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The Housing Situation for Expats in Cairo

The InterNations Expat Guide prepares you for some of the difficulties you may come across when moving to Cairo, from getting a residency permit to finding accommodation. Busy downtown, quiet suburbia and luxurious satellite cities await you.
Informal settlements such as this one are a very common sight in Cairo.

Moving to Cairo’s popular expat districts comes at a price. The usual rents for middle-class apartments range from 1600 to 2800 USD, and prices up to 5000 USD are considered normal in some parts of town. Cheaper rents are only available in Cairo’s less desirable boroughs. However, with a regular salary for highly qualified expats you should be able to find a home of similar quality to what you might be accustomed to. Most landlords require one quarter’s rent in advance, a month’s deposit, and a copy of your passport. 

A Rough Patch

While Cairo expanded considerably in every dimension and its population doubled in size since the 1960s, the city administration often had troubles keeping up. Many of the challenges that came with the increasing number of factories, people, and vehicles were only met insufficiently.

We have pointed out the problematic traffic conditions in our article on Living in Cairo. Other shortcomings include inadequate garbage disposal, patchy electricity supply, and failing telephone connections. Short electricity blackouts are quite common in many parts of the city. There are also some issues with the sewer system and the quality of water pipes. The biggest blind spot of the city administration, however, has long been the inadequate number of new, affordable residences for Cairo’s new citizens.

Therefore, make sure when you are checking an apartment that the water heater, air conditioning, lighting, and electricity are functioning properly. Also, ask the landlord if there are any associated costs included, as in most cases tenants need to pay additional expenses such as the maintenance of the building or the monthly fee for the porter.

Government Headaches

Some expats end up in Cairo’s informal settlements. These high-density residential areas experienced exponential growth around the same time as the population of Cairo began to rise steadily. The city administration could often not keep up with the pace of demographic growth, and many people were left looking for affordable housing.

Informal settlements are low-cost housing units erected on land which was formerly used for agriculture. It is estimated that about 40 to 50% of Greater Cairo’s inhabitants reside in these settlements. Official figures are very inaccurate and vary greatly. The informal areas mostly feature narrow streets, medium-height structures, and lack of official governmental infrastructure (public transportation, garbage disposal). They often have great problems of accessibility, as private minibus companies are the only option.

Informal areas are not equal to slums, though. To the contrary, almost any Egyptian you meet could potentially live in those settlements. The residences are built reasonably well and the rents are low, providing quite a few lower-middle-class families with a real alternative to the either luxurious rents or decrepit houses of the inner city.

A System Flaw

One factor that greatly influenced the development of informal settlements was the freezing of rents in the 1950s. Former President Nasser made this decree in order to guarantee affordability of inner-city housing for the masses. The inflation of the Egyptian pound during the following decades resulted in rents that are now almost laughably marginal (often about 10 EGP).

For this reason, many owners do not offer their apartments for rent, leaving thousands of housing units empty. Of course, this also resulted in rapid decay of the old houses, as there were no tenants to pay for their upkeep. If one of these buildings still has residents, due to an old rental contract, they basically live there for free, but under undesirable circumstances.

A Bright Future Awaits

The current situation is a lot more promising. Satellite cities, such as 6th of October City, and New Cairo, offer modern and spacious houses and villas to Cairo’s upper class. As fully functional small communities, they also feature schools, shopping malls, and various options for your leisure time. While construction is not quite completed yet, these cities, particularly New Cairo, will be among the most popular choices for expats in the near future.


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Paul Zimmerer

"Before I moved to Cairo I contacted some local members on InterNations. They gave me some great assistance."

Barbara Sciera

"Cairo is a bustling metropolis. Through InterNations I met some other expat women. Now we meet on a weekly basis."

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