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Life in Cairo as a single woman

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Nikkijane03
1/30/2018 12:38 EST

Hi all, I am considering moving to Cairo for a job later this year. I am looking to hear from other women who have made this move - I like in the UK currently and have not lived abroad before. I would like to know what is the reality of living in Cairo as a single woman and what are the types of things to be aware of/consider before I make this decision?!

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Elphaba
6/19/2018 17:56 EST

Hello there... I hope you read this through to the end. I saw no one has replied to you and I thought I could help. I am an Egyptian American and am actually in Egypt now in the port city of Alexandria.

Wow... where to start? I am always up for an adventure but I can tell you right now this is a very. bad. idea.

1. It sounds like you have not even traveled to Egypt or possibly the ME. It is a beautiful place but a very different one. With different cultural and religious guidelines and values that you do not seem to be fully aware of from how you wrote your question. If I am wrong please let me know so I can take this into account. Minimally a suggest you come for a 2 week visit.

Now I am 52, Muslim, speak Arabic, Married to an African American husband that my family genuinely LOVES and accepts and have my entire, very well educated and upper middle class family here. I LOVE this country and its people but I also realize that it is BECAUSE of their care, support and guidance that has protected us in many ways and a large apart of the reason why we are having such a great time.here.

Egypt is a tremendous country full of contradictions- such beauty, wealth, poverty, history, organized chaos, garbage, crowds, palatial villas, it is vibrant and full of LIFE down to every cramped dead end street!
Egyptians are deeply affectionate, love to laugh and enjoy the pleasures of life, kind and tremendously generous to friends and strangers alike. They are also nosy, gossipy, judgy, deeply conservative, devout, suspicious and myopic, This culture - EVERY PART OF IT- revolves around the family and relationships.... friendships, neighbors, school mates, work colleagues, etc.

I don’t want you to come here and grow to loathe and despise Egypt and Egyptians because you are unprepared and in a vulnerable position - If you are working here, you better be getting paid damn well in order ($15-20,000LE including rent) for you to
1. Live in a NICE area. Even if you do - you will be suspect as a woman living alone. My mother is in her 80’s and has a PhD and the doorman /bawaab has the nerve to ask her if she had a man ie was married. You will be suspect unless you are living with a family that people think well of or you are an older lady. People here - men and women do not “live alone”. Just doesn’t happen. You live with your family till you are married. That’s it!
If you are a Dr or engineer a deference will be afforded to you by those who know that but otherwise single woman living alone throws up red flags. A single woman is either naturally looking for a man or is trouble - and either one doesn’t bode well for how you may be treated.

2. Afford regular taxi service through Uber or Kareem. I urge you to do this because you will get harassed coming and going. If you are obviously white and blond and not Muslim and without a regular group of Egyptian friends around you it will be that much worse because you are not a tourist and will have to endure that every day. Taxis are the key to avoiding this.

3. Have enough left over that you can manage comfortably.
Otherwise you will be living in undesirable conditions that you are neither used to nor can handle because of not only the CLASS of people you will be surrounded by but moreso their THINKING/Psychology. Remember that,even though this is not always the case, education exposes and expands ones mind to the broader world.

Like many, many countries it is a deeply conservative and patriarchal society that demands conformity to a large extent and no matter how much some ridiculously handsome Egyptian man with almond eyes says he’s progressive, he still wants you to cook and clean like his Mama and cannot escape the culture that has soaked through his pores. You will get sick and tired of having to explain and defend yourself to even the taxi driver.

I come from a family of fierce and wonderful women, and in many ways girls and women in Egypt are spoiled and doted on, they are urged to be the best, go to Med school, but they are also expected to know the role they play in the family and society at large. Every country has its darker side and elements and I would want you kept safe because men can operate with impunity in most nations of the world and you will be left WRONGLY thinking you did something to cause it.

I really think you need to do some serious traveling to the ME, Africa, Latin America and Asia before you dive into the deep end of the pool.

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1Mourad
7/12/2018 18:06 EST

Elphaba, I think your post is very relevant and should be considered by any women considering a move to Cairo. My husband is Egyptian, and we have an apartment in Manial. We travel back and forth. I find everything you say to be true. Our U.S. home is in Los Angeles. I love Cairo, with the exception of the hot summer months. My favorite place is Zaamalek. I have found Egyptians to be extremely kind and gracious. Of course, I do not go out without my husband or a family member. That would make me uncomfortable. Perhaps, my concern is unfounded. There are not many unaccompanied women walking about. My belief is to respect local customs. When outside, I wear a scarf or hat and always dress modestly. That said, I have received nothing but kindness from the Egyptian people. Thank you again for your informative, knowledgeable post!

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