Egypt has become one of the more popular tourist and expat destinations of the last few years with more and more to attract overseas visitors and those looking to move to Egypt for a new life. As with any move overseas, there are many issues to consider and plans to make before actually moving to Egypt, something which is covered in detail in a thread entitled “Moving in August….advice needed”. The beauty of this particular thread is the simplicity of the questions asked, questions that many people are unsure of but sometimes afraid to ask about.
Background to the thread
In simple terms the thread has been started by a lady who is moving to Cairo in August 2009 where she already has an employer lined up. The lady in question is unsure as to exactly where she will be staying initially, with 6th October (a well-known Egyptian city) and New Cairo mentioned as possible destinations. However, the main reason for the thread is to acclimatise herself with Arabic, travel around Egypt, shopping and potentially making contacts prior to arriving in the country.
Before we look in more detail at the thread we will cover some of the more general points about Egypt which you should be aware of if you are considering moving there.
6th October City
If you come across a mention of 6th October when discussing Egyptian cities this is actually the capital of the 6th of October Governorate in Egypt. It is one of the new cosmopolitan cities with a population of around 500,000 people and has a specific emphasis on education with a large number of students in the region. Many people consider this city to be one of the “new breed” of cities in Egypt which takes in both the original culture of Egypt and more modern aspects of everyday life and culture from other areas of the world.
While the city was established back in 1979 and currently has around 500,000 inhabitants, it is expected that in due course the population in the area will increase to around 3.7 million and become a focal point of the region. The name itself has strong connections with the military in Egypt and various conflicts in the past as well as the Egyptian Armed Forces Day.
New Cairo city
New Cairo city is also one of the more recent Egyptian cities emanating from a master plan created back in 2001 by a Boston-based firm. As with the vast majority of new Egyptian cities there is also a focus on education in this particular area with the American University, Germany University, Future University and the Canadian International College all based in the region. This is for all extent and purposes an extension of Cairo without the noise and pollution which has been a prominent part of life in the old cities of Egypt.
Even though New Cairo has a focus on education it is seen by many as one of the upper-class areas of Egypt with luxury villas and condominiums as far as the eye can see. It has also become one of the central focal points of the property market in Egypt attracting companies from all over the world looking to develop both residential and tourist operations in the country.
Facts and figures about Egypt
While commonly referred to as Egypt, the correct name is actually the Arab Republic of Egypt, the country is situated in North Africa and surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea, the Gaza Strip, Israel, the Red Sea, Sudan and Libya. The country itself is dominated by the Nile with the vast majority of the 80 million population living very close to the famous river. The country itself is dominated by the likes of Cairo, Alexandria and an array of other cities in and around the Nile Delta which offers access to the only farmland in the country.
While many areas of Egypt are desert, or desert like, the country itself is one of the most developed in the Middle East and has significant exposure to tourism, agriculture and an ever-growing services industry.
The Egyptian economy
As we touched on above, Egypt has a very high exposure to tourism and agriculture although media and petroleum exports also play a large part in the country’s prosperity. The River Nile not only dominates Egypt itself but is seen by many as the focal point for overseas tourists and those looking to begin life in the country. Billions upon billions of dollars have been spent on developing the Nile with various dams and trading routes springing up on a regular basis to emphasise the total dependence which the country has on the river.
Egypt is also very prominent in the energy market with naturally occurring coal, oil, natural gas and significant exposure to the hydropower market. This has attracted significant overseas investment into the country which has resulted in a massive change in the structure of the economy and the government over the last 20 years or so. As a way to encourage the development of new businesses in Egypt the government recently undertook a dramatic restructuring of the countries taxation laws which saw corporate taxes fall from 40% to 20% with the idea of increasing total tax revenue by 100%.
As you might have guessed, the reduction in corporation tax has seen many overseas companies looking towards Egypt which is now recognised as one of the major growth areas in the world by no less than the International Monetary Fund (IMF). There has been massive change in Egypt over the last few years, there will be more changes in the future but at this point in time the country is well positioned to prosper for many years to come.
