What’s It Really Like to Live Here?

What’s It Really Like to Live In The Middle East

mosque Whether you hope to explore the ancient city of Petra or rock the night life of Tel Aviv, we’d love to hear what you have to say about living in The Middle East.

Do YOU have comments & insights to share  with colleagues regarding the pleasures & challenges of life in The Middle East? Please do! International Educators Keeping Each Other Informed is what ISR is ALL about!

Share your thoughts with colleagues:
• What is the BEST & the WORST of living in The MIddle East?
• Do you recommend living in The M.E. or are you counting the days?

What’s It Really Like to Live in The Middle East?
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133 Responses to What’s It Really Like to Live Here?

  1. annie hall says:

    The reality is most newbies will ignore all the negative comments here and sign with the school who offers them a contract first. Perhaps a more useful thread would be on a first time international teacher surviving their Middle Eastern contract. Leave your tips for these poor souls:
    Maybe, block everything out from the week and enjoy a desert camping trip on the weekend.
    Understand that you will not be able to change much.
    Always eat lunch.
    Find a massage therapist who will come to your apartment on a regular basis.
    Order take away dinner.
    Don’t complain to your principal about unmanageable students just show the kids movies.
    If the kids complain about homework, just don’t give it to them. They might light fireworks in your classroom or make death threats (saw this happen).
    Make your test easy.
    Give good grades, or you’ll be sorry.
    Don’t let the kids use their iphones in class or they will most likely videotape you and post you on youtube in a bad moment.
    Don’t let the kids use their phones or they will call their parents if you kick them out of class or make them write lines. Their parents will call the school and you will get told off.
    Don’t expect any kid to be expelled for ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!
    All in all, just keep your head down and push on through the week. Make a lot of friends, not just a couple. There will be a incredible number of teachers who quit and teachers hired at all times of the year. You will need a large circle of friends to get you through this. If one of your two friends leave, you’ll feel isolated fast. Be friends with every teacher. You need battle buddies.
    You might as well finish your contract if you’re there, so you’ll have something on your resume to get a better job.

    The first teacher who taught in the Middle Eastern for profit school (with a local population) who disagrees with this, you must get a Noble Peace Prize for your teaching ability. Or maybe you’re the next Messiah. Thank God you’re here to prove me wrong.

  2. annie hall says:

    Taught in Asia, Middle East, South America, and now in Australia. The Middle East was not all bad. Good weekends in Dahab and in Ras Sudra but the week was rough to get through. Everywhere else I’ve been was better. The money was higher in the middle east. If you can get a job that pays within 10K somewhere in Asia, take it. Don’t go to the Middle East unless you really really need the money. There’s good snorkling lots of places. You can have a maid lots of places.

    It wasn’t all bad, but I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone I cared about. All this being said, I know a lot of people will be reading this blog because they just signed a contract to go somewhere in the Middle East for the the first time.

    They’ll read this and think, oh, well it’s not that bad! No, you are dumb and naive. But you’ll go and stick it through your contract. Unless you’re teaching at a school with mainly expats, but as a first year international teacher, this is unlikely, you’ll be teaching some of the hardest students to manage in the classroom. If you have not taught at a school with disadvantaged youth, you will be woefully unprepared. If you have signed with a school with a majority of the students coming from the host country, be very very scared. Actually, just stay where you are. Don’t be afraid of the political uprising, you will be too stressed to even think about the political situation.

    It will only be after you leave and sign somewhere outside of the Middle East will you finally realize your stupid ways. Or maybe you’ll upgrade to a real international school! If you have taught internationally before coming to the Middle East, you’ll realize how much harder it is. But if it’s you’re first posting, you won’t have anything to compare it to until you leave and go to Asia or elsewhere. Good luck sticking it through. Inshallah! But don’t think that you are a bad teacher because you are having a hard time at a school in the Middle East. If you have experienced success in the classroom before teaching in the Middle East, you will most likely be successful at another school (not in the Middle East). Tip, enjoy your weekends as much as possible to recharge for the week. Also, invest your savings wisely.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Interesting that the Middle East has the most posts in “What’s It Really Like to Live Here?” and most are negative.

  4. Karen says:

    I would like to hear from people who taught in Qatar as I will be moving there in August. If the other woman whom is moving there wants to chat about stuff let me know.

  5. MyCultureMadeMeDoIt says:

    Hi! I’d like to connect with people who have brewing experience in Saudi. Anyone? Anyone?

  6. MyCultureMadeMeDoIt says:

    Hi! Does anyone what kind of grain I can get in Saudi (specifically), or the Mid-East (generally). I trust I can find oats, corn and rice, and probably others in the store. But I really want whole raw barley for malting purposes. Does anyone have any insight for me?

  7. Will McConnell says:

    I will be moving to Cairo this fall and would love to hear anyone’s opinions about current conditions in the city. My parents in particular are worried, so that is something I think about: how can I calm them down?

    • Anonymous says:

      As an expat teacher you will most likely live in Maadi which is a suburb of Cairo. In the year that I have been hear I have yet to seen any protest or unrest. The area is full of expats and wealthy nationals who have no interest in protesting, especially in their neighborhood. CNN and the like have sensationalized the true situation. Living in Maadi has been peaceful. The teachers who actual lived here during the revolution seemed to have treat the situation as more of a holiday.

  8. Anonymous says:

    So you are thinking of enlisting in the Middle East? Well I salute you! Welcome fellow mercenaries.
    When it comes to teaching in the Middle east (Egypt specifically) there is a mercenary mentality among the educators. You’re here to get a job done and get out. People are attracted to the pay or experience, more specifically the lack of experience. Many teachers are still waiting for their diplomas to dry. A few school pay very well and on these salaries you can live like a king or queen. You will enjoy great travel opportunities, cheap tennis games, clubs and pubs.
    You may have enlisted because you are so green that no other part of the world would hire you. You are so unseasoned that when your shower head falls of the wall (yet again) in your Cairo apartment you will call your mother in tears.
    For the seasoned veteran, you never know, out of the dozens and dozens of private schools you may have actually landed at one of four truly international schools found in Cairo. But most likely you have not. You were attracted to the Middle East because of the pay or an interesting teaching position.

    (For the people in Cairo who are thinking, what is this idiot blabbering about? What 4 schools? There are only 2? Don’t worry about it. You are probably not French or go to church regularly, which are required to know about the other two schools).

    Do not get to cocky about your years of experience or your ability to teach. The streets are not only littered with garbage but your tears. Parents and students are nice enough, but unrealistic and demanding. The students in general are largely uninterested in academics. If you demand academic rigor and discipline expect a revolt.
    For those coming from Aisa, soon the only thing that will sustain you are your memories of your beloved Vietnam, Thailand, China, Malaysia… come to think of it any other part of the world. At our school, of the experienced new hires, only two seasoned (8 years or more experience) teachers are returning next year. Two have already pulled up ranks and pulled runners after only 6 months, having found contracts in other parts of the world. The rest will not be completing their contracts and will only finishing out the year out of duty.
    Smell that? You smell that? Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of burning garbage in the morning. Smells like victory!

  9. Kevin Stoda says:

    tutoring is often technically illegal with most contracts.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Hi peeps,
    Is there anyone working in Doha, Qatar. I would love to know about teacher accommodations please. Ah, also what’s the medical/health clinics like?? We are moving there in August… and Im really curious!
    Any help is much appreciated :)

    Ta!

