My name is Mairead Hoey, I am an Irish expat with a husband, three kids and an ancient dog, trying my best to avoid becoming a “lady who lunches”.
We moved to Cairo in June 09. My husband was made redundant so I applied online for him to all the places I wanted to visit. Fortunately Cairo popped up as we could just as easily have ended up in India or one of the Stans.
The biggest challenge was the dog and all the associated paperwork. UK bureaucracy dictated that i should fly from N Ireland to the mainland to sort it out. Even the civil servants couldn’t believe how ridiculous this was. Luckily I used my Irish passport and went through Dublin instead, and the dog flew out with us on the same plane. On a more personal note, convincing three teenagers it would be a wonderful experience, and not the end of the world was a roller coaster of emotions.One is now at university so it was less of an impact but he looks forward to his holidays in Cairo. The other two are well settled and watching the 17 year chat away in his colloquial Arabic with his Egyptian friends makes me laugh, and also a little proud.
How did you find somewhere to live?
This was a fairly painless process as the company sorted out our budget with the estate agent so it was a matter of picking the place with the best location. I can drive the kids to school and the hubby to work and complete the circuit home within 20 minutes. We are in our second property now as a 20 foot retaining wall collapsed in our last place just before our summer visitors arrived,…… there were moments when i wished it had collapsed during the visit, cest la vie
Are there many other expats in your area?
There are some expats but its mostly Egyptian.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
I am very lucky as I am on a number of committees so most locals I meet already share a common interest that makes it easy. When I am out and about on a daily basis I find my relationships improve in tandem with the amount of Arabic I crucify. Having been here through the revolution has helped too as even when there was nothing on the shelves my local shopkeeper kept me a daily supply of cigarettes under the counter. (a nasty habit I know)
What do you like about life where you are?
Cairo is a melting pot, with fabulous weather and endless things to do. It is a crazy mixed up place and its not for everyone. If you are into health and safety, are anti- pollution, into hygiene and believe in eating organically well it might not be your thing. It suits me just fine in fact I love it and think the random craziness adds to its appeal.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
I do feel uncomfortable about the privileged lifestyle we have, and live in fear of raising a troop of expat brats. I try to keep them grounded by not having a maid so they have to do chores etc but other than that i love it. Oh and I’m not too keen on that weird Americanized twang they are developing it makes me cringe.
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Take a deep breath, head out with an open mind and make sure your sense of humor is on full alert for the secret to surviving Cairo is to not take it personally, No-one is out to wind you up, at least not intentionally, so chill out, go with the flow and it will all work out in the end Inshalaah.
What are your plans for the future?
I would like to stay as long as possible. If there is work we will be here, if not we will head on to the next adventure with wonderful memories and some truly fabulous photographs.
Mairead shares more stories about life in Cairo through her blog Irish Eyes on Cairo