Living in CairoAs an American student living in Cairo, you are subject to the laws of Egypt. You are a representative of CASA and the American University in Cairo and how you behave reflects directly on your home institution, AUC, and our program. Even when freedom of expression permits, propriety requires a restrained exercise of personal and academic freedom. Sensitivity, understanding, and cooperation are necessary to anyone traveling in a foreign country.
Fellows may experience, or witness, sexual harassment on the streets. This is something that has become an issue in Cairo and it's directed toward women, Egyptian and foreign alike. The type of harassment experienced, or witnessed, tends to be verbal and the best way that most handle this situation is to try and ignore it. Feelings of frustration, anger, intimidation, or a mixture of all of these, might develop due to hassling and verbal harassment even though sincere efforts are made to fit into the culture. During the first week of the summer semester, CASA holds a Fellow Orientation that discusses strategies for minimizing sexual harassment, its impact on your emotional well-being, and how to enjoy of your in-country experience. We take all issues of sexual harassment very seriously and our main concern is for our students’ well-being and safety. Fellows should seek assistance if the harassment towards them has become physical and/or causes increased anxiety or anger. If you experience sexual harassment that is troublesome, please contact the CASA office in Cairo and/or State-side for assistance. We are happy to help you in any way possible.
On all official forms, fellows will be asked their religion and it is expected that they answer the question. It is wise not to categorize oneself as agnostic. Universities in the Middle East are more politically sensitive than in the U.S., so please take great care in explaining your own personal political thinking.
CASA Cairo Full-year fellows will receive 3,500 Egyptian pounds per month as a maintenance allowance for food and rent, which will be distributed in cash from the Cashier's office on the first of each month. This amount is sufficient for single students, assuming that an apartment is shared by two or three people and food is prepared mostly at home. Some may need to supplement the CASA stipend with approximately $100-200 per month for any additional expenses and travel. Full-year fellows receive the maintenance allowance for twelve months.
Receiving Money from Home
ATMs are widely available for use in Egypt. The most dependable ones are found at AUC and major hotels. Debit cards issued by major U.S. banks and financial institutions, like HSBC work well; however, cards issued by smaller credit unions and banks may pose some problems. Egyptian ATMs disperse currency in Egyptian Pounds, and are usually subject to fees from your home institution and the owner of the machine. This should not be your exclusive source for money while in Egypt, but it will probably be your primary means of accessing funds. You may want to bring some money in the form of U.S. dollars and Travelers Checks. You can cash these for Egyptian Pounds at any American Express office and some Exchange Bureaus. A few recent CASA fellows had a second debit card from a different bank, in case they are not able to withdraw funds from one of the accounts, while other fellows made use of a Paypal or Skype account.
Most fellows find they do not need an Egyptian bank account; however, there is a branch of the Commercial International Bank (CIB) at AUC and students are allowed to open an account with a minimum of $1,000 (or the equivalent in Egyptian pounds). No one writes checks in Egypt; transactions are strictly cash. Egyptians who do keep checking accounts use them very rarely and only for major purchases for which they know a check will be acceptable in advance.
PLEASE NOTE that most credit card companies charge foreign transaction fees of about 3% while abroad. You may want to check with your credit card company regarding their policies.
Your family should never send you checks through the mail. Western Union has been the best way to remit funds to American students in Egypt.
How to Receive Mail
It is advisable not to have packages sent to Egypt, unless absolutely necessary. AUC automatically pays for customs duties, and then notifies students of the cost and will not relinquish the package until the student pays the duties. The duties are often surprisingly and prohibitively high.
Your address at the American University in Cairo will be:
CASA/Arabic Language Institute
American University in Cairo
l6 Mohamed Thakeb St., Zamalek
Cairo 11211, Egypt
Telephone for AUC: 011-20 2 -794-2964
Dial CASA direct: 011-20 2- 769-1700 (OR 1700)
Fax for CASA: 011-20 2- 795-7565
AUC will provide an optional email account for all CASA fellows which will end with @aucegypt.edu. The code for your name will be assigned after you arrive.
