Starting a life in Egypt – my first experiences as a Dutchie in Cairo

General|6.4 MIN READ|Updated on: 07 October 2023|Written by: Mohamed Hassan

Many people would love to live abroad for a while thinking that the grass is greener on the other side but they forget to mention that the grass is always greener where you water it as well. Most residents in Egypt would like to choose a nice European country so that they can live, where life can seem boring but it is safe as it is secured.

They would choose to live in a completely different country, culture and language as well. They would love to start from scratch, far enough from home to force them to be able to be strong enough mentally and physically to rely upon only themselves. They are living in hope that they believe what they haven’t seen is better than what they have seen, little do they know the amount of culture shock and the blessings in the stressing that the beautiful country of Egypt contains.

On the other hand, for a dutchie like myself, I have always wanted to travel across the world and live in a country that isn't too westernized as well as not fully traditional and the perfect opportunity presented itself when I was studying during my fourth year in my bachelor’s degree. During my studies, I had to conduct a research and complete an internship. 

All of my colleagues were planning to stay in Holland, but I actually decided to move to Cairo and gain other experiences in the process as well. In this article, I will further explain all my first interactions and the many different experiences that I have gained during my time in Cairo. From how I found my apartment for rent to my first experience towards the culture, tradition and society. Furthermore I will explain the differences between real estate in comparison between both countries of Holland and Egypt.

From the first problems that I have faced was to find a company that would accept me before I can pursue my ability to travel. The university has requested an official admission before they can actually give me the permission to apply. Firstly, I contacted my network within Holland to see if there was anyone with the ability to assist me with this matter.  Within this process, I found 9 companies that I applied for and after that there wasn’t much that can be done. Afterwards, I sent my CV to more than 20 companies hoping that I would hear a response but after many disappointing phone calls, only one company reached out and offered me a position to work.

They told me that there were not guarantees to this specific matter but they told me they were lacking employees at the current time so it was a win-win situation for both parties. From then on, I booked my ticket and a couple weeks later I travelled to Egypt.

I remember sitting in the plane and speaking with others about our current situation and future destination. When I told them I was going to live in Egypt, they would actually ask me what I planning to do and where I was planning to stay. I would actually give them the same answer which is that “I don’t know and I will see when I arrive”, which wasn’t the best of answers at the time but the situation felt very exciting and adventurous as well. 

However from there, the exciting part was quickly over. When I first arrived in the International Airport in Cairo, I went to the company straight to the company that offered me the position. From then on, I went looking for an apartment for rent, which wasn’t much of an hassle as I once assumed. I spent the first week in Cairo, where I resided in a hostel at that time.

During that first week, I checked out many different places within the city and in the end I decided to live in Maadi. Maadi is a very nice area in the city where a lot of other foreigners reside as well. The buildings are widely spread and especially the apartments for rent in Cairo Egypt and the Villas for rent in Cairo Egypt. The streets of Maadi are full of nature and trees, providing the right shade at certain times and clean air at all times.

Later on, I subscribed to a couple of Facebook groups where people exchange properties and some listings would offer the best prices. Within no time I found a nice furnished residence for me to stay from there. During my first month in Cairo, I would then have started to explore the stunning city and the culture that doesn’t end. An interesting aspect about Cairo is the public transportation. As a Dutchie, I am used to trains and buses that depart and arrive at fixed times and you can actually contact the driver and ask them if they are late. On the other hand in Cairo, it is quite different due to the fact that the center areas hold metro lines, microbuses and public buses that are not technically fixed hours but there is ways of transportation almost every 5 minutes.

Public transportation is the easiest and fastest way to commute through the city. If your location is too far from a metro station, you can have two options: taxis or microbuses. As for taxis or as some of the world can name it “cabs”, everyone knows the deal for that side. As for microbuses, it was a new phenomenon for me. Microbuses are the model of Volkswagen T3 buses that are converted to something that is able to transport at least 10 human beings at one time. In the city, there is no way that you will find any signs for a bus or any time-tables. When I asked people for a map to know where the buses can go, they would laugh at home at tell me, “Ask the driver, he must know.”

Living in Maadi is quite nice and peaceful. The accessibility of the metro at any time before midnight is a great way to move around the city. There are also many 24-hour supermarkets that are available within short distances. There are many places of entertainment such as bars, clubs and restaurants if you are looking to dine out. When you live in Maadi you can meet interesting people at any time and they are friendly almost all the time so it would not be hard to make friends. There is also a protectorate, where you can escape the crowdedness of the city and go on a bike, climb mountains or even just sit back and relax. The nature in Maadi is always beautiful and you have a huge chance of spotting some desert foxes and other interesting animals in the protectorate.

The population that is residing in Maadi is mixed; between expats and the locals of Maadi. You will find many different expats regardless if they are teachers for an international school, diplomats or even businessmen. The people I have met on the street are quite friendly, The area always feels safe and secured as well as the streets are clean and tidy. You can read all about Maadi and which place is better for you whether its Sarayat Maadi or Degla Maadi.

For me as a student with low requirements, it is quite easy to find an apartment for rent. However, when you are used to higher living standards, you will find that the best way to find available residency is by contacting an experienced yet professional real estate agent. Real estate agents know the neighborhood very well and know which apartments are available for rent or for sale.

Compared to back home in Holland, the real estate companies are more competitive with each other. For example, when somebody in Holland wants to rent a house or an apartment, they would go to one brokerage office and wait until the agent has found a tenant. In Egypt, all the agents in a neighborhood try to find a tenant for the same house. The agent who gets the tenant first gets the money.

Looking back on my first experience in Egypt, I have had a great time. Meeting all those new people and exploring everyday has been tiring sometimes, but it was an experience to witness first hand. Meeting all kinds of new traditional people and enjoying every last minute. 

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