A Brief Guide to Living and Working in Alexandria
Alexandria (Skandrai’ya) is a waterfront city spread along the Mediterranean Coastline basically from Quaitbay Fort, in the West, to Montazah Palace, in the East. El cornice is the road that runs along the coast from one end to the other. Most main roads in Alex’ run parallel to this with smaller roads between these.
The tram also runs parallel from Victoria (east) to the main tram station of Midan Ramla (Mahattat Ramla), the true city centre. A smaller tram continues west to near Quaitbay Fort. Alexandria is a busy city with many sights and many sounds! It may take a few days to acclimatize to the sounds of the mosques calling, local people selling their wares, the traffic, the tram – but when you do – you will be experiencing Egyptian life first hand.
Alexandria is the second largest city and the second largest metropolitan area in Egypt after Greater Cairo by size and population, extending about 32 km (20 mi) along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country. It is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. Alexandria is Egypt’s largest seaport, serving approximately 80% of Egypt’s imports and exports. It is an important industrial centre because of its natural gas and oil pipelines from Suez. Alexandria is also an important tourist resort.
Alexandria was founded around a small Ancient Egyptian town c. 331 BC by Alexander the Great. It became an important centre of the Hellenistic civilization and remained the capital of Hellenistic and Roman & Byzantine Egypt for almost one thousand years until the Muslim conquest of Egypt in AD 641, when a new capital was founded at Fustat (later absorbed into Cairo). Hellenistic Alexandria was best known for the Lighthouse of Alexandria (Pharos), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World; its Great Library (the largest in the ancient world; now replaced by a modern one); and the Necropolis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Middle Ages. Ongoing maritime archaeology in the harbour of Alexandria, which began in 1994, is revealing details of Alexandria both before the arrival of Alexander, when a city named Rhacotis existed there, and during the Ptolemaic dynasty.
From the late 19th century, Alexandria became a major centre of the international shipping industry and one of the most important trading centres in the world, both because it profited from the easy overland connection between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea, and the lucrative trade in Egyptian cotton. Alexandria was the second most powerful city of the ancient world after Rome.
So, how to enjoy your new adventure? First get a visa when you arrive.
When entering the country you will have to obtain a tourist visa.
Types and cost:
Cost varies according to nationality. UK and Australian nationals: tourist: £15 (single-entry); £18 (multiple-entry); business: £53 (single-entry); £91 (multiple-entry). Subject to change.
Canadian nationals: tourist: £15 (single-entry); £18 (multiple-entry); business: £40 (single-entry); £70 (multiple-entry).
USA nationals: tourist: US$15 (single- or multiple-entry); business: US$25 (single-entry); US$40 (multiple-entry).
Visa fees for other EU nationals visiting Egypt vary according to country, but most follow the same fees that apply to UK and Australian nationals.
Single- and multiple-entry visas are valid for six months from the date of issue for a maximum stay of 60 days and 90 days respectively. Extensions are available from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Egypt.
Look for a bank in the airport BEFORE you queue for your entrance stamp at passport control. MISR Bank or Thomas Cook are good ones to look for.
Although we are paid in LE (Egyptian Pounds), you can book tours/flights in USD or LE. Money is mainly in the note form (5 pound, 10 pound, 20 pound, 50 pound, 100 pound and 200 pound) but there are a few coins (1 pound, 50 piasters, and 25 piasters. School will help arrange LE bank accounts with Credit Agricole into which you can have your salary paid. You will receive an ATM/Visa card, which you can use to withdraw money and pay for goods.
Change all foreign money once you get here – you get a better rate of exchange.
What to wear
Basically you can wear anything. However, you must remember you are moving to an Islamic country. You must therefore be respectful of others around you. Also, you need to be mindful of this fact with regards to work clothes.
So cap sleeved tops are better – no spaghetti strings! Mid quarter length trousers are ok, but please do not wear anything above the knee. Ladies do not have to cover their hair!
Teachers are expected to look professional at all times.
- · Denim, stretchy leggings or jeggings, flip-flops, heavy make-up, excessive jewellery, transparent clothing, and sleeveless blouses are not allowed at any time. Trainers are only permitted when teaching P.E.
- · Male members of staff should wear ties, unless teaching FS1/2, or other lessons such as PE or Art where it is impractical.
- · Teachers should set a good example to the students they teach in their presentation and their personal conduct.
- · Shoes should match business attire.
* On non-uniform days, casual clothes may be worn but jeans must not be ripped. All clothing must be clean and logos/pictures/writing must be non offensive.
Transport around Alexandria
The easiest option is a taxi. As they are everywhere in Alex, you will never wait long. Just stick your arm out or shout your destination through the always-open window.
This form of travel is quite straightforward if you stick to a few general rules:
Know where you want to go
Know the price (If they want to charge you more before you get in – don’t!)
Carry the correct change (saves arguments over price)
The tram is very simple and hassle-free but can be very slow. Just get on the tram going in the correct direction. Take care as some station names are only written in Arabic but there is usually a map board on each station with Arabic on one side and English on the other. All journeys (short or long) are 25 piasters. A man will come and collect this from you on the tram.
NB: The front carriage on every tram is for women and children only. (Women may travel in any carriage.)
Trip advisor award winner for good service and usually offer the same prices as normal taxis. Will do transfers and day trips to anywhere – see their main site at www.egyptlastminute.com
There are also microbuses (best avoided unless very brave) which travel along the main roads but unless you can speak Arabic, know exactly where you (and the bus) are going and don’t mind squashing in, these can be difficult (or fun if you don’t mind adventure).