    • freebird says:

      Doha, Qatar- best and most modern hospital Al Ali. They are building a new one across from Qatar Foundation but don’t know when it will be open. Accommodations are good with Education City being the best.

    • Lisa says:

      Hi Ta: I haven’t lived in Qatar, but I’m moving there in August as well! I just know the guy that hired me told me the medical care is awesome, and the people I work with at my current school have agreed with that statement. That is now my expectation. If someone knows different please let us know! Thanks!

  11. Anonymous says:

    I was a Deputy Principal in Dubai at a supposedly prestigious school. I found the ex pat staff, in the main lazy and self centred, they were more concerned with harvesting students for private tuition than teaching. They focused on nightlife activity and eating (becoming even larger in the process) and taking as many days sick as possible. There were few intelligent discussions about education and it seemed that they were basically misfits from their own nations so took the opportunity to sweat it out in Dubai with minimal effort on their part and complaining non stop about hard done by they were by their employers.

    Dubai itself is the biggest human trafficking centre on earth. Cheap labour, from India, Pakistan and Philippines is the base for the economic food chain that is Dubai that you, the white ex pat will feed upon, the emiraties use you in a similar way while with two faces they engage in Islam then pop off down to the bar to drink and pick up prostitutes while their wives shop or stay at home.

    If you like cackling fat Europeans, being approached by prostitutes in bars, restaurants and malls, enjoy bad driving, cheap petrol , a lack of culture then give it a go……. Do your time see it for what it really is and then move on. I did and have never regretted once in flying out of DBX.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am shocked to hear how you spoke of the teachers and the locals of a country as a “former Deputy Principal” at one of the”prestigious schools in Dubai.” I would be concerned that a person in your position would be so quick to generalise a whole population. If you lived there then you know those schools grossly underpay their staff compared to the cost of living (hence the need to try to tutor). You are right in that many teachers are pretty new and inexperienced in UAE since you can’t recruit too many long-term hires for low wages and little to no pension scheme. You also know that there are a lot of decent Emiratis (this is the correct spelling and you should have capitalised it) Shame you had absolutely nothing positive to say about any of them?.Are you still in a position of authority working in another country or did you go back home? All frightful to hear those in higher positions posting like this.

      • Expat Teacher says:

        I have many friends teaching in the UAE and they are hard-working professionals. The first-year teachers I taught with, for the most part, worked harder than those with some experience because they had to put in the extra hours to learn their new profession. As for the local teaching staff, they were paid very little but they still worked to provide the best quality of education to their students that they could. Did some teachers work “harder” than others? Perhaps but we all know how much of teaching occurs behind the scenes, unobserved. Shame on you for painting all teachers in the area with the same brush. Perhaps the apathy you noted was due to poor leadership, in other words, having a leader who thought so little of his/her teachers. You reap what you sow.

  12. Expat Teacher says:

    The salary was decent but the cost of living was really high. A weekly grocery shop for a family of four was around $600. We earned less than anywhere else in the Gulf region. The salary didn’t really make allowances for the high cost of living. Plus, if you have to send money away for mortgages or credit card debt, the salary definitely needed to be topped up by tutoring. So when you look at the numbers, they seem okay, not great but okay, until you hit the grocery store or try to pay your bills back home. That’s where the tutoring was necessary.

  13. Anon says:

    Hilarious, cheered me up no end!

  14. Mazi says:

    You know you have lived in the Gulf too long when:
    You’re not surprised to see a goat in the passenger seat
    You think the uncut version of “Little House on the Prairie” is
    provocative
    You serve coffee in a thimble
    You think everyone’s first name is Al
    You need a sweater when it’s 28 degrees Celsius
    Your idea of housework is leaving a list for the housemaid
    You believe that speed limits are only advisory
    You expect all police to drive BMWs or Merc’s
    You know whether you are within missile range of Iraq
    You believe that the definition of a nanosecond is the time
    interval between the time the light turns green and the time that the guy behind you begins to blow his horn
    You can’t buy anything without asking for a discount
    You have more carpets than floor space
    You expect all stores to stay open till midnight
    You understand that ‘wadi bashing’ isn’t a criminal act
    You make left turns from the far right lane
    You expect gold for every birthday
    You send friends a map instead of your address
    You understand why huge 4x4s must slow down to a snail’s pace whilst crossing a speed bump yet hurtle through a wadi at 100kph
    You think that howareyou is one word
    You think it perfectly normal to have a picnic in the middle of
    a roundabout at 11pm
    You know exactly how much alcohol allowance you have left for
    the month
    You have a moon phase predictor on your computer
    You never say Saturday instead of Thursday or Sunday instead of Friday
    You accept that there is no point in asking why you are not allowed to do something
    When you expect queues to be 1 person deep and 40 people wide,
    When you realize that the black and white stripes in the road
    are not a zebra crossing, just bait to get tourists into the firing line,
    When you know what night is ladies night at every bar in town,
    When seeing guys welcome each other with a kiss no longer
    disgusts you,
    When you carry 12 passport size photos around with you just in
    case,
    When you can tell the time by listening to the local mosque,
    When you think its a good night if there are fewer than 10 men
    for every woman in a bar,
    When phrases like ‘potato peeler’, ‘dish washer’, and ‘fly
    swatter’ are no longer household items but are actually Pakistani job titles
    When you start to say “Insha’allah” when you actually mean “No
    ******* chance!”
    When Habibi isn’t just the ex-president of Indonesia
    When you overtake a police car at 130KM/HR
    When a problem with your car AC or horn is more serious to you
    than a problem with the brakes
    When you can smoke a shisha in public without
    expecting to be arrested
    When you think 10Dhs is expensive for the latest Playstation
    game
    You think Pepsi begins with a ‘B’
    You think only men should hold hands in public
    You think shopping malls are covered souqs
    You expect to go to jail when a local national hits the back of
    your car at a stop sign

  15. I live in the UAE and I’m finishing a two year contract. I guess it’s what you make of it and what you can tolerate, like what a few people have said.

    There are good points and bad points to living and working here.

    Good points?

    It’s an easy place to live. You have the malls and all the Western chains to shop and eat at, which has been nice for me after living in a place with nearly none of the above. The weather is very hot from April to October, at the moment its lovely outside. I like the kids I teach, we have a broad mix of kids, but with a predominance of kids from the middle east. The few local kids aren’t too bad though there are flashes of arrogance, deep misogyny and pure laziness. I’ve managed to save a fair chunk of cash, whilst going out a little bit to brunches where you can eat and drink to great excess. The UAE being a travel hub means you can get cheap flights to Europe, Asia and Africa, though I’ve cut down on my travel in this time, as I’ve been trying to save.

    Bad points?

    There is little culture, much of it imported at a price. The actual culture of the Emiratis is pretty basic. What shocked me was just how poor the area was until the discovery of oil and gas reserves. This has meant an entire city built on sand by poorly paid labour mostly imported from Asia. Those workers live in terrible conditions, and are treated very badly. Thus the buildings, roads etc built by these poor men are not quality buildings, and after a few years you can see things going wrong. In my last flat, because of poor workmanship one could see the shower screen coming apart, cracks in the walls and the list goes on. Remember though, the sheik built everything, not slave labourers. The Filipinos run the stores and are maids and nannies to local and expatriate families. They are sometimes treated very poorly. I remember being very saddened when an Arab family screamed and threw things at a Filipino shop assistant in a cafe in one of the malls. My final point about bad points is that I find most of the expatriates I’ve meet within and out of work are just vapid. I crave a decent intellectual conversation. Also too, I don’t have any good friends here I feel I could rely on when I need a good friend. Maybe that’s me, but someone said something similar to me of recent.

