For many expats moving to Cairo, short commutes to work and access to international schools and embassies are an important factor. Some also prefer to reside among compatriots. Thus, a large number of expatriates move to Cairo’s well-established expatriate neighborhoods.
Popular choices among expatriates moving to Cairo include Maadi, Garden City, Heliopolis, or the northern half of Zamalek. These districts are fairly westernized and offer many restaurants, cafés, and cinemas catering to Western tastes. If you are not interested in moving to Cairo’s city center, Maadi and Heliopolis are among your options. Heliopolis is a popular choice for wealthy Egyptians and expats, but it has seen a significant amount of unrest recently, which is something to look into before deciding to move there. The commutes from there are reasonably short.
All of the abovementioned areas also have a high density of international schools (please see our article on Living in Cairo). Moving to Cairo’s expat neighborhoods is often a very sensible choice for parents keen on enrolling their children in one of these institutions.
Several new satellite cities with sonorous names such as New Cairo are under construction. Once they are completed, they should quickly become a popular choice for middle-class and upper-class people. These areas will be a stark contrast to the busy city’s hustle-and-bustle. There is also a wide range of international schools and private universities in and around those satellite cities.
Before moving to Cairo, discuss the possibility of hiring a relocation agency with your employer. These agencies provide you with everything you need before and during the process of moving to Cairo, including help with local authorities and assistance with your search for accommodation. If you want to keep the moving process as short and uncomplicated as possible, you might want to look into this option.
Searching for accommodation may work a bit differently than back home. If you’re moving to Cairo without the aid of a relocation agency, a simple internet search will not suffice. Using housing portals is not very common, and most apartments you find online are for daily rental, or to be let as vacation homes.
Usually, those moving to Cairo consult real-estate agents. This method is quite straightforward and does not differ from what you have experienced elsewhere. You can find listings in the various Egyptian English magazines available in hotels and at newsstands.
There is also a more direct method that many people moving to Cairo prefer: After deciding on a neighborhood, simply ask local shopkeepers for a semsarr. They will direct you to a realtor responsible for the area. It is rare for a semsarr to be listed anywhere, so if you are interested in a particular neighborhood, this is the most effective way.
There is an even more direct way, cutting out the last middleman: Every residential building has a bowab. This person assumes duties similar to a doorman or porter and is your most important contact after moving to Cairo, as a bowab can arrange almost anything for you. From newspapers to groceries or shirt presses, your bowab will be able to help you. Asking the bowab about a building that sparked your interest for vacant apartments can often prove fruitful.
It would be wise, however, to bring someone fluent in Arabic when approaching a semsarr or bowab, in order to avoid problems with the language barrier. After all, you may not speak Arabic well when first moving to Cairo.
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