I wrote this post in January 2019, shortly after leaving Cairo. It has sat in my drafts for ages as I couldn’t find a time when it felt right to publish but now seems like a good time.
1. Moving here will be one of the hardest things you will do and you will nearly book flights back to the UK on a monthly basis. In the next 18 months you will experience the highest highs and the lowest lows.
2. You won’t travel to Jordan and Lebanon as you plan, there is so much to see in Egypt you won’t need to leave. In the next 18 months you’ll visit Alexandria, Sahl Hasheesh, Luxor, Ain Sokhna and have many Cairo staycations.
3. Kayaking down the Nile on a Friday morning is magical, but it’s a lot less work to hire a private yacht and do it in style.
4. You will massively lose your shit and cause a huge scene at Cairo airport when a taxi driver tries to charge you 170LE to get from T1 to T2. Eventually you settle on 50LE which will still kill you a bit inside.
5. Despite being asked to sign your name 1,783 times in front of a CIB member of staff until it is perfect, the name on your bank card will still be spelt incorrectly.
6. You know that you definitely want a burial chamber with hieroglyphs inspired by ancient Egypt.
7. You’ll learn a bit of Arabic and you will use it daily. The sense of achievement when you can read a car registration plate is a small victory!
8. Driving home one night you’ll hear a weird sound in the car, then you realise it’s your indicator which you haven’t used for so long you’ve forgotten what it sounds like.
9. Egyptian vodka is lethal.
10. Nefertari mandarin body scrub is the best thing ever
11. You will be shocked at the severe poverty here – never take for granted how fortunate you are.
12. You will find a good kennels for Dyson and it isn’t the place you go to check out where they simply shut dogs in a cupboard, no exaggeration.
13. You’ll become a pro at using your horn. One quick beep means ‘I’m in your vicinity’ a longer beep means ‘I’m overtaking / right next to you’ and a long beep means ‘ we’re about to die’
14. The banking system here is designed to test every last bit of patience you have. You must psych yourself up before a visit and if it goes well you’ll be confused why it went well and assume you’ll need to go back a few days later.
15. Koshary is delicious, go to Abu Tarek frequently.
16. The Oberoi in Sahl Hasheesh will be one of the best hotels you’ll ever stay in.
17. You will get used to doing a Gourmet shop on a Friday morning and wait for them to tell you what they don’t have so you can then do a Dakakyan shop followed by a final Metro shop. Even then you probably won’t have what you need so you’ll Otlob a KFC and Nola.
18. You will fall in and out of love with Egypt on a daily basis.
19. You will find a good beauty salon (Josy), hairdresser (Christie) and dentist (Cairo smile).
20. The gym is a waste of money – don’t join. The 1hr class will last about 25 minutes by the time the instructor has arrived, greeted everyone and had a chat. Most people in the class will wander in late, answer their phone in the class and use the mirrors to apply their make up.
21. Take advantage of Egyptian resident rates. The Hilton is Luxor is beautiful and you’ll get a HUGE discount.
22. Don’t attempt Zumba, you will feel like the person who turned up sober at a party 3 hours late when everyone else is wasted.
23. You will get used to getting ready for work using a jug of tepid water between two of you because the water has been cut …….again.
24. You will meet a lovely bunch of people and make some awesome memories.
25. You can pay all your bills using Fawry at an ATM and online using the Fawry app (when the internet is working).
26. Bring ear plugs, Egypt is LOUD. A white noise app will become your best friend.
27. Fayoum is magical
28. You’ll never feel as much disappointment at a restaurant closure than when you hear Sequoia has shut down!
29. Seeing Ramses IV tomb at the Valley of the Kings will blow your mind and make you a bit emotional.
30. Never expect a tradesman to come with anything he needs to do his job. The painter will come without a bucket to mix his paint, the electrician will come without ladders and the guy who’s coming to measure for doors won’t have a tape measure
31. Stock up at Boots, especially tampons.
32. The BCA in Kattameya is good for a pie / fish & chip fixed every now and then.
33. You will stop using the 4th exit of a roundabout. Like the locals you’ll learn to just do a U turn instead
34. Walking around a Christmas market listening to carols, eating sausages, drinking beer and making way for Mary riding her donkey feels surreal.
35. You’ll never find out what half the switches in your apartment are for, there’s a high probability you’re controlling next doors lights.
36. Don’t think that roundabouts are there to help the flow of traffic. They are for socialising, selling bananas, oranges, plants, rugs, fish, crabs and cuddly toys which make great gifts.
37. Bring warm clothes, December and January are fairly chilly, bizarrely it’s colder inside than out.
38. When you hear people talking about pyramids you don’t think of Giza, you think of their evolution and the poor bent one at Dahshur.
39. There will be far too many random experiences including your private driver bringing his mother in law and a picnic on your rode trip to Alexandria. Breaking down because the oil in the car engine was ‘too heavy’ and accidentally ending up in a high security water treatment plant
40. You’ll never regret the 18 months you spent in Egypt, professionally it was fantastic and personally there were some amazing highlights………..but you made the right choice to leave.