Friday, August 31, 2007

Where should I live in Egypt /Cairo?

I think this is the question I get asked the most by newcomers to this country, often before they even arrive.

Quick Orientation :

Cairo is the capital & the business centre.
Alexandria is a lovely Mediterranean sea side town 3 hours drive away from Cairo but has its own international airport too.
Port Said & Port Suez are along the Suez Canal. A lot of people who work in the shipping industry are posted in these towns.
Sharm el Sheikh & Hurghada are the party towns on the Red Sea Coast.
Luxor, Aswan are in Upper Egypt and are the ancient pharaonic towns.

These are the main cities that expats live in.

I'm not qualified to elaborate on all the cities. Cairo is the only city I have enough knowledge about to share information on places to stay. So here goes...

Where to live in Cairo :

Traffic in Cairo means that it can take ages to reach from point A to point B. It's better to live as close as possible to your office or college/university so you can save a ton of time on traveling and use that time more productively.

If you are an Expat with kids then your child's school is another major consideration to keep in mind. Which school ? How long will it take my child to travel from home to school ? Is there a school bus facility ? Is there a convenient pick-up location ?
In a toss up between your own/spouses office location & child's school location, you need to take a call for yourself and your family that will best suit your needs.

If you are a student, then you may also like to stay in walking distance to a Metro station. The Metro service in Cairo is efficient & extremely beneficial to anyone who doesn't have their own means of transportation in this city or who doesn't want to drive here. :)

Areas to live in :

Maadi : The choice of a majority of expats. Close to many international schools. Maadi is a lot greener than a lot of other areas in Cairo. Plenty of organisations catering specifically to or of interest to expats like Community Service Association (CSA), Cairo Rugby Club, Studio 206, Ace Club Maadi : Association of Cairo Expatriates, Cairo Hash House Harriers, Cairo Petroleum Wives, Maadi Womens Guild, Serafis among others.

There are bungalows (stand alone houses) 2/3 floored buildings as well as a couple of highrises around roads 200 & 201.

Rents are higher in this part of town. But its worth it for the benefits of the greenery and community living.

Zamalek : An Island on the Nile in the centre of the city. Its the location of choice for embassy employees (a lot of embassies are located in this area) and AUC students. The AUC hostels are also located in this area.

The constructions are older here but not necessarily in bad condition. The apartments are really huge and spacious with high ceilings and wooden floors.

Garden City : Similar to Zamalek. Rent rates would be slightly lower than Zamalek. Its just across the river towards Maadi.

Mohandaseen : The business part of town. Started as a residential area for engineers is the story I have heard. Its an extremely busy part of town.

Dokki : A residential area between Mohandaseen and downtown.

Most of the restaurants and clubs are clustered around these areas of town.

There are other areas of town that are cool to live in to. These include downtown Cairo, Heliopolis, Nasr City, 6th of October city and El Rehab City.

Excepting downtown (which is logically in the centre of the city) the others are on the outskirts of the city and it takes some time to reach the city centre from these locations. But they are better planned with more greenery, parking spaces and less traffic.

Nasr City is also home to City Stars the largest mall in Cairo. A shopaholics delight with tons of stores, restaurants, food courts and cinema halls. Read more at

This is just a quick primer on some residential areas in Cairo. Rates will depend on size of apartment/house and location. For eg within Garden city itself similar apartments may rent for different rates based on quality of construction, amount the owner has spent on doing up the place etc.

So find yourself a good "semsar" - real estate agent - and happy hunting.

(I may write a post later on estate agents, so stay tuned)

Edited on 18 April 09 to add:
Egypt Today did a wonderful series on this topic a while ago, that I though could add to this post.

Garden City
Nasr City
New Cairo
Suburban Joy: covers Cairo-Alex Desert Road, Sixth of October City, El Shorouk City, New Cairo and the Maadi Circular.

The magazine had articles on Shorouq, Kattameya, 6th of October City, Al-Solaimaneyah also. I can't find the links for them online though.

Shout out to Indians in Egypt


I've been receiving tons of requests for help and information about life & living in Egypt. There are a lot of groups around that can help you with that, but there wasn't a particular group focussing on Indians & their special (read spicy) needs.

I've created a group called desisinEgypt on yahoogroups. To sign up please send a blank mail to desisinEgypt-subscribe[at]yahoogroups[dot]com. You can subscribe even if you aren't Indian, but do be warned that the discussions will have a strong Indian slant.