    I’ve decided for personal reasons mostly and not to renew my contract, and to go back home. It was a hard decision as the good points were quite enticing, but the bad points trouble me too much.

    I hope this helps add to the dialogue.

    • freebird says:

      I agree about the vapidness and lack of spirituality among expats in the Mid East. It seems people there go for the money and relationships are just for the “here and now.” Although there are many earnest expat families trying to do their best- I think because everyone is from someplace else, there lacks a common ground that festers loneliness.

  16. Meghan says:

    The fact is, some people are genuinely happy in the Middle East, while others absolutely despise it. Those who despise it will approach the subject with absolute negativity, and those who are happy only see their lives through rose-colored glasses.

    I lived in Kuwait for two years, and have now been in Cairo for five. I adored Kuwait, and would only wish Cairo on my worst enemies. Kuwait (for the middle-class and up) is a hot Beverly Hills (if you choose the right places to live and visit). Most teacher residences are in very high-traffic parts of town (Salmiya/Hawalli), and not the most amazing areas (like Fahaheel or Khaitan). However, you can easily rent an apartment from a Kuwaiti for less than 200KD in a “Kuwaiti area” that is child friendly, and like neighborhoods back home (for instance in Abdullah Al Mubarak). There are neighborhood parks with outdoor running tracks, but they are really only useful in late evening and very early morning (even in Winter). You’ll find malls as your best friend, with all stores and eateries available from back home. People are friendly, but certainly don’t appreciate stares. Hospitality is great, but I advise to learn appropriate customs and behaviors in Islam, so as not to offend. Private healthcare is comparable to home, and even public hospitals are decent. Oh, and if you’re complaining about pollution in Kuwait, clearly you haven’t travelled much! I also loved living somewhere where i genuinely didn’t have to lock my doors…

    Cairo is a different story. The pollution is unbearable, trash literally everywhere, the water sewage tested positive for polio virus last week! With regards to the revolution, it really isn’t vastly different than before. It is reasonably safe, although I wouldn’t recommend women going out late at night alone. More amenities are arriving into Cairo each year, shopping items are still double the price though due to customs corruption. Bureaucracy is stagnant, and any issues with documents, etc. take forever to resolve. Healthcare is absolutely substandard (but cheap!), with even specialized doctors seriously lacking basic medical knowledge. There really is only one genuine tier one expatriate school, with many tier two schools filled with “upper-class” entitled Egyptian children. They attend schools with parents expecting all As no matter the effort if paying such high fees. Expat neighborhoods are certainly better than Egyptian villages and slums, but don’t expect any charm. Traffic is absolutely outrageous, with the majority of deaths yearly due to traffic accidents. Also, it’s not just coincidence that the childhood cancer rate is 6 times that of the US (as recently quote by the Egyptian National Cancer Institute). And don’t expect ANYONE to respect the concept of waiting in line. Ever. And yes the cost of living in cheap, but the standard of living is low. There are some new areas, though, that offer villas for less than the equivalent of 1000USD (Madinaty for one).

    But yes, this is all my opinion, and you will find opinions at every point on the spectrum!

    • Surprising that you haven’t returned to Kuwait considering how much you enjoyed it, how abundant the opportunities to work there are (especially with so many expats that flee it for the reasons stated in many posts here), and for the 5 years long you’ve endured the conditions you’ve described in Egypt.

      A former colleague of mine in Kuwait once said, “the desert teaches by taking away.” Other than the considerable savings I put away from my years there (the one true plus of being in Kuwait), his statement applies to what I’ve found to be the only other benefit I gained from the experience. You can reflect on all that you have to be grateful for about your home country and other life experiences while you’re in Kuwait. I still can turn a low mood around with an instant sense of my good fortune just by reflecting on how miserably I felt during those two years in Kuwait.

      When I read or hear people speak about the things they like about working in the Gulf countries, I kind of marvel that they can have such a different experience. There are those who are content to live as functional recluses. However, most of those who like it generally refer to things like shopping, eating out, hiring inexpensive household help, spa treatments, partying, etc., as what made day to day life good. Those just aren’t the things that make life worthwhile in my experience. That probably also explains how much I was able to save without a single hour of tutoring.

    • Joe C says:

      Not sure why you say there is only 1, tier one school in Cairo when in actuality there are 2. One American School and one British School. The other schools are heavily populated with local wealthy Egyptians.The experiences in Cairo vary person by person, but I personally would take Cairo over Kuwait any day. It’s not perfect, but it’s good for a single person. Talk to the teachers in the school where you are going and get more information as experiences vary so greatly with the school and your own personal information.

      • Will McConnell says:

        I just accepted a position at CAC. I have been living in El Salvador for the past several years, and personally feel OK with the move to Cairo. What kind of social life can I expect? How has the revolution truly affected you? All my friends have been joking about how I will never be able to leave my house, and need to invest in flame retardant clothing… But I just don’t think that is reality. Any advice is welcomed.

  17. Anon. says:

    The “Middle East” is diverse, and as a result, so are the experiences. I live and teach in Lebanon, but have visited several countries in the Gulf, and am quite familiar with the schools as well as the geographic and cultural differences between countries.

    Lebanon is less the “Middle East” in terms of culture and geography than it is the “Mediterranean”. I found Lebanon has more in common with Cyprus, Greece, and Italy than it does Kuwait or the Emirates. The weather is good, the cities are full of shabby and (usually) charming cafés, and the sea is always close enough to get to. The food in Lebanon is great, especially in the mountains. Were I to pick a place in this region for the reasons stated above, I’d pick Lebanon or western Syria in a minute.

    The reality of living there, however, leaves far more to be desired.

    The schools in Lebanon are TERRIBLE places to teach and learn. Even the best schools are a bit run-down, and too many of the teachers are locally trained in an education system that resembles the French Baccalaureate of 1910. Heavy memorization, no inquiry, and so far as I can tell, no one really wants to change it. The students are largely uninterested in academics — this they share in common with local students all over the Middle East. Education is a piece of paper, not an experience, and if you are a teacher that wants invested students, avoid Lebanon or any other country in the Middle East unless you know the school is for foreign children AND independent of a national school system.

    I don’t care to use the term “lazy” on a region…but every place I’ve been in the Middle East so far deserves that tag. Competence is at a premium, and people just don’t want to do anything — they want to pay someone else to it. The entitlement and stagnation can be felt in just about every country — there is a reason thriving cities like Dubai are composed mostly of foreigners seeking financial gain. When the money from oil and corruption runs out in places like Kuwait…they will become the desolate pearl-fishing villages of old, because the attitudes of the people are still in the backwaters. In some places, especially for single women, it’s downright impossible or dangerous to live. Want to “live” on a compound in Saudi? Or get groped in Egypt? Cursed out in Kuwait? These things are everyday realities.

    I know many people come to these countries because of the money. In Lebanon, don’t bother — there is none here. It gets better money-wise in the Gulf, but I personally don’t think it’s worth the trouble. Most of the Middle East is an intellectual and cultural wasteland. You can find your pockets and niches to live in that make it tolerable, and if you are comfortable living in that way…find a REALLY lucrative contract and shut your eyes from the rest of the world.

    • Anonymous says:

      I agree with everything about Lebanon. Food is AMAZING and people (generally) are nice. I have experienced harassment from males, particularly those of lower income, less education, that think that a western woman (particularly a blonde) is free game. I have had men expose themselves to me, and follow me home and attempt to kiss me. Those instances are few and far between, but have occurred nonetheless.
      Lebanon, other than the issue stated above, is a fine place. It has a happening nightlife. No problem here if you’re a drinker! I find it needs better ways to publicize artistic/cultural events. Beirut can be stifling and it’s good to get out of the city.
      The issues mentioned in other posts exist here (treatment of domestic workers, socioeconomic inequality, animal welfare, pollution, littering, wasta, corruption, etc) but not to the extent as the Gulf states. There is a reasonably sized groups of people (college students-30 year olds) that do recognize the issues and try to change the status quo.
      In Beirut, status and appearance means a lot and its quite humorous to see all the ways they show off.
      I’m on the downside of a 2 year contract and have not witnessed the extreme unrest Lebanon is known for…except in October when a car bomb went off (assassination) near my school and apartment. I laid low for a few days and then just like the Lebanese, I went back to normal.
      I could go on for days about how contradictory Lebanon is and how I love and despise it at the same time. It has been an interesting experience!

    • Anonymous says:

      Regarding schools in Lebanon – I’m not arguing that there aren’t some dodgy schools there, but as long as prospective teachers confine their search to the big two in Beirut, they will be fine. To make a blanket statement that all schools in Lebanon are terrible places to work is just a bit over the top I think…

      Lebanon is a cultural explosion (sometimes literally!) relative to some of the other locales in the ME. It is an incredibly fascinating country to spend some time in. The Roman ruins in the countryside are stunning and few people would regret spending a few years in Beirut teaching next to the sea. You’ll even have a chance to learn two different languages if you’re up for it. Laws or restrictions? Ha! Not in this corner of the ME. If there are laws, none of the locals are paying much attention to them. You can do whatever you want in Beirut – everything is available. The locals are friendly for the most part and it’s surprisingly easy to be a foreigner here. Did I mention that the local Beiruti women are easy on the eyes and seem to take pride in dressing as sexy as possible?

      True, the salaries are bad, especially when you take into account the high cost of living. NO ONE comes to Lebanon for the money. The upside of this is that your coworkers are likely to be a very interesting mix of people who are teaching in Beirut for the experience and the adventure of it all, rather than just filling up their bank accounts. You are guaranteed to meet some characters – both Lebanese and foreign.

      So don’t even consider Lebanon if money is a high priority for you. However, if you want a unique experience in a place with an edgy feeling of freedom & excitement, you might consider jumping into the fray here for awhile rather than sitting in some compound in the Gulf growing your retirement fund. To each his own.

  18. I lived and worked in Sana’a, Yemen for four years. From 2003-2006. I had a great time there. Wherever you have visited – it is not like the old cities of Yemen including Sana’a Old City itself. I found the people to be friendly and desparate for you to say how much you liked their country.The Salary was good and the cost of living low. Of course this was before the ‘Arab Spring’ and so I have no idea what it is like to live there now! I was invited to women’s weddings and men’s weddings and I travelled all over the country as well as a lot of the Middle East – Totally fascinating!! It is true that the total lack of uncovered women on the street was disturbing but my Yemeni women friends still managed to have a very good time – work, go out for meals and parties and talk, extremely intelligently, of world affairs. They were certainly well educated, well read and, in many cases, well travelled.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Jeddah is great for couples with young children. Compound life is very easy and it is cheap to get a maid, cook and nanny. All modcons and imported goods are available, and the malls are great if you like shopping. The savings you make can set you up for life. Jeddah is also a good base for travelling to Africa, Asia and Europe, and there is more to see here than you may expect. Snorkling and diving is great. Red tape here can be frustrating but no more so than many other countries. The driving is a bit crazy and you do have to avoid travelling at particular times of day. The shops shut for prayer, a huge source of frustration for everyone. Overall I would recommend coming here if you are willing to have a limited social life during term time, and then have good holidays. It is more important here than other places to be in a good school with leadership you can trust, because you rely so much on them.

  20. Chuck says:

    There is a lot of truth in these comments. However, take everything with a grain of salt. I lived in Dubai with kids, it was okay but certainly not a long term location unless you are young and want to party. My wife worked in Kuwait and thought it was horrible, so most of the comments she would definitely agree with. Based on our extensive travels and speaking to friends who worked in these countries, the top choices in the Middle East were consistently Oman, Lebanon, and Syria (I guess not a current option). The reason everyone enjoyed these places was the culture and history. The GCC tend to be the same, kinda boring, lacks culture, and the locals definitely have a lot of wasta so be careful. However, the GCC is great area to make money if that is your main concern.

    • Lisa says:

      You’re the second person on this thread that is referring to Wasta. What are you referring to? (Someone else asked the same question) . Thanks!

      • Lisa,

        Wasta really means influence. For GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) countries, it means knowing someone in a position of power to influence things to suit your needs. For instance if a young GCC national gets caught speeding outrageously in his car, if he has wasta it means he’ll never get a fine. This means his dad will be able to speak to the police chief etc….

  21. Clare says:

    I love the Middle East having lived in Qatar and Bahrain. I worked at decent schools in both earning much better money than the uk. I am young and single and have enjoyed a great social life. There may be less bars etc but the people, the money and the weather make up for it. I’m round the pool at two o’clock and at the beach at the weekends. Too many people here say there is nothing to do and yet sit around in their apartments not exploring what is out there. Those looking for a cultural experience may not get everything they want here but if you want a very relaxed and easy life, then this is it.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Everyone seems to be talking about the Middle East of Saudi, the Emirates etc, which is a very different proposition from Egypt, where I have lived for several years – and as it didn’t get much mention in the Africa blog, I will address it here.
    Egypt is going through tough political times at the moment and that is going to affect different people in different ways. It’s probably not a good time to choose Egypt as a first overseas post if political troubles are going to worry you. Demonstrations are a way of life in Cairo and Alexandria, the future is certainly not clear. They are not usually near where most expat teachers live, but they are an ever-present background to life here at the moment.
    For those of us who have lived here for more than a couple of years, life is a little less safe than it was pre-revolution. Quite a lot of opportunistic crime, mainly bag snatching, and far less police on the streets. Life is also more constrained. Some places are just not wise to travel to now. You think before you go downtown on a Friday. Maybe Alexandria isn’t where you should go – or Ismalia or Port Said etc. Having said that, for most of us, it is still a comfortable place. The reality of living in a part of the city away from the troubles is that generally life goes on as usual. I feel a certain sense of guilt about enjoying the good life while my colleagues see there country going in a way they never wanted when the revolution initially seemed to be so successful. It’s getting more expensive, and has been gradually for years. The current devaluation of the pound isn’t helping. Schools vary. There are literally tens of schools calling themselves international. Out of the top tier, most schools don’t pay a huge salary. So, don’t give up on Egypt, but do think before you come. It’s not for everyone right now.