While the political landscape of Egypt is very much calmer today than it was 50 years ago there are still many changes which need to be made to bring the country in line with many of its trading partners and other countries from the developed world. While officially political power in Egypt is shared between the President and the Prime Minister in reality it is the president who has ultimate control over what goes on in the country. However, changes have been announced which will see the first multi-candidate presidential elections in Egypt for 50 years even though the changes are not perfect they are certainly a step in the right direction.
Unfortunately the human rights record of Egypt is still shrouded in some controversy and while there have been significant developments and changes over the last few years, again there is still a long way to go. However, this is a country which is slowly but surely opening up from the closed party political system which had a democratic look from the outside but in many ways operated as something of a “dictatorship”.
One of the more difficult tasks when looking to move overseas, especially for people from English-speaking countries, is the requirement to grasp a new language. While the lady in question has not confirmed the type of employment she has agreed in Egypt we could assume from the two potential areas where she may live that it is in the teaching profession. As a consequence, while you may think it would be easier to learn a foreign language if you are from a teaching background this is not always the case.
There are a number of helpful points and some helpful advice in the thread with many people suggesting acquiring an Arabic phrase book to get you by in the early days with the likes of the Lonely Planet Egypt book mentioned as something to consider. There are also a number of well-known phrase books suggested in the thread by people who have been through the same situation, highlighting the fact that you do not need to have a total grasp of the language to get by in the early days.
Thankfully, it does seem as though there are many Arabic teachers in Egypt and with Cairo one of the main cities in the country there will be no shortage of potential tutors. The ever-growing number of expats, overseas investors and overseas visitors to Egypt has seen the demand for Arabic tutors climb constantly over the last few years.
Transport in Egypt
Egypt itself is notorious for a very demanding and often dangerous road network where many people believe drivers ignore traffic lights making it very difficult for an expat or a tourist to take a more hands-on approach and drive themselves around Egypt in their early days. There is mention of the Metro, buses and taxis with a number of people in the thread suggesting the Metro is the easier option and very cheap.
There is a tongue in cheek suggestion that those who use the microbuses and taxis in Egypt may well have “money to burn” because it is not the cheapest way to travel around the likes of Cairo and other cities in the country.
Shopping for essentials in Egypt
The lady who began this particular thread has asked a number of particular questions regarding shopping which many people may have thought about but ultimately may never have investigated. While the main shopping questions revolves around food, where to buy it, what to buy and how much to spend, there are also more basic questions regarding shopping for personal items such as deodorants, hair dye and other items which many people would find essential but ultimately may have difficulty obtaining without investigating first.
It does seem that shopping in Egypt can be a little difficult if you’re looking for certain items but ultimately if you know where to go then the vast majority of items you can buy in your former homeland you can probably acquire in Egypt. Indeed, it seems as though many items in Egypt are much cheaper compared to countries such as the UK.
The expat community in Egypt
Even the merest of glimpses of this particular thread shows that there is a growing number of expats in Egypt with various “enclaves” dotted around the country. As we have mentioned on numerous occasions in some of our earlier articles, while it may not help you in the long-term to concentrate on the expat community exclusively it is most certainly a good way to find your way around and can help you settle down in the early days. It also appears as though there is a significant social scene for expats in Egypt which is probably more beneficial for those who are single and moving to the country to start a new life.
The very fact that the IMF has singled out Egypt as one of the better positioned economies for the future is certainly a feather in the cap of a country which has on many occasions been racked by political controversy and criticism of its human rights. There is no doubt that the economy has expanded into many new areas over the last decade and the new political scene, while not yet the finished article, is most certainly more sympathetic to outside investors and new visitors to the country.
Thankfully for expats, there does seem to be a significant expat community in various “enclaves” of Egypt and this will offer comfort and potentially useful advice for those looking to move to the country in the future. There are a number of useful tips on the thread and while the Arabic language itself seems daunting from the outside it would appear, from various comments, that it may not be as difficult as you first think to learn enough Arabic to get by. After that it is simply a case of taking language lessons as and when you are ready and available and looking to expand your vocabulary as much as possible.
It is no coincidence that Egypt has not only become a new focal point for the tourist industry but is also attracting large numbers of expats to the region. The old Egypt of years gone by is still visible in many towns and cities and while the country depends upon the Nile for so many things the introduction of new modern cities, new modern industries and the ever-growing number of overseas companies looking for a base in Egypt bodes very well for the future.