Who would consider visiting Egypt these days? If taking a vacation or a quick business trip there sounds risky, signing a contract to work for up to a year seems unimaginable. The country is in chaos, the revolution that began January 25th will create permanent changes beyond Hosni Mubarek's resignation, and these are legitimate concerns for anyone considering Egypt as destination. But such deterrents might also be an incentive. This moment in Middle Eastern history, where technology and communication have given voice to a generation, could prove to be the region's Berlin Wall.
For the right person, there might be no better time to take advantage of this chance to teach English in Egypt than now. Nevertheless, the prospective ESL teacher would be wise to learn as much as possible before making a decision. As the situation changes daily, check with places such as the US Department of State
and The British Consulate
Even though tourism, as well as active foreign investment, has decreased, the number of willing applicants has also diminished, and there are opportunities. Before the revolution, Egypt had been a magnet for ESL, known for a great mix of North African and Arabic culture, exposure to a friendly people, and proximity to some of the most amazing architectural sites still surviving. Egypt, independent from Britain since 1922 and with a population of almost 90 million, has been influenced by Greek, Roman, Coptic, and Arab cultures.
The religious divide in Egypt is about 80% Muslim and 20% Christian, with the majority of Christians being Coptic, and for the most part these different religious groups live in harmony. Egypt's recent development has made it one of the more reliable Middle Eastern countries in terms of trade with the West. They will continue to need English throughout this transitional phase and the role played by Facebook and other social media sites in the revolution, has highlighted this.
As usual, the prospective teacher increases chances for employment with education and experience. Jobs can pay as low as 5,000 and as high as 10,000 Egyptian Pounds a month for a typical week, and sometimes higher. Private lessons offer as much as 100 pounds an hour. At the Current Exchange Rate
of US $1 = 0.59 Egyptian Pounds, this is a very good rate for the Middle East, with the high end of annual salaries approaching $50,000 a year. Private K-12 schools furnish the highest wages.
As far as cost of living, according to the always useful Hamburger Index
, a Big Mac costs around $2.50 in Cairo. A bowl of a lentil and tomato soup, kushari
, plus a juice or coffee is less than a dollar. Most contracts do not include accommodation, and as the weather is extremely hot and humid from May through October, air conditioning is essential. Employers will cover airfare and health care along with standard holidays and vacation. The majority of jobs are in Cairo, with Alexandria also having a large demand, and for the adventurous there are Luxor and Aswan. Cairo, though, is the most likely destination, with a population of almost 18 million. Expatriates, or khwaga
, number 50,000, and many of them live in the more western or modern neighborhoods such as Zamalek and Maddi.
Egyptian culture is conservative, and respect and deference should be given at all times. Modest dress code should be considered mandatory, especially for women. Egyptian men can be aggressive, and this is disconcerting for female teachers. Common sense dictates not to venture into the wrong areas. Though petty theft can be a problem, violent crime is rare.
Egyptians are friendly and curious about foreigners, and students have a reputation for being well-motivated. Along with partaking in history, the ESL teacher can take advantage of Egypt's natural wonders, incredible diving off the Red Sea Coast, and cultural touches such as sheesha, the fruit, charcoal & molasses flavored tobaccos, that can be smoked from hookahs in the late evening. Helpful links are below. Sala'am!
Job Boards and Schools in Egypt offering ESL: