Settling into Egypt must be hard for an expat. Thankfully, to subdue your homesickness, we've come up with a run-down of the best places to go to recreate the illusion of being back home, right here in Cairo...
Home is where the heart is. Home is also the place where you know exactly where to go if you are craving your favourite food, or where your behaviour does not attract attention, or where everything is exactly how you know it. For many expats, Cairo still has not become home. They are still browsing all Zamalek shops to find their favourite foods, avoiding their hot pants and net shirts and dreaming about being just another face in the crowd.
We talked to expats from every corner of the world and asked them what they miss most about their lives back home since coming to Cairo. At the same time, we solved their problems for them as we searched the streets and places of Egypt to locate the goods they miss, find the places they are looking for and find substitutions for the things that make them the most homesick.
What do you miss?
Kristine misses riding her bike. Back home, she cycles everywhere, even in bad weather. Here in Cairo the weather is always good but smog and traffic make it a horrible experience . Even if she had a bike in Cairo, she says, it would probably be life-threatening outside of Zamalek.
There are plenty of opportunities around Cairo to ride your bike. Ain Bicycles, Cairo's first bike commuter shop, recently began operating in Mohandessin. At Ain Bicycles they don't just make custom bikes, they also work to promote bikes as a means of transportation around Cairo. Consequently, more and more bikes are being sold and potentially used to pass traffic and honking cars.
Cairo also has a big bike scene that creates occasions to ride your bike all over Cairo. Regular bike tours are organised to give big groups a chance to ride together. The Cairo Bike Scene gives these people a chance to connect.
To those who want to take their enthusiasm for cycling an extra mile (or 7,000), the Tour d'Afrique cycles across the whole continent in a space of four months. Hitting traffic will be the smallest problem for those embarking on this adventure.
Shirley, Hong Kong
What do you miss?
For Shirley, missing foods is the hardest part about living in Cairo. She misses authentic Asian cuisine and a variety of fruits and vegetables or other healthy alternatives to the Egyptian foods on offer.
Shirley shops for her fruit and veg at Gourmet and Sunny Market in Zamalek, which host an assortment of foods that are extremely rare to find in every other market in Cairo. At Gourmet, some goodies from all over the world are joined by healthy products that seem to be especially appealing to expat crowds. Finding some Worcestershire Sauce in Cairo is no longer a dream...
For a real Asian dining experience, Asian expats recommend Joy Luck in Maadi. Joy Luck has two branches, one on Road 233 and one on Naguib Mafouz St., in which they serve the closest alternatives to the foods Shirley misses about home. The restaurant serves Chinese foods like duck dishes and oyster sauce next to some alcoholic beverages, complimenting the expat dining experience.
What do you miss?
Valentina misses greens, greens, greens. She misses being able to go for a walk in nature, just breathing some fresh air. Another green she cannot find here comes in form of a salad. Salads just have a different meaning here than they do back home, and Valentina enjoys a healthy diet.
Although extremely rare to find, Cairo does feature some hidden gems that invite one for a relaxing walk in the park and getting in touch with nature. Mustafa Kamel Square is known to be an oasis of green in the heart of Maadi. In another part of town, a walk through certain parts of the gardens of the Presidential Palace in Heliopolis is said to feature occasional surprise appearances by a jogging President. Orman Botanical Garden on the other shore of the Nile also invites you to reconnect with nature, most famous for its lotus pond.
If you are missing green on your plates, and a healthy, balanced diet as a result, you shouldn’t miss GoodCals in Zamalek. Not only does the menu offer a huge selection of salads, but also adds nutritional information on all their dishes, which also include pasta and sandwiches.
What do you miss?
Canadian-born Eihab refers to the things he misses most as the three Bs: Beer, Bacon and (B)ancakes! He specifically misses maple syrup to put on his pancakes. On every trip home, Eihab returns with the Canadian treasures in his suitcases.
Fear not, Eihab, you can actually find adequate alternatives for your 3 Bs in Cairo. If you know where to look, pork-friendly places will trade you some bacon, and provide you with the sugary goodness from the Maple tree. There is Oscar Market in Heliopolis, Uno Ambrosio in Zamalek and Chris Mena in Maadi that deal some good old bacon and some much-craved maple syrup to the masses of expats inhabiting these neighbourhoods.
Most expats have also located the watering holes of the city, such as Horreya and Happy City. However, it is mainly in the streets of Maadi where you will find a wider selection of beers. The Tap, a British style pub, will open its doors in Maadi this weekend, boosting a selection of drinks that can compete with its global counterparts.