Cairo is one world’s most crowded and polluted cities. About half of Cairo’s population lives in informal settlements, lacking infrastructure, healthcare, and other primary facilities. Finding a good area to live in is important. Cairo contains many neighborhoods where only Egyptians live and where only a minority of the people speaks English. If you are moving to Cairo, there are only a couple of neighborhoods that are meeting the requirements of most expats and that you should consider. If you are looking for safety, good healthcare facilities, sports and good education, these neighborhoods will be fitting you the most. In this blog, I will discuss these ‘expat’ neighborhoods, giving some pros and cons and I’ll give you my best advice when it comes up to choosing an apartment.
1) Maadi Sarayat and Maadi Degla :
Maadi is located in the south of Cairo. The suburb is the home for approximately 90.000 people. Especially the areas close to the Nile called Maadi Sarayat and Maadi Degla might be interesting for you to live. The population in Sarayat and Degla exists of well-doing Egyptians and expats. The streets are clean and calm; you will find here an easy going mood. Because there has been a governmental obligation to maintain the gardens, Maadi is by far the greenest area of the city. You will imagine yourself in a tropical park. Especially in the summer, when it can be extremely hot, the trees provide fresh(er) air and shade. There are plenty of good schools, sport-clubs, bars, and restaurants. With Maadi Carrefour and the Grand Mall, there are two shopping malls very nearby. Besides that, you will find a lot of smaller supermarkets, tool shops, laundry service, etc. Maadi is one of the few neighborhoods in Cairo where you will find only villas lower build apartments. The metro has three stations in Maadi and it has great access for cars.
Located in the middle of the Nile, Zamalek is considered one of the more affluent areas in the city. Despite that most Egyptians are not very happy with the football club, Zamalek is still a nice place to be. Good healthcare, shops, and other important facilities are nearby. Because it is in the heart of the city, there are lots of job opportunities and things to do. It is green, and a home to a lot of foreigners. However, last decennial Zamalek has become very crowded. In 2010, there were living approximately 420.000 people living on the island. Furthermore, renting an apartment in Zamalek can be very expensive.
Mohandessin means literally ‘The Engineers’. It was built in the early 1950s, containing lots of villas and luxury apartments. However, after the big urbanization in the 70s, the neighborhood became very crowded and full of apartments. Mohandessin is at the moment, the most expensive area in Cairo. Although it is no so green and very crowded, living in Mohandessin has some nice advantages. The newest fashion, luxury shopping and big companies, are all located here. Furthermore, good healthcare and education are available here on a short distance.
In 1904 a Belgium Baron set foot in Cairo. He started to build the city of Heliopolis, 10 km from the center. The city differs from most other areas in Cairo, by its architecture. Attempting to design a new architectural style, the whole city is built in a unique way. Although the architecture didn’t receive its desired world fame, the architecture is still well preserved.
In Heliopolis, the avenues are broadly designed. It is less crowded than more central areas in Cairo, and also greener. Moreover, you can find one of the most luxury sports clubs of Egypt, and necessary facilities are nearby. Heliopolis is connected to the metro network, and therefore, most central areas in Cairo are within reach. With the Queens hospital, it also houses one of Cairo’s best hospitals.
New Cairo, Sheikh Zayed City, 6th of October city
These cities located at the far borders of greater Cairo are different from ‘normal’ Cairo. Located more than 15 km from the center, you will find large compounds, broad avenues, some trees, and villas. The areas are widespread, and a house to the Egyptian middle and upper class. You will find here big shopping malls, food malls, modern cafe's, universities and sports facilities. The public transport is arranged by (micro) buses and taxis. Compared to Cairo, you will find that these areas are less crowded, cleaner, more modern and have their own societies. 6th of October city has a large industrial area as well. A big disadvantage, is the long distance to the center of the city. Especially in the rush hour, traveling to the center can take up to 2 hours.
5) Garden city:
Garden city is a calm residential district in the heart of Cairo. It has some historical places, and of course, Tahrir Medin, famous for its role that it played during the revolution. Garden city was built by private investors, aiming for a European vibe. Nowadays, there is a mixed population of foreigners and Egyptians, living a peaceful life. You won’t find a big sports club or shopping mall here, but there a plenty of smaller stores. The accessibility is good since it’s close to the metro station and in the center of the city. Compared to most other areas in Cairo, the population is not so densely spread and it has some trees and broader streets.
The last neighborhood that I want to mention, is Downtown. Downtown is the Egyptian culture in one of its most extreme compositions. It must be one of the most crowded areas on Earth. People are selling stuff at every corner of the street. They are hanging the clothes they sell on the fences of the street. The ground floor of every building exists of the shop, so you won’t find a ground floor apartment in this area. In this area, you will find a lot of cheap restaurants and good facilities. People on the street make fun all the time and there is a big chance that you meet somebody who wants to sell you something. I would not recommend this area to anyone who is moving to Cairo with his family. However, if you are a little bit adventurous and staying for a shorter period, it can be pretty fun to live in this area. It’s up to you.
Choosing your neighborhood
Last but not least. Taking into account different factors like environment, facilities, and crowdedness, the most important factor in Cairo is distance. Cairo city is huge. According to Wikipedia, it is the 15th city of the world and a home for more than 20 million people. This results in a day-long traffic jam, and the metros very crowded. So when you are choosing your neighborhood, a very important thing is that you are living close to your job.
Finding an apartment
When you have chosen your neighborhood, you need to start thinking about an apartment. The easiest way is to rent a furnished apartment. When you want to stay for a longer period of time, you can also choose to furnish your residence by yourself. In the best areas, there are cheaper and very expensive apartments for rent. The cheap apartments are commonly outdated and bad maintained.
When you are ok with a lower living standard, such an apartment can be a good choice. These flats can be found easily on Facebook, using Facebook groups.
The better apartments are generally only found when contacting a real estate company. When you are dealing with a real estate company, you need to know a few things. An owner from an apartment can go to more than one brokerage office to ask him to find a tenant. The agent who connects a tenant to the owner gets the commission. So real estate companies can be aggressive, trying to be faster than their competitors. Make sure this does not influence your decision. Second, make sure that you’ll find a proper company. Not all companies who are calling themselves real estate companies are professional. Take your time to check out the website and take your time to get in contact with them. A professional company will have the best apartments for you available and will help you to find where you are looking for.
When you are traveling, I recommend using the app or website from hostel world. This application is one of my best friends during traveling. It has a map with all the nearby hostels and its price. Clicking on the hostel will show you the internet page and contact information of the hostel immediately. Compared to Europe, it is in some areas hard to find a hostel. So I suggest that you check if there is a hostel available before you are traveling to your destination. When you are traveling through Cairo, I can recommend the Dahab hostel. It is located in the very heart of the city, close to Tahrir square. Furthermore, it has a big roof terrace with a nice view over the city, friendly personal and it is not expensive.
I wish you all the best with your choice of stay. See you in Cairo!
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