Trains are used for further distances e.g. Cairo. Sidi Gaber is the easiest station. Regular trains leave here to Cairo and take 3 – 4 hours depending on the number of stops. Prices are around LE40 first class, one-way. 2nd Class is quite an acceptable alternative is 1st class seats are all booked. You should book your ticket 2 to 3 days before you wish to travel. You can also go to Aswan and Luxor from Alex although flying would be a good alternative way to
travel this far. You can also fly to Sharm from Alex airport.
Apartments in Alexandria
These range from very nice to very bad, and it isn’t always price dependent. The school will arrange viewings before the new school year for you to choose an apartment.
Landlords can vary in how helpful they are: any problems please see the school administrator for help. Water, gas and electricity are usually paid monthly and someone will usually come to your door with a bill. Being able to read Arabic numbers helps but they can usually translate the price honestly for
Often in apartment buildings a small amount will be asked from you to cover the price of lifts/rubbish collection etc per month. Usually a building has a Bowab (security) who will rarely speak English but tends to be helpful for anything. You may consider employing a cleaner, as it is relatively inexpensive. Check with school colleagues for prices.
TV and Radio
TV is pretty bad here so the best option is to install Satellite (some buildings already have connection to local signals for limited channels). The main satellite companies are Orbit and Showtime and staff will be able to direct you to showrooms for these. A good radio station to listen to is Cairo FM. You can find this on 94FM.
There is no end to the shopping experiences you can have here. For the markets, head for Manshaea (take taxi, tram, or just walk the tram/El Cornice West to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier (statue of man on horse). This area is full of shops/stalls selling literally everything and is a ‘must-see’ at Christmas. Again limited English is spoken and bargaining hard is the key.
For more relaxed Western shopping, head for one of the 3 main shopping malls:
Carrefour (aka City Centre or Down Town although nowhere near the centre) – includes a huge supermarket with everything written in English, Debenhams, Evans, food court and restaurants and many more clothes and goods.
Green Plaza – Includes much the same as Carrefour but with smaller supermarket and Egyptian style shops and cafes.
San Stefano – includes Metro supermarket, which carries some Western brands of food. All these malls have a range of shops, restaurants/cafes and cinema complexes showing Western films. English is spoken at most shops in these malls.
The easiest places to buy food are in one of the food stores below as everything is listed in English and contain a range of foods.
Metro – also found in Smouha
Fathalla – can be found in Family Mall opposite San Stefano, opposite Carrefour (in
Downtown), Smouha and Montaza.
Alfamarket – Green Plaza
Zahran – Smouha and Loran.
The freshest and cheapest food is found in the markets (Cleopatra market, near Smouha, is excellent) but a little Arabic would be useful and reading Arabic prices is essential. Just have a wander and watch other people to know what to do. Cleopatra has 2 tram stops at either end of the market – on separate tramlines so check which you need.
In Alex, almost EVERYWHERE delivers (but not everywhere speaks English to order).
A lifesaver for many foreigners who are still trying to work out where everything is: www.otlob.com This will give you a huge list of restaurants to choose from. Each one lists its full range of food and you just order on line. It will tell you how long to expect to wait and you can keep an eye on the delivery time. If there are any problems they will sort them out for you. This is an
excellent way of ordering several different meals if you have fussy guests.
Here’s a list of a few tried and tested places. Some of these telephone numbers are for a certain area, but call them and they can connect you to your nearest outlet.
McDonalds – 19991
KFC – 03 4273929
Beanos – 03 4266993
Abu Fares – 03 5532248
Red Dragon Chinese – 0105892480
Freddy – 03 5455075
Pizza Hut – 035848896
Hardee’s – 03 5232538
There are so many – of every type – to try in Alex but here are some of our recommended ones.
Blue and White – Greek Club
Cecil Hotel – rooftop
Bars and Alcohol
As this is a Muslim country, alcohol is not readily available but can be found at the following places:
Drinkies – the main place to buy alcohol (beer and spirits) for home use
0800 100 100 1 (home delivery)
Cap d’Or – Just off Sharia Saad Zaghoul (road between Midan Ramla and Manshae)
Greek Club – In the Anfushi area by Quaitbay Fort.
The Mermaid – On the Corniche by the Cecil Hotel/Italian Embassy.
There are different sport clubs in and around Alexandria. You can become a member if you wish to use the facilities more often. This will be less expensive in the long run than paying to go in on a day rate. Why not visit these and decide if one is for you?
The Country Club
The easiest thing is to buy an Egyptian mobile phone. These can be really cheap or as expensive as you want. Or you can buy a SIM card (Vodafone or Mobilnil) from any of the phone shops. Pay as you Go is easiest. Foreign mobiles can be unlocked here if needed although can be difficult at times.
To recharge your phone you can go to Vodafone or Mobilnil shops or buy scratch cards at any outlet. Once here – you can organise ATM payments to top up your phone.
If your apartment has a house phone you can buy pay as you go cards to phone England. The code for Egypt is 0020 then 3 for Alex or 2 for Cairo.
The school will give you a list of trusted Doctors and Dentists when you arrive.
Embassies and tourist offices
British Embassy in Egypt
Telephone: (2) 2791 6000. Website: http://www.ukinegypt.fco.gov.uk Opening times: Sun-Wed 0800-1530; Thurs 0800-1400.
Embassy of Egypt in the USA
Telephone: (202) 895 5400. Website: http://www.egyptembassy.net Opening times: Mon-Fri 0900-1800.
Egyptian Consulate in the UK
Telephone: (020) 7235 9777. Website: http://www.egyptianconsulate.co.uk Opening times: Mon-Fri 0930-1230 (lodging applications); 1430-1600 (visa collection).
Good facebook pages: