Anya: "Cairo has some magic inside that makes foreigners fall in love with it"

Expat interviews
  • Anya in Cairo
Published on 2014-12-18 at 00:00 by team
It's been one and a half year since Anya, a Russian expat, settled in Cairo. Traveling has always been her passion and she is now discovering a new lifestyle and culture...

Can you introduce yourself to our members?

My name is Anastasia, but friends call me Anya, because it's not that easy to pronounce my name. I'm from Russia, from Siberia. So if you want to know what real cold is about, just ask me. During my university studies, I have been learning Korean language and everything about Asia. Nowadays, I'm living in Cairo.

Why did you choose to move to Egypt?

I can't say that I just like traveling. I really adore it. Traveling is my passion as well as knowing other cultures and traditions. Everyone, who traveled abroad once, wants to visit more and more places. See the whole world. So do I. I've been to some European and Asian countries before. So it was the turn to see the Arab world. I finished my diploma work in Russia and the next day I came to Egypt. I didn't know anyone here. I just found the work via AIESEC and came over.

What were the procedures to follow for a Russian national to move there?

It's really really easy for Russians and people from other countries to come here. I got a tourist visa in the airport. I then requested for an extension twice. It's rather easy.

How long have you been in the country?

I've been living in Egypt for a year and a half, without my family. I'm the only child, and my parents stay in Russia. Though, my mom came to visit me in Egypt once, and she is going to come again.

What has attracted you to Cairo?

During my first days here, I asked many foreigners their opinion about Cairo. And everyone, I swear, everyone said that they didn't like it at first. It's very noisy here. It's kind of dirty and there is always traffic jam. But you know what? Cairo has some magic inside that makes foreigners fall in love with it. People here are the best. They treat you well and help you solve all your problems. They make you feel like you are at home. And this is my home now.

Are you currently working? What are the local labor market's specificities?

I'm working in a call center, as most of people here do. Customer service is the most widespread field to work in here. Egyptians' salary is very low, but foreigners earn more. Moreover, it's difficult to find a job here, even for locals. But if you are a native English-speaker, you have all chances to get a well-paid job very fast. You don't even need to have a huge experience or working background. Hence, if you are a native English-speaker, congratulations, you are hired!

Was it difficult to find accommodation there? What are the types of accommodation which are available there?

You will mostly find big apartments here as Egyptian families live all together (a few generations). So it will be almost impossible to find a single-room apartment. You will probably have to share the apartment with flat mates. But prices are not that high. You can rent a whole furnished apartment for some 350 - 400$.

How do you find the Egyptian lifestyle?

Egyptians don't know what is German time. They never come on time, they are always late. You can fight, try to explain, but it will never work. You just have to get used to it and reach the appointment 10 minutes later.

Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?

Egypt is a mixture of people's behaviors. Egyptians will always stare at you on the streets because you are a foreigner, especially when you are a girl. They will scream "Ya mozza", which means "Hey, pretty". One of my friends said that she loves Cairo because she feels like she is a beauty queen here, taking everyone's attention.

What does your every day life look like in Cairo?

I go to work five days a week. After work, I either fulfill my household responsibilities or go out with my friends. During week-ends, I go shopping, go to the cinema or the cafe to smoke Shisha (water-pipe). It's just a normal every day life, like everywhere else, except for Shisha.

What has surprised you the most at your arrival?

I came here in the middle of the summer. I knew it will be very hot for me as I'm from Siberia. But I couldn't even imagine it will be that hot. I couldn't even breathe at first. But at some point of time, you just need to get used to. Another thing that surprised me was the Revolution here. I came two weeks before the second revolution. And I saw all of this: demonstrations, killings, bombings, tanks and guns. Of course, I was scared. But I had fallen in love with Egypt so much that I decided to stay here in spite of everything.

Any particular experience you would like to share with us?

Never be afraid of traveling to the places you've never been before. The world is amazing, and it's in our hands. It was not easy for me to survive here during first months. But I will never regret I came here, saw the history by my eyes and met the wonderful people I wouldn't meet anywhere else.

What is your opinion on the cost of living in Cairo? Is it easy for an expat to live there?

Cairo is a good place to live in and is not expensive at all. You are likely to be hired and have the means to pay your apartment rent and cater for your needs. The cheapest thing here is transport. You can travel by metro or by bus for three to six times as much. You can even hire a taxi, it is not expensive.

How do you spend your leisure time there?

Leisure activities are like everywhere else. You can go to the cinema, malls, restaurants, museums, etc. But the most traditional here is to go to the cafe and smoke a water-pipe enjoying a nice talk with your friends.

What are the differences between life in Egypt and in Russia?

In Russia, it's cold, expensive, but free from prejudices. Egypt, for its part, is hot and cheap. But in terms of culture, it is more strict. Of course, Egypt is a Muslim country, and you should respect religious rules. It's better not to go out in short clothes in Cairo. You can do in it tourist cities like Sharm El Sheikh and Hurgada.

Do you miss your home country?

I do miss my country, especially Russian food. Unfortunately, there is no Russian restaurant in Cairo. But I can at least cook myself. And for sure, I miss my Russian friends and family. But I'm totally happy where I am now.

Would like to give any advice to future expatriates in Egypt?

Respect the traditions and Islam. This is not your home country, so you must respect local rules. It doesn't mean you will have to wear Hijab and cover all your body. Just avoid wearing short skirts, tops, whatever. Also, try the local food which is really delicious.
See everything you can. Explore every piece of it. Go out with locals. They are really caring about foreigners and it will help you know what the real Egypt is all about.
If you need any help or advice, feel free to contact me and I will find the way to help you out.

What are your plans for the future?

I don't have specific plans. I can be in Egypt now and tomorrow I will be somewhere else. They say, if you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans. No one knows how the future is going to be, but for now I'm going to be in Cairo as long as possible.

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