Cairo is a mega-city of around 20 million people. It is a bustling, energising city – a global centre.


As the largest city in the Middle East and North Africa region and acting as a bridge between cultures, Cairo is alive with diversity as a result of its unique geographic and social situation.


Old Cairo with its bazaars, dusty alleyways and coffee shops is encircled by the ever expanding modern city with its five star hotels, fashionable cafes, shopping malls and cinemas. There is always something to do in Cairo – watching the sunset from a felucca on the Nile, walking through history at the Cairo Museum or checking out the local music scene!


The River Nile dissects this metropolis, with the old city centre and Old Cairo on the east bank and newer residential suburbs on the west bank.


The city's expansion has led to the development of new desert cities where modern Cairo is emerging. This modern Cairo has become the home of hi-tech industries in the new 'Smart Village': factories producing Mercedes, BMW, Suzuki and General Motors as well as tech companies like Toshiba, multinational foodstuff companies, and facilities producing pharmaceuticals, textiles and weaving, clothing and other industrial products of top brands under license in Egypt.


With its rich cultural history, modern Cairo is the place to be. Enjoy studying at the heart of a global, cosmopolitan location and benefit from learning Arabic in an immersive environment. Living and learning in Cairo provides you with exciting opportunities to use your Arabic language skills from day one, navigating this colourful city and communicating with locals.


Life in Cairo

The following sections cover topics relevant to life and living in Cairo. At IH Cairo ILI we aim to make your transition to life in Cairo as straightforward and easy as possible.


Here we look at:

  • Food and Drink

  • Alcohol

  • Clothing

  • Money & Foreign Exchange

  • Transport


If we have not covered a topic here that you are interested in, check out our FAQ section or contact us at


Food and Drink

Almost everything you want is available from supermarkets. Prices vary considerably whether you shop at mega-markets like Carrefour or street markets, small shops and street vendors.


Fruit and vegetable markets display a huge range of produce all year round – Cairo definitely welcomes vegetarians!


There is a flourishing fast food market (everyone delivers everything!) with all the familiar names as well as many local outlets.


More 'sophisticated' cuisine can be found in hotel restaurants or any number of ethnic restaurants throughout the city and its suburbs.




Although Egypt is predominately a Muslim country, alcohol is widely available and not prohibited. The local beer (produced by Heineken) and wines are good, including made-under-license and local brands.


Quality local spirits (as well as 'designer' drinks) have recently come on to the market and are also good.


However, homestyle-type locally-produced spirits, although cheap, are truly appalling and at best will only make you impotent! Please don't even think about drinking this stuff!


It is important to note that it is not acceptable to appear drunk on the streets and you should not consume alcohol on the streets.



Clothing and Dress Code

Winter is usually warm during the day but cold at night with temperatures dipping to single digits, so for 8 -12 weeks of the year you will need a range of winter clothing.


For other times of the year when it's hot, smart loose cotton clothing is most comfortable.


Please respect the conservative culture of the country and of Islam, and dress modestly in the cities and countryside, if you visit. In Sinai and the Red Sea resorts, wear what you like! This does not mean that in the cities women have to cover up Saudi-style; it just means you have to dress sensibly.


There is a huge textile industry in Egypt, which is famous for its cotton. Reasonably-priced casual and smart clothes are widely available and there are lots of local and international brands.


Note that you should bring clothes for more formal occasions. When Egyptians celebrate, they really dress up! Don't forget your diamonds when invited to a wedding!



Money and Foreign Exchange

It is important to know that Egypt is still a cash economy: while you may be able to pay with a credit card in some select stores or restaurants, cash is generally the easiest form of payment.


There are no problems exchanging U$D, € (Euros), £ (Pounds Sterling) and most other currencies.


Transfers from abroad can be arranged through IH Cairo ILI's bank if you wish.


ATM machines can be found everywhere and you can access money from your overseas bank or draw on your credit cards.


You do not need to have an Egyptian credit card or bank account.




Taxis are the main mode of transportation and they are very cheap. Travelling in the white taxis is advisable as they are generally more modern and in better condition than the black taxi cabs. You could also use public buses but they are very crowded and not very good. The Metro is clean and reliable but not very extensive.


Intercity travel is best made by plane, bus or train. 



good idea

فكرة كويسة

used to express opinions

I had a very good experience in ILI especially the MSA classes. The teachers were very good at explaining difficult grammar concepts with minimal English. Also my speaking and listening skills have improved significantly.

Carrie - United Kingdom