of anyone who got sick from it. The vast majority of people who do get it never have any symptoms. (it is VERY overhyped in the US...)

saramaria wrote:
4. Speaking of mosquitoes, how bad are they really? I have read in prior posts that wearing bug repellant (especially in the evening) is necessary and that you can purchase something that you plug into your outlets to keep them out of your living areas. Can anyone recommend a good mosquito repellant that doesnít smell terrible and is feasible to wear on a daily basis? What exactly is in the blue stuff that you plug into the outletsÖare they safe, or is it something that could cause health problems down the road from carcinogens and the like?

The 'namooz' are big, hungry, and ever present all year. If you are like me, a person that they LOVE, you will get eaten alive. (at times I had up to 70-80 welts from my eyelids to my toes) Few of the flats in teacher-budget price have any screens. I always assumed that the little blue mats were probably carcinogenic, but in relative terms I preferred the danger to being covered in bites. Both Cutter and Off have what they call unscented which aren't bad. Off has a new spray that isn't supposed to feel sticky. BUT... you can't use it too much or you may very well develop a reaction to it. To avoid bites, you have to spray yourself heat to toe, day and night... and that much exposure to Deet is not good either. But for me, Deet is the only thing that works. So, I only used it on my legs during the day or if I was going out in the evening.

saramaria wrote:
10. I also love to do things outdoors. I read somewhere that there is a desert area outside of Maadi where people go to walk and runÖis this true? What other types of outdoor activities are there? Where is the closest place to snorkel or do water sports?

Are you familiar with the Hash? ... known as a drinking club that runs? Some enjoy their general silliness and they usually meet once a week. Google Hash House Harriers Egypt. Don't know anything about the beaches...

saramaria wrote:
11. I am very interested in the Dynastic period of Egyptian history. If I want to visit mosques, tombs, the pyramids, etc., but not in a typical touristy type of way, what would be the best way to truly experience these places?

You have two different things here. Dynastic or Ancient Egypt and the mosques of Islamic Egypt. Try to do some online reading of the history and that will help you plan this. Most of the important sites are almost always full of tourists, so it is hard to avoid that factor. The American Research Center (in Garden City, near the US Embassy) organizes tours with professionals as guides on an irregular basis. They are worth the price and I always tried to join them when I could.

As you can see, I had to skip some of your questions. Perhaps Stoth knows about the metro...

VS
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Stephen Jones



Joined: 21 Feb 2003
Posts: 4124

PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 11:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Better than the blue mosquito mats are the liquid bottles. One will last 15 days.
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saramaria



Joined: 30 Jul 2007
Posts: 3
Location: U.S.

PostPosted: Thu Aug 02, 2007 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for all of the great information, I really appreciate it! VS, I will definately check out the Hash House Harriers, it sounds like great fun!
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fetuskarate



Joined: 02 Aug 2007
Posts: 12
Location: Thailand

PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 3:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey, where will you be teaching in Maadi, if you don't mind me asking?

I was living in Maadi last year. It's a great place to live for an expat, especially because at the end of the day you can just relax from the chaos of downtown Cairo and its pollution. Now for some of your questions:

1. It's probably better to bring one or two adaptors from home, so that way you can be sure they work. They sell adaptors on the street in some of the markets and of course at some of the bigger electronics stores or Carrefour, but I just like to have my own from home.

3. I didn't get any vaccinations before I left, and I am fine. And in regards to #4, mosquitos are actually not that much of a problem until the weather changes and it gets cold. That's when I started to get bites, and even then it was only for a couple of days. I was always careful though, and when I went out to the beaches on the Sinai or on trips down the Nile I wore repellent just to be safe. Mosquitos love me as well. A little too much. You could even buy the mosquito coils if you want to be extra safe, but really it's not so bad in Maadi at all.

6. Metro system is, as the Lonely Planet says, "startlingly efficient." It's only 1LE to ride as long as you want. It runs until about 1130 or so, and after that you've got to take a taxi... but even then a ride from downtown to Maadi shouldn't even be much more than 18-20LE at most. I usually paid 15 to get downtown, but at night it might be a little more. Also about the metro- the first two cars are for women only, but suspiciously, men are allowed to ride it at night. What???

7. Travel from Maadi to Cairo: I walked from road 233 to the metro stop in Maadi. Took the metro all the way to Tahrir square. That trip should cost 2LE round trip, but if you want to taxi from Maadi to the metro, it should only be like 3LE. And again, if you want to taxi (in rush hour it takes longer than the metro!) it shouldn't be more than 15-20. The trip takes about 30 minutes.

8. Dance clubs.... there were a couple we went to. Space, off the Corniche, was pretty ok. 50LE cover though, but most places during the weekend have similar charges. The Cairo Jazz Club over in Mohandiseen plays good live music. Check out the band Wust el Balad if you can! Also you can check out the local Croc guides, which tell you what's going on during the month. You can find the Croc guide in most foreigner stores. My favorite place to pick up copies was at the Green Mill in Maadi. That kind of became the teachers' spot last year.

9. Markets- look no further than Khan el Khalili. Every day should be good. Try to avoid the tourist-oriented areas. Those are usually more expensive, but it will be easy to tell!

10. I heard about the area past Maadi. Never went though. As for outdoor activities, I would suggest getting out of Cairo first. That air isn't really the best place to be running around in. As for snorkeling and water sports, take the 10 hr bus ride out to Dahab. The water is amazing. World class snorkeling and diving! Plus, the hike up Sinai is an experience in itself.

11. How to visit mosques, tombs, and pyramids in a non touristy way..... Well, considering most of Egypt depends on tourism and these places are the most heavily frequented by touts and hustlers, it's really hard to answer this question. As a foreigner, you WILL get singled out, and I'm not sure how authentic an experience you can really get. You can walk around Islamic/Coptic Cairo and just check out the mosques and churches yourself on foot. And about the pyramids... I never paid for a tour, nor paid for tickets to get inside. We took a camel ride out at night (completely scammed by the way) and were able to check it out with nobody else around. That was pretty cool. We had the place all to ourselves.

12. Not sure about websites for the Cairo area. I became friends with teachers first, and then met more friends when I went out. Lots of expats in Maadi, and you can meet them by going tot he gym, getting involved in the community, etc. You'll see lots of signs and stuff about social groups there. And of course you can meet other foreigners in bars downtown. I recommend the Odeon! And check out couchsurfing if you can. A GREAT way to meet people from all over the world!

Hope all of that helped! Feel free to ask more questions if needed! Egypt will be a great experience and you'll definitely learn a lot Very Happy
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stoth1972



Joined: 16 May 2003
Posts: 674
Location: Seattle, Washington

PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 7:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I"ll take a stab-only briefly glanced over the other responses, so I'm sorry if I repeat what they said.

Quote:
Is it best to buy an adaptor for electrical items before I leave, or will I be able to get one easily there? (I taught in Spain last year and had a really difficult time finding adaptors for some reason).


Funnily enough, I lived in Spain before I moved to Egypt, too! I had a lot of issues w/ electrical items. Are you bringing much? I think it's easier to pick something up in Egypt (hairdryers and such) rather than getting a converter. Even then, depending on the age of your flat, the plugs won't fit the outlets. Finding these 5 way adaptors are pretty easy, though. Road 9 in maadi has an appliance shop(yes you can find cheaper but if you're trying to get some items right off the bat, it's a place to start). The "plastic' shop across from the appliance store (behind a fruit and veg and near the 'forbidden pleasures' aka pork and booze shop).

Quote:
I will actually be living in Maadi, not Cairo, which I understand is an area where many expats live, so I understand there are more stores geared towards foreigners. I would like to mention that I believe in truly immersing myself in the culture of the country where I am living, so I wonít be frequenting Starbucks or stores geared towards expats unless abolutely necessary to buy something like an adapter.

Like other people mentioned, it's a lot of everyone. I never felt smothered and had friends from Egypt as well as many other countries. Maadi has the potential to offer a bit of peace and quiet. I used to walk from my flat on Road 206 to Road 9 and aside from one big roundabout it can be a pretty quiet walk down Mustafa Kamal Street. There are so few places in Cairo where you can find that piece of quiet. There are so great restaurants in maadi, like VS mentioned...good for a more western breakfast and these places are frequented by a variety of nationalities.

Quote:
That said, my next question is about belly dance. I have been practicing belly dance for about three years, and I am very interested in taking lessons or perhaps joining a dance troupe when Iím in Egypt.

You can check out Samia Allouba in Maadi-they offer belly dancing
Creative Dance and Fitness Centre(Samia Allouba):13b Road 254, Digla, Maadi. Telephone: 5196575, 6 Amr St., off Syria St., Mohandessin. Telephone: 3020572. Web site: www.cdconline.com

I'll see if I can stir up a couple other recommendations.

Quote:
3. Do you suggest getting any vaccinations before going? I asked the director of the school where I will be teaching, and he said it isnít necessary, but I would rather be safe than sorry. Is Malaria or West Nile Virus a concern there? What, if any, are the major health concerns at the moment?

Our school actually gave us some shots when we arrived. No malaria, and despite its namesake, no west nile. You have a better chance of getting this in Ohio. Bird flu talk pops up now and again, but i think it's more just normal fear and overinflation.

Quote:
4. Speaking of mosquitoes, how bad are they really? I have read in prior posts that wearing bug repellant (especially in the evening) is necessary and that you can purchase something that you plug into your outlets to keep them out of your living areas. Can anyone recommend a good mosquito repellant that doesnít smell terrible and is feasible to wear on a daily basis? What exactly is in the blue stuff that you plug into the outletsÖare they safe, or is it something that could cause health problems down the road from carcinogens and the like?

They're worse in the winter. I sprayed my ankles and toes w/ repellent every morning. the mosquitoes would actually hide under my desk and the kids desk, devouring our exposed lower extremeties. Other than that, you shouldn't need to spray.

Quote:
6. What is the metro system like in the area? Is it safe, reliable, inexpensive? How late does it run?


Quote:
8. I am a great teacher who takes her job seriously, but I like to go out and have fun on my days off, and that means dancing. What are some of the best clubs or places with live bands to go? Please give suggestions for Maadi and Cairo.

I'll let the younger people speak to this. Maadi doesn't have any real clubs (except for that place where the CAC kids go to drink). I preferred the Grande Cafe on the corniche locally. Lots of great restaurants-many of which serve alcohol.

Quote:
9. I love outdoor markets. Are there any good street markets that sell jewelry, knick-nacks, clothes, (belly dance costumes), etc.? Where are the best ones and what days are they on?


I've got a friend who is sure to have a non-touristy contact for this stuff. Lemme get back to you on this.

Quote:
10. I also love to do things outdoors. I read somewhere that there is a desert area outside of Maadi where people go to walk and runÖis this true? What other types of outdoor activities are there? Where is the closest place to snorkel or do water sports?

The Hash-often found at Wadi Rum outside of Maadi. Closest access to the Red Sea is Ain Sukhnah-about 2 hours drive from Cairo. Not brilliant for snorkeling, though. You'll want to make a trip to the Sinai-Dahab, Ras Mohamed National Park. It's a long drive from cairo, but the underwater views are spectacular.

Quote:
11. I am very interested in the Dynastic period of Egyptian history. If I want to visit mosques, tombs, the pyramids, etc., but not in a typical touristy type of way, what would be the best way to truly experience these places?

I don't think there's a non-touristy way to see the Giza pyramids, but this woman does atypical horseback rides to the Sakkara pyramids
http://www.alsorat.com/
She keeps a great blog or two:
http://miloflamingo.blogspot.com/
Islamic and Coptic Cairo offer multiple opportunities to explore. I think this is best done w/ a guide book, a good taxi driver, and lots of water.

Quote:
12. Are there any other websites for the Cairo area where teachers can meet other teachers or people who are new to the area, or expats who could give advise while there?

This is a good place to start for finding your feet:
http://www.livinginegypt.org/
The Cairo hash http://www.cairohash.com/ is a great way to meet new people, too.

Quote:
Whew! Thatís a slew of questions, but Iím hoping you guys can help me out with these things. I am a very open minded person, and I donít think Iím going to have a problem adapting to life in Egypt. I just believe in getting the true low-down on places, and to be as prepared as I can possibly be to make my transitions abroad even smoother.

It's a good start. I livedin the UAE and SPain before moving to Egypt, and never knew culture shock like I did upon arriving in Cairo. Very Happy
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stoth1972



Joined: 16 May 2003
Posts: 674
Location: Seattle, Washington

PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 7:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Just read VS's comments...W. nile is endemic in Africa?
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stoth1972



Joined: 16 May 2003
Posts: 674
Location: Seattle, Washington

PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2007 11:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Check your PMs, saramaria.
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veiledsentiments



Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 16129
Location: USA

PostPosted: Sat Aug 04, 2007 1:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

So I was told by medical people. The West Nile virus is carried by the day biting mozzies. The reality is that the vast majority of people who get west nile never know it or have only mild symptoms. It is a really a danger only to the elderly or already unhealthy. In fact, these people said that people should send their kids out to get bit so that they develop immunity.

When I told them how many bites I had over the three years that I was first there, they said that it was impossible that I didn't catch it. If I did, I have no recollection of being unusually ill.

VS
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