Egypt is a mecca for foreign workers, as more than 30,000 expats live and work in Egypt, mainly in Cairo. Working in Egypt means living in a country that provides a window into ancient history and the rapidly-changed Middle East of today. It may be a little difficult to find a job in Egypt at first, and move your life to a whole new continent, but once there you will find it to be quite affordable and most definitely fascinating.
Cairo is essentially the epicenter of everything, and where almost all foreigners work in Egypt. Ancient and congested, modern and sprawling, the metropolitan area is home to a population of more than 16 million, and just about all institutions and industries house their headquarters in Cairo, meaning potential for job opportunities is high. Not to mention, Cairo’s nightlife is just as famous as its film industry. More than half of Egypt’s universities and academies are located in Cairo too, as are its automakers, publishing companies, most government offices, and its most famous cultural landmarks and museums. Cairo is also congested and polluted, but it has a good public transportation system. An added bonus of working in Cairo? The sun shines almost all the time.
Alexandria sits on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, and is Egypt’s import/export center. Its history is a “who’s who” of famous names, including Alexander the Great, Cleopatra, Mark Antony, and Napoleon. Tourism and archeological excavation jobs are centered in Alexandria, the heart of Egyptian history.
Sharm El Sheikh & Dahab are resort towns on the Red Sea and both have enclaves of high end resorts (almost all of the major chains). Both cities additionally have hostels and lower end hotels that historically cater to divers. Nearby Ras Mohammed National Park is famous for its coral reefs and the area is beginning to be a hub for a small (but growing) ecotourism industry.
Luxor has a population of about a half-million, and some of the hottest, driest weather in Egypt. Luxor is another huge tourist magnet, as a home to the temple ruins of Karnak and Luxor and the Valley of the Kings and Queens. Tourism-related jobs in Luxor are expanding as officials are working to revitalize the area’s attractions by excavating an ancient highway and converting the area to a sprawling open air museum. There are also some opportunities to work in Luxor as an English teacher or translator.
Jobs in Egypt
Since unemployment is high in Egypt, it’s a good idea to have a job lined up before you leave your home country. Being fluent, or semi-fluent, in Arabic is an advantage when searching for work in Egypt. Language skills will lead to not only higher paid jobs abroad in Egypt, but to a higher likelihood of landing a position in the nation’s recuperating workforce.
Specialized skills are highly sought after (such as information technology) and organizations are more likely provide relocation assistance. If you have a background in law, foreign service, or social services, Egypt is a coordinating location for many NGOs, humanitarian relief, and organizations for refugees from all over the Middle East.
Construction & Communication. Cairo’s employment market is some what of a boom or bust, especially with the Arab Spring and resulting unrest. But in the last three decades, its growth as a work and business center has been steady. Estimates are that 20 percent or more of the buildings in Cairo are less than five years old, so jobs in construction (and in specific trades) are apparently in demand. Communication providers have grown in the same regard, if not a greater rate, so there are job opportunities in communications for skilled workers too.
Archeology. Egypt is also an archaeological hotspot. Many digs hire archaeologists-in-training or offer volunteer job opportunities. Due to the nation’s history and archaeological treasures, Egypt draws a multitude of tourists from all over the world and guides fluent in several languages are always in demand.
Teaching, Tutoring, Tourism, & Translating. English teaching jobs in Egypt are also fairly plentiful (especially in Cairo). In resort communities, such as Sharm El Sheikh, there are hospitality, bartending, and wait staff jobs, where knowing more than one language is beneficial for communication with tourists. Amazingly as it may seem in a desert kingdom, there are frequent openings for dive instructors in Egypt as well.
Salary & Affordability
Cairo is one of the most expensive places to live by Egypt’s standards, but the cost of living is low by world standards. Living in Cairo is about half the cost of living in the the U.S. and most of Europe.
There is no minimum wage in Egypt, but tech and skilled employees are generally recruited, and make more than enough to live comfortably and travel on weekend excursions. Resort, seasonal, and tourism employees make less, but tips – or baksheesh – are a way of life in Egypt, and can lift a salary considerably. In resort areas, employers also often offer subsidized housing and meals too.
Foreign workers in the higher salary brackets are paid in foreign currency, usually dollars, but by American and European standards, salaries are low -- as little as $500 to $700 a month for most jobs. Although some teaching jobs in Egypt, especially for experienced teachers, and many high-tech jobs can have salaries twice as high.
No matter what your wage or position, rent, food and transportation costs are manageable. Rent for a one or two-bedroom apartment is in the $250 to $400 range, subway fare is near 20 cents, and the major cities are full of juice stands, coffee shops, and sandwich counters that offer hearty, filling food for $5 and under.
Accommodations & Visas
Finding housing will take careful research, but is considerably less cumbersome than in other places around the world. Affordable rentals are plentiful, with the caution that it’s a case of buyer beware for most places; so if the rent sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In the cheapest apartments, cleanliness and reliability of utility service can be an issue. Considering the congestion in cities, especially Cairo, it’s a good idea to look for housing near public transportation and within walking distances of stores and groceries. The exception is Cairo’s international district, Maadi, where many Americans and Europeans live and most international schools are located. It’s bustling and prosperous, but also more expensive.
Getting a permit to work in Egypt might be harder and more trying than your actual job search. Expect it to take several months – and a lot of patience. Help from your perspective employer is essential, because the company must supply a proof of incorporation and a letter explaining why it must hire a foreigner instead of a native. Standard visa items include your passport and extra photos, diploma, academic records, or professional certification, and a tax ID. Additional items in accordance to Egyptian law are a medical certificate that shows you are HIV-negative and a certificate from the Egyptian State Security system showing that you are not a security risk. Work permits are issued for a year, but can be renewed for three more years if desired and approved.
Benefits & Challenges
- Large Expat Communities. Due to the large numbers of foreign workers working in Egypt, and the relatively high salaries they draw, there are enclaves of expats from many countries with support systems that can make it seem as if you never left home. But if you want to seek new cultural experiences, you can easily live in neighborhoods full of locals.
- Chaotic Cairo. Most foreigners end up working in Cairo, and while it’s a fascinating place with almost unlimited cultural opportunities, it’s also a 24/7 kind of place, constantly noisy and chaotic, and extremely densely populated.