Clothing and Other Necessities
Cotton clothing will be the most comfortable during the warm months. Translucent or transparent clothing is inadvisable for both men and women, and sleeveless or tight-fitting clothes should also be avoided. Shorts are unacceptable for both men and women, except in resort areas. Women can wear pants, including jeans, year round. Women may want to carry a scarf with them for certain occasions. We do not advise men or women to wear native Egyptian clothing on the street. Egyptians generally consider this to be in very poor taste. Men should bring a suit jacket and tie, and women should bring something formal for special occasions like dinners, nightclubs, etc. Bring sturdy, comfortable walking shoes and sandals. Full-year students will need more than one pair. Since Cairo can be cold during the winter, and there is usually no indoor heating, full-year students should bring warm clothing, including sweaters, knee socks, long johns, gloves, hats and a good all-weather coat with a zip-in lining. Egyptian washing machines can be tough on the clothes. Unless you have a budget for dry-cleaning, do not bring your best clothing.
Cool, loose dresses/skirts
Slacks and jeans
Sweaters: heavy and lightweight
Pantyhose, tights, knee socks and long underwear
Heavy coat with zip-in lining
1 evening outfit
1 formal outfit
Shoes: closed-toe, sturdy ones (boots); casual shoes (walking shoes, tennis shoes, sandals, flip flops); dress shoes
Hat or scarf for daytime tours
Slacks and jeans
Shirts: warm and casual
Sweaters: heavy and lightweight
Warm socks, long underwear, cotton underwear
Lightweight sports jacket
Wool sports jacket
Heavy coat with zip-in lining
Shoes: closed-toe, sturdy shoes (boots); casual shoes (walking shoes, tennis shoes, sandals, flip flops); dress shoes
Hat for daytime tours
The following is a list of items you may find useful to bring. Many of these items are available in Cairo, but the quality might not be as good as found in the US.
Water filter - to avoid having to buy expensive bottled water
Converter for appliances
International Student Card
International Drivers License
Feminine hygiene products
Contact lens solution
Preferred brands of medical supplies
Battery powered alarm clock
You should bring with you the Hans-Wehr Dictionary and any other reference materials you think may need. The Lonely Planet guide to Cairo and the Lonely Planet guide to Syria/Lebanon or any of the student guide tour books might prove helpful if you plan to travel between the summer and fall semesters or after the summer session before returning home. Cairo: A Practical Guide is available at the AUC bookstore and lists all major attractions, restaurants, and shops in Cairo.
The electrical current in Cairo ranges between 220-240 volts alternating at 50 cycles per second. Standard current in the US is between 110-120 alternating at 60 cycles. The higher voltage in Egypt can be "stepped down" to 110-120 by transformers. Thus, in terms of voltage, American electrical equipment can be operated in Cairo.
The difference of ten cycles per second is not of great significance for operating most equipment. Appliances incorporating electric motors simply tend to operate more slowly. However, in appliances, which utilize the alternation in current to produce a given speed, the difference can be disastrous. Electric clocks cannot be adapted and should not be brought. Battery powered alarm clocks are expensive in Cairo, so bring one from home.
Computer Equipment and Internet Access
You will need to bring a laptop with you, and we strongly recommend that you bring a PC and not a MAC. Much of the software developed by CASA at both locations runs better on a PC. AUC has wireless access and Internet cafes are everywhere, be sure to bring the appropriate plug adapters for your computer. A flash drive is also required since you will be responsible for acquiring daily listening and reading assignments from one main CASA computer.
Photography and Supplies
You are welcome to take photographs in most Middle Eastern countries. However, photos of airports, bridges, military areas and certain other special installations are forbidden in Egypt due to security concerns. Film and batteries are cheaper in the US so bring a good supply. Color film can be developed in Cairo, but the quality of film processing is uneven. Some people send color film to the US to be developed.
CD Players and Blank CDs
Please bring a CD player and an ample supply of blank CDs with you for use in your Egyptian Colloquial class and for homework preparation. Electrical equipment, as a rule, is considerably more expensive and of lesser quality in Egypt than it is in the US. The CASA office in Cairo will provide assistance in duplicating CDs for fellows' use.