Membership is moderated on that group because of the nature of the group and subscribers have to fill up a small questionnaire before their membership is approved.

You are allowed to ask all kinds of questions and feel free to reply to peoples questions. We will keep the discussions civil & polite.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Dubai firm launches Muslim image bank

Dubai firm launches Muslim image bank
by Lynne Roberts on Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Muslim Heritage Consulting has launched the world’s first Muslim history image library online.

The library, at includes manuscripts from the 10th Century as well as contemporary images of people, architecture and museum artefacts.

Collections telling the story of Muslim civilisation have been brought together from museums, archives and private collections across the world.

Many images recreate pivotal moments in history such as pioneering early surgical work carried out in the Middle East centuries before similar treatments were available in Europe.

Samia Khan, spokesperson for Muslim Heritage Images said with interest in the Muslim world growing, it was important to have a definitive and reliable source of images.

'One of the biggest challenges for museums, publishers and production companies has been trying to relate these stories from the past using imagery which is extremely difficult to find. Muslim Heritage Images has brought together thousands of images of manuscripts, and photos of Muslim culture, history and people and made it accessible using a simple online format,' she said.

A note of caution : I visited While the pictures are beautiful, they are all copyrighted. Only the minor thumbnails are clear, slight enlargement shows pictures with large watermarks which take away the beauty of the picture. I guess this is a site for commercial distribution of the images.

I am not against copyrighting, but it can be done tastefully like those at (Refer my previous article : CIC World Press Photo 2007 Awards Exhibition) so that surfers who would just like to enjoy the beauty of the pictures can do so without any hindrance. But if you try to copy the image by any means, it disallows that and a polite message requesting you not to copy the picture pops up.

Description de l'Egypte

The Description de l'Egypte is now available online in digital format.

The Description de l'Egypte was the outcome of 150 prominent scholars and scientists who accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte in 1798 with 2000 artists and technicians.

Twenty volumes of text and picture plates depicting aspects of contemporary and ancient Egypt civilisation went down in history as the most comprehensive record of Egypt's land and monuments.

In the first project of its kind, they have been fully digitized and integrated on a virtual browser for the world to view at

"The Description of Egypt" was typical of European attempts to understand and unravel the mystery of the orient in anticipation of occupying its lands and draining its wealth. "The Description of Egypt" comprises materials that belong more to science than to letters. It is composed of 12 large-size volumes of maps, lists and drawings, and 24 volumes of texts. It is noteworthy that the birth of "Egyptology" owes much to "The Description of Egypt" and was complemented by Champollion's eventual translation of the Rosetta Stone.

Read more about the Description de l'Egypte at Tour Egypt.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

CIC World Press Photo 2007 Awards Exhibition

Contemporary Image Collective (CiC) in collaboration with the World Press Photo Foundation and with the patronage of the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Cairo has brought the World Press Photo 2007 Awards Exhibition to Cairo.

It has been taking place for three weeks at the El-Sawy Culture Wheel, open to the public starting 10 August 2007 from 9am to 8 pm.

The traveling exhibition is shown each year at about 90 venues in 40 countries all over the world, and is considered the most prestigious news photography display. As an historical document, the exhibition contains the world’s main events of 2006. The 2007 edition of the World Press Photo exhibit brings almost 200 prizewinning images, results of a worldwide press photography annual contest, with the submission of 78,083 images from 4,460 professional photographers in 124 countries.

The pictures are amazing. We quite enjoyed a walk across all the pictures. The tags are very descriptive, so you don't have to rack your brains trying to figure out what has been captured in the picture. The Nature (Animal world) section was my favourite.The Sports pictures have also captured motion brilliantly. The Pictures of the war are truly horrifying to anyone with a tender heart.

My only wish is if they could have arranged the pictures by grouping the same category in sequential order instead of scattering them all around. It would have made it easier to compare and contrast styles & techniques.

If you don't have the time to actually visit the exhibition, the pictures can also be viewed online at

But I highly recommend visiting el Sawy to see the photos.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Sound and Light Show Timings at Pyramids

Here are the timings for the Sound & Light Show at the Pyramids of Giza.

Tickets are sold starting about 45 minutes before the first show.

The charge for the Non-Arabic shows is 75LE last time I checked.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Egypt wants a bite of Indian BPO mkt

From The Economic Times

CAIRO: Egypt has set its sights on grabbing a share of the multi-billion dollar Indian-dominated call centre market and is looking to an unexpected corner for a helping hand, India.

