The unique and captivating country of Egypt links the north eastern tip of Africa with the Middle East. Bordered by Israel to the northeast, Libya to the west and Sudan to the south, Egypt lies between the Mediterranean and the Red Seas. Most of the country’s teeming cities are situated along the banks of the mighty north-flowing Nile river (or ‘river of life’ to Egyptians) which runs vein-like through the country. Egypt has an unparalleled archaeological and cultural history and the country is known for its ancient civilisation, which arose in 3100BC. Millenia-old monuments to the pharaohs, such as the Giza Pyramids, the Valley of the Kings tombs and the Temples of Karnak stand along the Nile river valley and attract thousands of visitors and scholars each year.
Away from the fertile soils enriched by the Nile, the rest of Egypt is covered by the vast Sahara Desert and its arid climate. However, relief can be found along the 500km stretch of idyllic Mediterranean coastline in the north, home to the thriving port city of Alexandria. The largest Arab nation in the world, Egypt is now a modern country with a strong economy based on tourism, textile production and chemical and pharmaceutical developments. The capital Cairo, the second largest city in Africa, is Egypt’s heart of commerce, business and culture.
Owing to its geographical position, Egypt’s culture combines a heady mix of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern influences. However, modern-day Egyptian society is relatively homogenous, with around 90% of the population being Arabic-speaking Sunni Muslims. Islamic traditions and teachings govern every aspect of daily life and Sharia law provides the foundation of legislation in Egypt. The family is central to Egyptian culture and great importance is placed upon loyalty to kin and the wisdom of elders.
It is often said that there are ‘two Egypts.’ The country has around six thousand years of recorded history and its rich and varying culture has influenced both Eastern and Western civilisations. However, Egypt is also a modern and cosmopolitan nation with a deep-rooted artistic and literary history which is revered throughout the world.
Egypt has a long tradition in research and its universities are consistently ranked highly for output, innovation and collaboration. Egyptian universities have strong, century-long research links with both British and American institutions in particular. Research is overseen by the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, which aims to design, fund and develop research programmes on a national level. Following Egypt’s Arab Spring upheaval in 2011, the country has launched major reform of its higher education sector and research policy, in order to improve research and exchange partnerships with the EU and USA.
Egypt has a well-established higher education system which features some of the best universities on the African continent. There are currently 20 public universities and 27 private institutions in Egypt. The highest-ranking universities are the American University in Cairo (AUC) and Cairo University, the latter also being the largest institution in Egypt. Arabic is the principal language of instruction in universities, although English is also widely used in teaching and research and the only language used in the American and British universities.
Egyptian universities offer a two-tier system of degree programmes, with bachelor’s degrees taking around four to five years to complete and master’s degrees around one to two years. A PhD takes around four or five years to complete. Universities, both public and private, are governed by the Egyptian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, which is responsible for the allocation of funding and setting national higher education policy and curricula.
Admission to university in Egypt is by gaining the appropriate General Secondary School Certificate and just over 30% of Egyptian adults now hold a university degree. Tuition fees are charged per credit hour and vary according to course duration and type.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Egypt is low compared to the UK and the USA and expats will find that rents are particularly reasonable compared with European nations. However, if you have children, you should factor in the cost of private international school fees, which can be very high. Food and transport are reasonable, also the cost of fuel can fluctuate significantly.
Egypt has a mix of public and private healthcare and foreign nationals are eligible to use the public healthcare system. However, few expats take advantage of this perk, choosing instead to take out a comprehensive international insurance healthcare policy.
Egypt has a large expat community and there is a range of housing available, from city centre apartments to luxury villas in gated complexes, depending on your budget. Cairo has the largest population of expats and the areas of Maadi, New Cairo and Zamelek are favoured among foreign professionals. Rents in the capital are much higher than other cities and the more southern areas along the Nile. However, rents are low compared to the UK and USA and professional expats will find they can live comfortably on their salary in Egypt.
The average rental price for a two-bed apartment in Cairo is around 8,500 EG£ (£374) per month in more desirable areas.
Visas and Eligibility
All foreign nationals entering Egypt must have a visa, which can be applied for online at Visa2Egypt. Visas are valid for a period of three months. Those wishing to stay longer than three months should apply for a one-year residence visa at the Ministry of Manpower and Immigration which must then be renewed the next year. You are also required to register with the police if you have decided to stay in Egypt longer than three months. Your employer is required to assist you in applying for the appropriate permits. All foreign nationals applying for a residence/work permit are required to undergo an HIV blood test when in Egypt (test results from your home country would be considered invalid).
Safety and security
The crime rate in Egypt is generally low, although crime has increased since the political unrest of 2011. Pickpocketing, bag-snatching and street scams remain the most common types of offence. Foreigners are advised to be vigilant about their belongings while in urban areas and when using public transport. Harassment of women in the street and on public transport can also be a problem, so women are advised against travelling alone after dark, particularly in Cairo.
Working hours in Egypt are generally 9am to 5pm, Sunday to Thursday. Most government offices and businesses are closed on Friday to allow for prayers. By law, workers are not permitted to work more than eight hours per day and 48 hours per week (in the case of a six-day week). Working hours are reduced during Ramadan. Employees are entitled to 21 days paid leave after 12 months continuous service. Egypt has 18 public and religious holidays, including Revolution day on the 23rd of July, when locals celebrate the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, which led to the declaration of the modern republic.
Islamic cultural traditions are reflected within the Egyptian business model, which tends to be formal and hierarchical in structure. The highest-ranking members of a team command unquestionable respect and would make the final decisions. However, consultation and consensus from others is traditionally sought before progressing with a project.
Status and relationships are very important in Egypt and moving up the ladder in the workplace can depend on your ability to network successfully. Egyptians like to do business with people they know, therefore first meetings tend to be highly formal until you get to know your counterparts better. Learning some Arabic and being respectful of your colleagues’ traditions will help you build relationships within the workplace.