Receiving packages from USA

I am newly living in Cairo and was not able to bring all of my personal belongings with me. And, I will be living here for a long time so of course my family will want to send me things. I am not concerned with shipping rates. I need to know about the procedure for receiving packages, like whether or not I will have to pay any sort of duty or taxes on anything. Most things will be personal belongings or gifts, i.e. clothing, shoes, and books, nothing that I will purchase, and no electronics or items that are not allowed such as vitamins or liquids, etc. I can have them put a customs declaration on the package stating the items are a gift. Will this help? And should I have them put a very small value? Can I have things delivered to my home or will I need to collect them from customs with my passport or what? Any information and advice is appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Depends on what's sent and the way it's delivered. This isn't going to match your needs exactly but I'll tell you my experiences.

2 examples -

1-I had a friend "send" me Thanksgiving last year in a US Priority Medium or Large box. It consisted of 2 cans of pumpkin pie mix, 2 cans of Carnation milk, and a Yankee candle. I think it took like 3 weeks to get to my doorstep from NJ and sat in customs in Egypt for at least a few days. The customs folks inspected my items very hard: the candle was dug out of the vase then put back in. The cans looked like they were dropped 5 times each.

It cost my friend about $65 USD to the mail the package to me. I seem to recall paying 200 LE in fees when the package was delivered to my door but I'm a little foggy on that.

2-Ordering from an online store outside of Egypt. Your family members may think it's convenient to order things from a store (Amazon e.g.) and have it delivered to you. Not the best idea if it's not being shipped from within Egypt. I ordered a $100 headset once from Dubai and when it hit the airport, an agent contacted me to process its release from customs.

I'd either pay them to process the paperwork or do it myself. Doing it myself would have required me going to customs at the airport to fill out forms, waiting for approval, and then going to pick it up again.

Forgive me for not being more detailed but I lived all the way by the pyramids at the time and going to the airport was a huge hassle, so I chose to have the agent handle it so I can't remember the exact process. I remember having to write him a letter authorizing him to handle it and provide a copy of my passport. His fees weren't that bad but the taxes to bring the item in were almost the same as the value of the headset, and I ended up paying double for the headset, or around $200, when you put it all together at the end. This took well over a month.

Come to think of it, 200 LE for my friend's packages was also pretty high given that the value of the items was not much more.

Receiving letters through DHL or FedEx is a lot less complicated. It's fast and costs about $50-$60 dollars.

As far as comfort items go, last time I went to the US I came back with some things that I can't find in stores here. It was a lot cheaper and worth it, although it seemed odd to pack my suitcase with cans of Goya and kosher salt, and in general, things that I can't find in Egypt. I probably wouldn't have my clothes or anything like that shipped here. You can just buy new ones at the mall for the cost of the shipping and fees.