Living in Maadi – First Impressions

Well, we’ve been in Egypt for a little over a week now and I wanted to share some of my early impressions of living in Maadi.

First though, here’s a little info about Maadi (pronounced Maw-dee).  Maadi is an affluent suburb located south of Cairo’s city centre and on the east bank of the Nile River.  Maadi is the least densely populated neighbourhood in Greater Cairo and seems to consist mostly of low-rise apartment buildings and large villas.  The community is largely inhabited by well-to-do Egyptians and expatriates.  It is home to many shops, restaurants, international schools, embassies and this really cool building….

I have no idea what this building was originally built for, but it has been converted to high-end apartments

I have no idea what this building was originally built for, but it has since been converted to high-end apartments

Okay, now onto my impressions….

So much green!

Walking the streets of Maadi, you’d never know you’re in the desert.  All of the streets are filled with loads of trees and flowers.  There are even many properties that have real grass lawns!  Definitely not the picture of Cairo I had in my head before moving here.

Greenery outside the entrance to our apartment building.  This is pretty typical throughout the neighborhood.

Greenery on the street near our apartment. This is pretty typical throughout the neighborhood.

Traffic

The traffic here is pretty crazy compared to Canadian standards.  So far I’ve yet to see a stop sign or traffic light.  Lanes don’t really exist either – if a car or motorbike can fit in a space, they will.  And there is A LOT of honking.  Egyptian drivers seem to honk at everything they see.  It reminds me a little of the taxis in Peru, where drivers would try to get your attention to see if you needed a ride somewhere.

As you might imagine this can all make things a little dicey for pedestrians.  If you need to cross the street you just have to wait for an opening and then go.  But sometimes it can be so busy there are no openings, so you just have to try to make eye contact with the drivers and go.  It took a few days to get used to, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.  Usually they’re moving slow enough that they have time to slow down to let you by.

Language

Arabic is the dominant language here.  Learning some arabic is one of my top priorities in the coming weeks.  We’ve been able to get by as most Egyptians seem to speak at least a little English, but it would be good to learn a few of the basics (ie. numbers & common phrases), so at least I don’t feel quite so much like a jerk when talking to locals.

This is going to be tough!

This is going to be tough!

Costs

For the most part, the cost of living here is pretty cheap compared to Canada.  Here are a few examples that we’ve experienced so far (converted to Canadian dollars):

  • High speed internet – $20/month
  • Dinner for two at a nice Italian restaurant (including drinks + appetizer) – $20
  • 1 litre of milk – $1
  • 1 scoop of gelato in a waffle cone – $1.75
  • 1.5L bottle of water – $0.50

Generally speaking, if something is produced in Egypt it is very inexpensive.  If the goods are imported (food, clothing, electronics, etc…) they are comparable to prices back home.

Food

Unfortunately we haven’t had much of an opportunity to sample many local Egyptian foods as of yet.  It may be because Maadi has a high expat population, but I haven’t noticed many Egyptian restaurants here.  In fact, I think I’ve seen more sushi restaurants than Egyptian, which I was definitely not expecting.

Because of the curfew, we’ve been preparing most of our own dinners.  We’ve been able to get most of the same types of foods you can back home – so far we’ve prepared ourselves pizza, spaghetti & meatballs, chicken curry and chicken stir fry.

pizza and beer night

pizza and beer night

We have 3 small supermarkets within about a 10 min walk from our apartment, plus a couple of produce vendors, which is nice.  One thing that is frustrating is that many items in the stores are not priced, so you don’t know how much it is until you check-out.

A few other food-related observations:

  • most of the milk is UHT milk (ie. not refrigerated and comes in 1L tetra pack).  Yuck!  ***Update – I’ve found regular milk at one of the markets – Hooray!
  • as expected pork is not available in the supermarkets or in restaurants, although I did hear that there is a butcher in the neighborhood that imports pork from Germany.
  • can’t find peanut butter anywhere
  • less fresh bread products available than I was expecting
  • local cheese is cheap and delicious
  • McDonalds serves falafels

Political

I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment about the political situation in Egypt right now.  When we arrived last week, tensions in the city were quite high – the army had just forcefully broken up several large sit-in demonstrations leading to hundreds of deaths.  In the first couple of days after arriving here we saw several armored military vehicles and tanks stationed in Maadi.  We even heard gunshots from our hotel room the first night, which was a little unnerving.

Since then though, we’ve literally seen nothing related to the unsettled political situation that is supposedly gripping the country.  It very much seems that things are business as usual in Maadi.  I’ve been out every day exploring the neighborhood and/or running errands and there hasn’t been one time where I’ve felt unsafe (except for maybe when dodging the traffic!).  To be honest the only reminder of the grim political situation is the curfew, but even that’s beginning to be relaxed (yesterday it was moved from 7pm-6am to 9pm-6am).

Overall

Its early yet, but I’m really enjoying my time in Egypt and at least at this point not regretting our decision to move here one bit.

____________________

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12 comments

  1. annetbell · August 25, 2013

    Interesting and lovely pictures…so much green…amazing. Namaste.. . .Anne

  2. Pauline Robin · August 27, 2013

    Very nice details. Thank you. Been thinking about you lots. Joe got me on face book so I can see what was going on with you. You have been in my thoughts for quite some time.
    Love you lots and enjoy your adventure. Keep in touch o.k.
    From all of us
    With all our love
    Aunt Pauline, Uncle Paul, Nick, Lisa and Joe

    • marcusoneill79 · August 27, 2013

      Thanks Aunt Pauline. Things are well here. We’re enjoying ourselves a lot so far. The first day of Lindsay’s school got delayed 2 weeks, so we’re now heading to Greece on Friday for a “vacation”. It should be fun! Take care.

      • Pauline Robin · August 27, 2013

        What a good way to start. Enjoy your vacation.
        Keep in touch

  3. JD · August 27, 2013

    I’ve been living in the same neighborhood for a year (and also have no idea on the origins of that building). Looks like you’re near Trolley, which is a pretty decent grocery store, but small. A few blocks northeast on road 233 there’s also Metro, which usually has a wide selection. Seudi (a few blocks west) is great for most things, but can come off a little grimy. And there’s a little place on road 9 (near the corner with road 85 I think) that sells pork. For better selection, go to Carrefour at the Maadi City Center. Plus, there’s a place called Gourmet Egypt near the same mall that has high-end meats and cheeses (we buy our gruyere there).

    • marcusoneill79 · August 27, 2013

      Thanks for the info! Yes, I am near Trolley. I’ve been to both Metro & Seudi a few times each – I’m preferring their selections to Trolley so far. Will have to check out the place on Road 9.

      • JD · August 27, 2013

        No problem. Maadi was pretty mystifying when I first moved here, so I’m more than happy to help. You’re close to a couple of decent restaurants, too. Crave is pretty popular with expats (I’m not a huge fan, but its ok). Fino is pretty good, and so is Cairo Kitchen. Blackstone is obvs the best american-style place (and their Friday brunch is really good), but there’s a really good Lebanese place called El Balad, too. As far as sushi, I’d recommend Asian Corner or Fusion in New Maadi. And as I’m sure you’ve discovered, everything can be delivered in Cairo (so you don’t have to worry about beating the curfew back home). Lucille’s has great breakfasts and great burgers, but doesn’t hold up via delivery very well for some reason. For coffee, Cafe Greco (road 9, just south of road 83 corner) is excellent by any country’s standards, and just a block down you can get fresh croissants at TBS.

  4. ZK · September 1, 2013

    How are you finding al-maadi on a daily basis with all the political turmoil? is it effecting how you live day to day? or is al-maadi generally clear from the major effected areas. Do you feel safe to roam around freely, or are you generally restricted? I am considering coming to al-maadi in late Oct, so your input would be wonderful!

    Thanks in advance.

    • marcusoneill79 · September 1, 2013

      The political turmoil has minimally affected my day-to-day life in Maadi. I definitely feel safe in our neighborhood and have had zero issues while out and about. Waking the streets during the day has been no problem – due to the curfew I haven’t really been out after dark. Apparently there have been a few demonstrations in Maadi since we arrived, but I’ve only heard about them after the fact – I’ve yet to experience anything first hand. From what I’ve been told, civil unrest rarely occurs in Maadi….

      The biggest downside of the situation right now in Egypt for me is that I’ve been unable to really get out and see much of the rest of the city. Many of the important/high profile tourist sites (Egyptian Museum, Pyramids, Islamic Cairo, etc…) are located in areas where violence has occurred, so I’ve been a little reluctant to venture there yet. To be honest, as long as its during the day and not on a Friday, which seems to be a regular protest day, these areas are probably mostly fine too….

      Since I don’t speak arabic, its a challenge to get up-to-date information on the situation in the city. I did find this english newspaper which helps a bit though (dailynewsegypt.com)….

      Hope that helps! All the best….

  5. Susan Skidmore · September 17, 2013

    Just got on facebook for the first time. Cassie set me up a while back but didn’t really want to go there. Really glad you guys are enjoying your stay. I was really frightened for you when you left because of the political turmoil, but this seems to have settled down. Thinking about you lots. Keep safe. Love Uncle George and Aunt Sue

    • marcusoneill79 · September 17, 2013

      Thanks Aunt Sue. So far my biggest danger is getting hit by a car – the traffic here is pretty crazy! Say hi to everyone back home for us 🙂

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