As it makes its pitch to the world, touting a multilingual workforce over India's English-speakers, a time zone shared with Europe and proximity to the US, Egypt is marketing its edge over India to India itself.

The government has sent a high-level delegation to India to convince the IT behemoth to sub-outsource its outsourcing to Egypt.

Several cooperation agreements and memoranda of understanding were signed between the two countries, and Indian industry giants such as Wipro and Satyam have signed agreements to set up support centres in Egypt.

According to the Yankee Group, a US-based technology research and consulting firm in IT outsourcing, Egypt is 15 to 20 years behind India, which has boomed to dominate 60 per cent of the overall offshore market.

But the south Asian giant struggles to maintain an adequate supply of skilled workers, and handing some of the pie to Egypt could be mutually beneficial, Egypt says.

The Information Technology Industry Development Agency (ITIDA) was set up by the government of technocrat Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif in 2004 to guide Egypt's burgeoning IT industry and propel it onto the world stage.

The government hopes to entice major IT players to set up their call centres, accounting and payroll management, known as business process outsourcing (BPO), in Egypt, pumping resources into an industry it hopes will elevate the national economy.

"This sector will lead to a renaissance in Egypt," ITIDA CEO Mohamed Omran told media. So will Egypt become the new India? "Absolutely not," said Omran. "We cannot compete with India, we don't want to compete with India, we want to cooperate with India."

"It's what makes the most sense," said Mai Farouk, an independent IT analyst, currently researching Egypt's outsourcing industry.

"It would help the industry grow and elevate its standard," said Farouk, but she fears that the lack of a formal analysis of Egypt's IT experience so far could send the country down the wrong path.

"There has been no thorough analysis of the Egyptian experience," she told media. "In Egypt, if a type of business is successful, everyone jumps into it. It is an individual and business trend here.

"We need to study and learn from other's mistakes," she said. One problem facing India is the country's poorly planned roads making it difficult for staff to reach some of the outsourcing centres, something Egypt has picked up on.

Far from the clutter of Cairo, the government has allocated a vast expanse of desert to the highly marketed "Smart Village," a gated compound built with state of the art technological services.

The lush techno park already houses industry giants Microsoft, Vodafone, Ericsson and Alcatel among others. At the high-tech Vodafone Egypt offices, employees have already tasted some of that renaissance mentioned by Omran.

Staff have access to their own restaurant, cafe and gym. Sherif Bakir, head of retail at Vodafone Egypt, says the Smart Village has been very enticing for investors as well as new recruits.

"Young graduates in Egypt are attracted by so many factors in the IT industry: the prospects of a career, the salaries (which are four times that of an average starting salary) and the opportunity to work somewhere like Smart Village with all its benefits," he said.

"And in Egypt, being a call centre agent is not seen like being a telephone operator. It's not a dead end job, it's seen as a stepping stone to a career in the IT industry."

But critics say Egypt's outsourcing "boom" won't develop into more than a boutique industry, with the much-touted multilingual and skilled human resource pool amounting to a tiny percentage of Egypt's 76 million population.

A high level of illiteracy, dire poverty and a very large rural population mean that most won't touch the benefits of a booming IT industry.

Omran, of ITIDA, says the figures speak for themselves. "A tiny percentage of a huge population is a lot of people," he said. "We're talking millions. And IT is like blood, it gets into the veins of all industries and sectors."

He is eager to showcase his agency's pride and joy: Xceed, one of the largest contact centres in North Africa and the IT arm of the government-owned Telecom Egypt.

At the 16,000-square-metre (170,000-square-foot) space equipped with "cutting edge fault tolerant IT infrastructure," 1,200 agents offer customer and technical support to General Motors, Microsoft and Oracle among others, in eight languages including English, French, German and Hebrew.

According to Xceed, in 2005, nearly 70 percent of total outsourced Egyptian workstations were supporting local customers. "However, by 2010 this will be nearly completely reversed with 65 percent of Egyptian outsourced workstations servicing foreign end-users."

The ministry of communication and information technology is trying to attract foreign companies with a special focus on call centres, by offering five to 10 year tax exemptions, branding Egypt as a safe oasis in a troubled region.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Lake Nasser's Wildlife - Picture Gallery on BBC

Should have put this up earlier, but was keeping the pictures to myself :)

A friend of mine "Mohamed El Hebeishy" has had his pictures published on the BBC site. Mohamed's name may be familiar to you, from the travel articles he writes for many magazines and Newspapers in Egypt and his accompanying photos. Check out

All photographs by Mohamed El Hebeishy
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