Egypt is a country of more than 100 million people, located in Africa, but it also has a small appendage in Asia (the Sinai Peninsula). It is a place where history is at home, being one of the oldest cradles of human civilization, and as proof of this remain the magnificent remains of its glorious past. But living in Egypt is not easy for a foreigner.
Besides the majestic pyramids, the country offers enchanting landscapes with its deserts, oases and beautiful coral reefs. Despite the beauty of its territory, it is a poor country whose economy is largely based on agriculture and tourism. The country lives on strong contradictions, which are also reflected in its cities. There are cities that are orderly, clean and built according to certain criteria, like most tourist cities, and others that are squalid, dirty and built without any planning.
As for services, it can be said from the outset that they are at a fairly low level. The school system is of poor quality, classes are overcrowded, and teachers are often not up to their task. Among other things, access to education is free, but not compulsory. Many are still illiterate. Public transportation is inadequate or often non-existent except in tourist areas. The health care system is also poor and inefficient. The only thing that seems to work wonders is bureaucracy, always and everywhere.
But at least people can get along with the climate, which is hot and dry most of the year. Another advantage of living in Egypt is the low cost of living. If you compare the cost of living in Egypt with that in European countries or USA, the difference is enormous. Unfortunately, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine has led to a significant increase in the price of oil and commodities such as wheat, which mainly comes from these two countries. Inflation of 15% and the possible shortage of wheat (and therefore bread) would cause social tensions that could lead to real unrest. Already, this price increase has impoverished the Egyptian population and driven many below the poverty line.
The people are generally friendly and hospitable, but they are also Muslims and therefore very traditional and have retained many of their old customs, such as arranged marriages at a very young age and female circumcision, which is forbidden by law but still very commonly practiced. People tend to be less tolerant of other religious beliefs or of LGBT communities. Being part of a minority makes life very difficult. Often civil rights are not respected, basic human rights are not respected, and there is no right to expression. Anyone can be arrested and detained for no apparent reason. The army and police control everything.
As for the distribution of wealth, there are different types of people in Egypt:
People who belong to the bourgeoisie, live in the good neighborhoods of the cities. They have nice houses and nice cars. They work for multinational corporations or are professionals.
Civil servants, people who work in government offices, police, universities, etc. and live a comfortable life thanks to their salaries and/or the product of corruption.
The middle class, made up of artisans, merchants and small businessmen, is getting poorer by the day.
Working class, all those people who have low-skilled jobs and earn a salary between $100 and 300 per month. (In Egypt, there is a minimum wage set by law, which is 2,700 Egyptian pounds for 2023, equivalent about $100) Many live in slums or in dilapidated housing, often living below the poverty line. And those born into poor families have little chance to improve their social and economic status. But fortunately, one can always count on family and friends to offer support in times of need. Nevertheless, everyone tends to be relaxed and laid back, and never expect an Egyptian to show up on time for an appointment.
Speaking of work, the Egyptian economy is in a difficult phase, with the shortage of raw materials and the high rate of inflation making the macroeconomic outlook very pessimistic.
The only real employment opportunities for a foreigner are working in a multinational company based in Cairo or Alexandria, or in the tourism industry in the main tourist centers of the country.
Living and working in Egypt – pros and cons
Living in Egypt, pros
- Low cost of living
- Free health care and education (with all its problems)
- Excellent weather
- Quiet and relaxed life
- Beautiful landscapes
Living in Egypt, cons
- Overpopulated and polluted big cities
- Economy in crisis
- Corruption at all levels
- Difficulty in finding work
- Low wages
Living and working in Egypt, conclusion
Living in Egypt can be more or less pleasant and depends on your financial means and your gender (if you are a man, it is much easier). Where you live also plays an important role. Living in Cairo or Alexandria is a bit like living in Nairobi or Bombay. Living in a small town means going back in time and living at the same pace as 100 years ago. Living in a tourist complex means being on vacation 365 days a year.
In any case, Egypt is a unique country, unparalleled even among neighboring countries.