  23. nonymous says:

    If you’re considering a job teaching in the middle east, make sure you talk to other teachers at the school where you will be hired – preferably teachers from your country. This will give you a good idea of what some of the challenges will be (and the bonuses too). They will be able to tell you about the day-to-day living and working conditions where you will actually be. The problem with a forum like this, is that it’s difficult to compare apples to apples. Living in the Middle East is not all the same. It really depends on the country you live in, the school you will teach at, if you are on-compound or off, who your students are, live near a big city or way off in the desert somewhere…just to name a FEW of the variables. There’s just too much to consider. My husband and I live in Saudi. Unlike an earlier commenter, we both run and cycle everyday during the year (yes, outdoors – if you get up early enough, the weather is tolerable even in the summer). There are things we like, and things we wish were different. We try to make the “differences” better as much as we can (pretty much like any other place we’ve lived in) and enjoy the good aspects. It’s not for everyone, but I know many people who leave/retire and wish they could come back!

  24. Susan Offerdahl says:

    I came to Dubai 10 years ago. I tell new teachers that Dubai is a ‘gold plated India’. It looks like glitz and glamour on the outside, but its infrastructure is Indian, Pakistani, and Bengali…as these are the workers whose labor built the country. So things (like plumbing) don’t always work as well as one might expect. As others from Abu Dhabi have noted above, the wage gap and discrimination or abuse towards workers is difficult to accept. On the other hand, many workers face unemployment with no wages in their home country, which is why they come in the first place. Many taxi drivers I have met have supported entire families for 10 -20 years in their home countries with the meager wages they are receive here.

    There are charities, art organizations, museums to see, or churches to join, for those not as interested in the night life/alcohol/expat scene (as described in previous posts from Adu Dhabi). As an example, I joined the Dubai Natural History Group. It sponsors monthly academic lectures and arranges educational trips around the UAE and to other countries. The focus is related to the environment, archeology, birding, or sea and desert animals. It has been a pleasure to meet like minded people with advanced degrees who share a curiosity and love for the environment.

    I have appreciated traveling around the Emirates, to Egypt, Lebanon, India, the Seychelles, the Maldives, Syria, Iran, Yemen, the Comoros, Tanzania, Gaza, Azerbaijan, Oman, Turkey, Morocco, Sri Lanka, Ethiopia, the Philippines and Cambodia. Sadly, some of those countries have been turned into battlefields. War becomes personal when you are worrying about people you met.

    Dubai is not my first choice in the world to live, but certainly not my last. The UAE leaders are visionary, inspiring and progressive. I came to the Middle East with the intention of opening my heart and mind. I have made progress, but still have a long way to go. I am thankful to the locals who have been gracious enough to allow this American to reside in their presence. Overall, Dubai has treated me very well.

  25. ianandgillharrison says:

    I have lived and worked in Egypt, Dubai and Qatar since 2000. Egypt is by far my favourite because of the incredible layers of history there and to be hard – nosed because of the low costs to salary ratio – one of the 10 cheapest countries according to the Numbeo website http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/
    I am in touch with friends there and apparently the demonstrations are confined to a small area of downtown and don’t affect daily life much at all, contrary to the wild stories we see in the media.
    Qatar is sweet and well-intentioned and pays well but costs a lot. Personally I found the requirement to get written permission from your employer (AKA Owner) before you are allowed to leave the country for any reason repugnant and unacceptable – twas a major reason I left having missed a funeral because my owner had gone away for the week end and nobody could sign to let me out. That still annoys me years later…
    Dubai is for the rich, so not for teachers except maybe for a year or two of partying. You will leave with less cash than what you arrived with but with a big smile on your face probably. Just be careful – the apparent liberal society isn’t if you scratch the surface and it is very easy to get into big debts there if you fall for the lifestyle trap.

  26. J says:

    My wife and I worked in Muscat for a year and really enjoyed our time there, although we had some major obstacles in our personal life. We were able to meet many Omanis and truly felt safe and welcomed and would return in a heart-beat once things get a little calmer.

    Although we weren’t physically able to take in many of the lifestyle opportunities that exist in Oman (the Opera House, camping and hiking in the mountains, snorkeling or scuba diving) we did enjoy quiet walks along the beach and sitting at a small cafe watching the world go by.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am loving my first overseas teaching experience. I have moved to Muscat, Oman, and the people are wonderful. I absolutely love the Muscat Opera House. My colleagues have been very nice and helpful. Since I am new to the overseas life, my colleagues have made it clear that I “lucked out” on my first try. The school is so good that many teachers stay for 5-15 years. Of course, I am probably still in the “honeymoon” period so my answer might change this time next year.

      • kat says:

        you are on your honeymoon. We left Oman 10 years ago after 3 years wanting to see some more of the world. We would love to go back there but jobs in the “good” schools rarely come up. Make the most of it!

  27. Anonymous says:

    Enjoyed the Middle East for the 5 years we have been here. Traveled extensively in the region and lived in Bahrain and Kuwait. Generally life here is what you make it, we have met many happy and unhappy folks as referenced in some of the post on this blog. I think the key to living here is being at a good school and there really isn’t that many of them even though the region has hundreds of schools.

    • Iguanab says:

      Your remark, “Life here is what you make it,” is spot on! I have more Arab friends here than western. They are incredibly supportive and loving. Yes, Kuwait has it’s issues, but, all and all, I’m thankful to have the opportunity to live here. I’m learning from the challenges and finding myself a better person for it. I wouldn’t change a thing!

      • ytd says:

        But are you male or female? I’d like to follow you’re example and make friend with locals, but everything I’ve read says that it’s quite difficult.

    • ytd says:

      Thanks for your post, as I’m moving to Kuwait in August to teach. But I’m a single woman and I’ve heard it’s hard to make friends with locals. Is this true? I lived in Istanbul, Turkey and made many wonderful Turkish friends who I still visit on holidays. I’d like to be able to enjoy something of the local culture, if possible.

  28. Anonymous says:

    I’ve been in Abu Dhabi for almost 8 years, and it’s been a mixture of highs and lows, both in terms of living quality and teaching.

    Some Emiratis are wonderful and the Arab hospitality is full on, almost embarassing as you cannot possibly reciprocate, but it can be a good experience to get to know a few familes, and see beyond the stereotypes. On the other hand, there is no denying the systemic abuse that take place on a daily basis at all levels of social life. Skeletal labourers who need to rely on the charity of the expats because the law does nothing to protect them. Any housemaid I’ve ever met has always seemed terrified to speak, acts submissive (actually hunched over and semi-bowing, walking backwards) in the extreme and even if I don’t want a coffee, or food, she is ordered to make it, and brings it, even more terrified that I won’t take it and there will be trouble in the kitchen. At school, it is heartbreaking to see how the cleaning staff are treated by their bosses. They make about 800dhs a month, which is about $250. It is pathetic, and any time you read anything about how the UAE treats all people equally, it means Emiratis, not the rest. The animal cruelty is beyond comprehension. A lot of expats end up with a few strays that they simply couldn’t help but rescue.

    How can this affect one personally? It depends on how much you can turn a blind eye, or how much you want to get involved. I’ve resigned myself to doing what I can, paying people who do me a service what I think is a fair price (more than they would normally get), tipping, and donating to and supporting a few local charities.

    Teaching can be hit and miss – DO YOUR RESEARCH, and ask people about the schools. There are a variety of programmes taught here – AP, British, Canadian, Aussie, US, IB, etc. and then there are the local schools (don’t do it). Each school has its own admissions policy, so you may get kids at the bottom of the academic barrel struggling to get through an IB or AP school and they can’t pass. But because profit guides most private school’s decisions, they won’t recommend the student leave, so some kids suffer terribly. This can be demoralizing when half your class fails, not because they didn’t try their best, but because it was simply the wrong curriculum for the child.

    Beware of the tutoring system. Almost every local child will have a tutor (usually an expat teacher who can make a lot of extra money), and the tutor ends up doing most of the assignment. This means essays written at home cannot be accurately assessed, and the kids do very badly on exams because they never did the work in the first place.

    Having said that, a lot depends on your attiude. Most expat teachers are very friendly, and the social life can be rather whirlwind. Culturally there isn’t much to do, but there are a bazillion 5* hotels, and there’s a lot of drinking involved. A lot. This may be the most alcohol driven place I’ve ever lived in, and you need a strong liver. I stay because I love what I teach, the students are wonderful, my colleagues are fantastic, I have friends and the travel opportunities are excellent. When the bad begins to unbalance the good, that’s when it’s time to leave.

    • hathor says:

      Could I email you to get some more specific information about teachin in Abu Dhabi? Thanks

    • Anonymous says:

      This is the most comprehensive, honest and level-headed response I’ve read so far. Thank you.

    • Thank you, I think this is the most balanced response to living in the Emirates and pretty much reflects what I think. Most has been said.

    • Dr Luv says:

      Thank you for your post. I found it to be sincere and fair as well as in alignment with what I would expect from Dubai. I recently accepted a teaching position and would like to correspond more about questions on the culture, schools, etc. You can send me your email address to: Wowmind@aol.com.

    • Anonymous says:

      I work in Abu Dhabi. The school pays a company to supply the cleaning staff. I recently found out that they get paid ft1 AED an hour. I think it goes up to 3 AED for overtime. They come to our school around 3 after they have been working somewhere else in the morning. They work 6 days a week.

      I am really struggling with this. They are provided with a place to live and with food. I have heard it is like dorms with 3 sets of bunk beds per room. I can’t see how they can save anything to send home. I have learnt that this is one of the better companies to work for.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hi there. I live in the UAE and respectfully I have to disagree with you. I am not going to say that people are not paid slave wages but what you describe is well below any level of legality. Employers can require that their staff work 6 days a week and for 12 hours. 6 days a week for labor/maids is normal here with Fridays off. The lowest (and I mean LOWEST) I have ever heard of a person working for is 900dhs a month plus everything is provided for the employee including food. The normal wage for a maid is 1,500dhs a month with everything included and that almost double what I listed above. I can understand you wanting to bring attention to people who are exploited but if what you say is true the company should be reported to the Ministry of Labour and you should speak to your school. That is not the standard here and is not legal. I have no idea where you get 1dhs an hour? 25cents an hour? They would get paid more in their home countries no matter how poor.

        • anonymous says:

          Just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean it’s not done. I know of several companies that only pay their cleaning staff around 700-800 dhs a month, and ‘everything included’ means living in a room in a villa or run down apartment with 5-6 other people. That’s not legal either, but it’s done.6 days a week, 12 hrs a day is a 72 hour work week, which is roughly 300 hrs a month. Even at 1500 dhs a month, that’s not much. And the argument that they are making more here than in their own country is true I suppose – that’s also called exploitation, in that it’s taking advantage of someone. The killer is that often passports are taken away, also illegal, but it’s done, so the worker can’t leave even if they want to. I heard of 2 schools that did report dodgy practices; the cleaners were fired for causing trouble. Granted that’s hearsay, but I have no reason to doubt my source. Nothing will convince me that construction workers or cleaning staff have it easy here. Treat them like gold when you get here.

          • Expat Teacher says:

            I absolutely, positively agree with you. Just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen every, single day. I also agree with your sentiment that you need to treat the workers around you like gold. They deserve it!

            • anonymous says:

              I worked in muscat for about year and half. It is true that laborers are treated very poorly (there is a clear class system in existence). However, the locals are very friendly and nice. Heat can be major issue if you love the outdoors. Additionally, everything feels either cheesy or artificial. The only entertainment is your social circle. In the end probably not worth it at all.

  29. Anon says:

    I currently live in Kuwait and it can be a difficult country to live in when you are used to living in the West. I haven’t lived in any other ME countries but I have friends who live in Dubai and Qatar, who have lived in Kuwait and much prefer those places which have better infrastructures and cleaner environments.

    Kuwait is a place with little to do. Beaches are filty but you can’t swim anyway as the sea is polluted. You would think a country with so much money could fix that! There aren’t many attractions for the family, Shaab amusement park is somewhere you could go but I wouldn’t take my family there as I don’t trust their maintainance. If I had to describe Kuwait it’s ‘red hat and no knickers’. The school I work in, whilst one of the best in Kuwait, is a ramshackle ill equipped building with poor facilities and little in the way of quality resources. I think this is fairly typical of schools overhere. The problem is Kuwaits are extremely greedy and schools in the main are for profit. All the fat cats want to do is make as much money and pay as little out as possible. So although you would probably work with a great bunch of people, as educators the conditions just don’t feel right because the schools are seriously overcrowded. We will leave next year because I believe my children should be in a school that at least has decent sporting facilities, more resources and more space in and outside of the classroom.

    Driving is appalling. I live close to my workplace and almost everyday I see another wreck at the side of the road. Kuwait currently has the highest death toll per capita head) caused by road traffic accidents in the world. We don’t drive at night it’s too dangerous. Also there are constrant issues with traffic jams because there are too many vehicles on the road. But you need a vehicle, if you have a family, because public transport isn’t great.

    Bureaucracy is a nightmare. It will take you forever to get anything done but hang on in there, eventually you will get sorted.

    If you truely care about people and believe in treating all equally, it can be hard coming to Kuwait. There is a definite class structure here. Kuwaitis are at the top (and there is no attempt to hide this), Westerners and Australians next and Asians at the bottom. Asians will do menial work like become drivers or housemaids and in some households they are abused. I regularly read in the papers that a housemaid has thrown herself off a building. Also when you are out and about you can see how subservient these workers are and it’s very sad. They are usually supporting their families and child
    ren back home yet looking after some Kuwaiti brat who has little respect for her.

    There are plus sides to living here if you can cope with the above. We travel a lot and have been to some fantastic places. We earn a good salary and have our accommodation and bills paid for. We do however have to contribute to school fees. Because Kuwait is a dry country and there’s no where to really go, we have lots of little get togethers with others, so it’s cheap. That’s our real entertainment and it’s great because the kids aren’t excluded. Also we have managed to save enough money to pay off our mortgage in the UK. So all in all, it has it’s benefits, just don’t expect to land and be in heaven because unless you are extremely optimistic and can walk around with blinkers on, you will very quickly realise it’s anything but heaven.

    • Expat Teacher says:

      I agree with everything you have written about. After living in Kuwait for three years,we were thrilled to arrive at a school with resources and proper facilities. imagine having one photocopier, which is also the only printer, for the entire ES school! One! And it was constantly broken. Oh, and there were no books so everything had to be printed and copied. On the one printer which was also the only copier.

      It bothered me to no end watching the children eat outside, on the ground because there was no cafeteria for students in grades 1-3. Sitting on concrete as sand blew around them, eating snack and lunch. Shocking, actually. And having my kids vomiting due to the heat because they had PE for 55 minutes outside in 50 degree weather was very upsetting. (No gymnasium for ES students!) Considering how much money the owners of the school had, there was truly no excuse aside from the fact that they wanted to stuff more and more and more students onto a very small campus so there simply wasn’t anywhere for the kids to go. I honestly don’t know why the parents paying tons of money for tuition put up with the conditions their children were forced into daily. The school actually had potential but until the owners wake up and realise they are actually running a school, not a business, nothing will change other than more and more students will be stuffed into an already overcrowded “school”.

  30. Anonymous says:

    I live in Erbil (Arbil), Iraq and work for a school there. There is nothing to do in my free time. The area is very small and I am a woman. Men can go to cafes, etc any time they want but women are only welcome without men in places that are expensive and cater to expats. The restaurants, malls, and even hospitals are filled with people smoking which makes it hard if you can’t breathe in smoke. Medical and dental care are very poor here and not up to international standards in terms of doctor’s training or in facilities. Some new private hospitals have opened which are better than most here but still not comparable to my home country. Grocery costs are about 30-50% higher than in the USA. You can buy alcohol here. I don’t drive here because there is no insurance. If you hit it I have heard you own it and you can go to jail until you have the cash to pay for what you did. It is a cash based society and credit cards are just beginning to be accepted in the few big name stores like Carrefour (poor quality store and not like other international Carrefour’s in terms of its limited product range and poor quality greengrocer items).

    There is a Rotanna hotel and a Divan hotel that both just opened within the year. Both offer buffets with prices of $50USD a person. Rooms are expensive. A Doubletree and a Marriott are being built.

    There are no churches in English, other than a Mormon fellowship, but as the expat community grows perhaps they will start some

    It is very hard to meet expats here to go out for a date. The majority of the few expats here seem to have partners at home and are in midlife. The local culture is highly conservative in terms of male/female interactions. This was a surprise to me as other cities in Kurdistan seem more modern in this respect.

    Gyms have women’s hours and men’s hours. The women’s hours are when I am working. There is one dedicated woman’s gym but it is not up to standard.

    Taking a random taxi can be an open invitation to sexual harassment. Local women always use the same taxis. Local women always go places in groups too. But taxis are mostly cheap with rides being on average about $5. No public transit.

    On the positive the weather is great with mild winters and very hot dry summers. Many days of bright sunshine. More airplanes have started flying in an out of here recently. There are many new hotels and small shopping centers being built. There is a good park to walk in with friends called Sami Abdul Rahman park. We got a first bowling alley last year (smoke filled and male dominated). We got the first movie theater this year at Royal Mall.

    It is hard to get information about life here because there is no expat network as of yet or expat newspapers. Everything comes by word of mouth.

  31. weedonald says:

    Our experience in Kuwait was tempered by very ammoral owners of our school and by the driving, which was scary at best but otherwise it is a nice place to go to earn a good salary,save a bundle, travel if that’s your thing and generally chill out. Social life is restricted and while westerners are treated with ill-disguised contempt at times, you can make some good friends. Freedom to practice your religion is restricted to inside your church but is tolerated at best. women , especially westerners , are considered easy prey and loose, again at best. The temperatures are tolerable if you are near a beach as we were and pleasant in the winter months. Shopping, travel and hanging out with the ex-pats are the two things most teachers tend to do. We made some great friends while there but none of them were Kuwaitis, with one exception. Its not a bad place to start or end a career but certainly there are better places to advance oneself.

  32. Aaron says:

    We have lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for 5 years now. Teaching at a private high end school the first thing that surfaces is the extreme inequit y in the workplace where we the expates receive much higher pay than the local teachers or selected expats such as the Phillipinos with similar education. The pay for US and British teachers is between 40 – 55K excellent. If you are into or support humane rights, this is not the place to come. Women can not drive, and single women are always suspect and closely watched by the vice squads. The restrictions make it very hard for women. There is no intertainment and the teacher culture is surrounded by homemade alcohol and compound events. I would consider Saudi Arabia the most difficult place to teach having taught in Asia, South America, US and now Mid East. I would recommend teaching here for a short assignment just for the experience and excitement. The benefits are high pay, low crime, unique culture and the family centered. The only other suprise that I have found is the lack of expat qualified or certified teachers and administrators, while I work with the finest teachers you can find, the certification requirements found in the US is not required. The Saudi’s do not place emphasis on developement and training for educators. Finally, if you are a explorer or pioneer at heart this is the place for a experience of a life time.

    • Colin says:

      In Riyadh for 5 great years. Pupils amazing and overall good social life. Any place is what you make it and work life was as good as i could imagine. 5 years probably the maximim time to stay but others stay for much longer. Yes, things can get you down but thats the same everywhere. I never went for the money, i went for the teaching.

  33. PM says:

    If you live in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, you almost aren’t in the M.E. anymore with populations that are 80 per cent foreign nationals. I enjoyed the amenities in Dubai, as well as the sunshine. I saved good money in Egypt for the three years I was there too. Although Many of the local people I met were gracious and friendly. That said, the typical Egyptian
    male needs to be slapped. I’ve never seen the degree of sexual harassment of women! Men would expose themselves to women, get out of their cars and follow my female colleagues home, women were constantly groped, and grabbed… Shop owners, taxi drivers, delivery boys spoke often of the foreign women as “sluts” even though their advances were universally rebuffed. On the upside, if I caught one red-handed I WAS allowed to slap them… But didn’t. Bottom line: I wouldn’t live ther again, and wouldn’t recommend any woman to either.

  34. freebird says:

    The Middle East is a mixed bag, but equally fascinating-probably the most fascinating place in the world if you like history. You have to understand Arab culture and religion-people get things done by face to face relationships not email demands. I was in Qatar for two years and paid off my student loan. It is a place of surprises. I even met Borat!! Concerning the above comments about the inequality in class- that exists everywhere, but of course, it is worse in the ME and Far East where labor can really be exploited. I would agree that you can’t “shake yo thang” in the ME. Cover ladies- you won’t have any problem otherwise. After living in a modest culture such as Qatar, I was shocked and disturbed to witness some of the outfits and disrespect from people in the states. I think we can learn from other cultures.

    • Expat Teacher says:

      I disagree with the idea that just because you cover, you won’t be hassled. I am middle-aged and a few pounds overweight but was constantly harassed, to the point of even being followed home on many occasions. Many of the women working at my school were treated the same way I was, like meat. Kuwait is not a safe place for women, covered or otherwise. I have also lived in Syria and Saudi and the exact same thing can be said for those countries, too. Women, especially Western women, are seen as available and open to constant harassment for no reason whatsoever.

      • Iguanab says:

        I live in Kuwait and have learned that all you have to do is simply give a firm, “No,” and the harassment will end. I feel very safe here and have never felt threatened. I guess we all experience things differently.

        • Expat Teacher says:

          I tried the firm “No” and still got followed. It worked some times, but not always. It totally depends on who is following you and how determined they are.

        • ytd says:

          Thank you! I’m moving to Kuwait in August to teach. I have lived in Istanbul (a far cry from the ME I know) but I found that I was harassed much less in Turkey than I was in my home city of Atlanta! Generally, the majority of Turkish men will NOT tolerate any harassment of women. If you yell at the person harassing you (or draw attention in any way) other men will intervene and give the guy bothering you a serious tongue lashing. But I must admit I’m a bit worried about moving to Kuwait after reading these comments.

  35. My husband and I lived in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates for 4 years and absolutely loved it. We felt safe, respected and were included in many local family gatherings through the years. Our staff was wonderful from workers to teachers to admin. We would return at any time!
    It is hot, but we’re from Arizona, so it was okay. As long as you’re respectful of the culture and realize it will be different from America, and are adventurous you’ll have a great time. Reasonable dress code – no spaghetti straps or short skirts for ladies, being respectful during Ramadan and not eating or drinking in public and all is well. We often broke our “fast” with dates and fruit juices as the Call to Prayer went off in our neighborhood restaurants, or at friends homes. We loved the Emirates! The children are spoiled, but most are willing to learn. Parents indulge, but with effort on your part you can gain their trust and respect and they will support your efforts to help their children.
    We did get annoyed at times with the ladies who cut in front of the line, just because they’re women…I was told I could too, but never did. If you treat the Middle Easterners respectfully, enjoy the culture and are open to learning you’ll love it too.

    • Dr Luv says:

      Renee THANK YOU for your post. I just accepted a job in UAE- Dubai and was begining to get a bit worried reading the other posts that appear mostly negative. I could feel that my experience would be more like yours as that is how I percieved Dubai from my own research. Do you have any tips on the best place for monthly car rentals in Dubai? Is it a good place for singles- men? I dont drink or smoke, but am social. I am also looking to possibly make some extra money aside from my teaching… any suggestions?

      • Anonymous says:

        If you get caught working on the side they will deport you. Do not even think of looking for extra work and if this is required for you to make ends meet, think again before boarding the plane. It just happened to a teacher 2 weeks ago at a GEMS school and they have a new form all teachers must sign saying they will not tutor. If you do then you are at the mercy of the parents who know it is illegal and can have you deported if you anger them. This is what was said to happen to the latest teacher. I have lived here for years and you can stay low key and make the best of it. Dubai is not a bad place to live. They have lots of activities and great food. The human rights violations however are terrible and if you take issue with this it may be hard to watch. It is not the western place it claims to be, though it is improving. As far as car rentals, I used Diamond Lease on Sheikh Zayed road and got the Ramadan special for around $375USD or1395dirhams per month (avg price is 1695/mth) and that will get you a Mitsubishi Lancer. No internet can be hooked up until you have residency which depending on your school can take 4-5 months even though this is not what they will tell you! Be prepared to do visa runs every month until then! Phone is possible with passport. Can’t get paid without a bank account (unless they give cash) and you need a resident permit before you can open the account. Get your paperwork processed as quickly as possible. Get everything documented back home BEFORE you arrive through the UAE Embassy in your home country. Move forward carefully. I will be leaving as soon as possible. It has been several years and it is time to get out of the Middle East. Overall though I would choose Dubai over other locations in this dusty hot part of the world. Good luck!

        • Dr Luv says:

          Thank you for the feedback. I dont know how in the hell I would be able to be there without internet communication especially with my family. Would I be able to get a cell phone while I am over there? Although I have a cell phone provider in the USA, I think the international rates would be quite high. I suppose I may have to use My US number until I am able to get a cell phone in Dubai. I think I read somewhere that there are cell plans that give you 500 to 1000 minutes for free international calling. What do such plans run price wise?

          • anonymous says:

            I’m replying to the cell phone string, but don’t see it on this page, so don’t know if it’s in the right spot. I don’t do technology very well, so sorry if this is out of place.
            I wouldnt stress too much about the cell phone/internet issue. You can get a mobile as soon as you get here – we take our teachers out the first day so they can get that sorted, and you just buy international phone cards – I have no idea what the rates are, I’ve honestly never looked into it. But 200dhs can get you a lot of long distance calls. There are no packages for the phones, so you have to pony up for the phone alone, and blackberries and iphones seem expensive to me. As for internet, all schools will be hooked up, there are lots of wifi hotspots around town, and usually you will be placed in housing that already has teachers who have internet, and they will probably be nice and let you use it until you get your own. I only got internet for myself this year, and I’ve been here forever. The visa runs can be a pain – my school is pretty good about getting visas sorted, but if your arrival coincides with Ramadan or Eid, then you may have a bit of a wait.

            • freebird says:

              The cell phones are so easy to use in the ME that you just top off your HALA account through a debit card linked to your bank. Don’t you wish cell phones were that easy in the states (where there are contracts, taxes and cut off fees).

          • freebird says:

            Don’t worry, internet cafes and computers are everywhere in the Middle East. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are easy- more like cake compared to the other Gulf countries and everybody tutors at their own discretion.

          • Anonymous says:

            Dr Luv: You should be able to get a mobile phone before residency in Dubai, no problem. Just need a passport copy. Two providers are Du and Etisalat. Both are terrible and a conversation starter with the expats living there (lol.) The average price is .18fils/text and .30fils per minute (3 dirhams and 67 fils to 1 USD or 3.67to1). Pre-paid and can top up at any grocery store. International long distance is 3dirhams per minute to USA. Peak time is 7am-9pm after it drops to about 2dirham per minute. Download skype on to everything before you arrive. It is blocked here so you can’t load it afterwards. Get a VPN to change your IP address and avoid this issue. This is great for using Skype (for other than pc to pc calls). You can also get Hulu TV and other streaming websites back home for free this way! VPN provider I suggest to everyone worldwide is strongvpn.com. Internet access before residency is possible at wi-fi locations (Border’s Starbucks at Mall of Emirates for example or internet cafes) The calling plans you speak of are usually about $15per month “base price” plus you can add on 500 minutes international for another $15/mth, etc etc. You can’t get those as they are post-paid until you have residency. Until then it is pre-paid only. Good luck! What school did you get hired at?

          • Freebird says:

            Use Skype for everything!

  36. T says:

    I taught in the Middle East for 13 years. Was it good? Eh. The pay was good only because it was tax free. Housing varied dramatically from school to school – from spacious to closet size. The schools often lacked a curriculum and I used British materials to teach an “American curriculum.” Parents and students are nice enough, but unrealistic and demanding. The “wasta” system controls everything and if you make an enemy of a local the least terrible thing that will happen to you is that you will leave the country in a hurry. Is it safe? Nope. An Australian gentleman from my apartment complex was gunned down right outside the building minutes before I arrived home, a bomb blew up outside my building, and I was followed and harrassed repeatedly…and yet I stayed for 13 years…even I don’t understand it.

    • Lisa says:

      What part of the middle east did you live in. Doesn’t that make a difference?

      • T says:

        I am sure that it does to some extent…but not when it comes to the “wasta” system. The key is to make friends with someone who has wasta.

        • Joe C says:

          I think it makes a difference of where you live. I have lived in Egypt for 3 years. pre-revolution and post revolution. I’m still here and I never heard of this “wasta” system you are talking about. I think you need to explain what you mean a little more T.

          • T says:

            Yes, in Egypt I don’t know that “wasta” would be as important. “Wasta” is a connection to those who have influence – especially connection to the ruling family, ultra-rich families and/ or the military. Wasta can be used to bend the rules to the breaking point or smooth the path through the maze of ministries, to site just two examples.

            Yet, even in Egypt, I am sure that there is a certain amount of “wasta” and certainly “baksheesh” (payment of ‘tips’) which can come into play.

  37. PandaSmith says:

    Here in China, we have many teachers who have escaped the Middle East. Many say they schools they came from were fine, although not all. But virtually all say that the Middle East was someplace they escaped. I’ve traveled there many times but living there? Not on the agenda….I’ll take Asia any day. But to those who love it, more power to you! But some of the comments about getting out on the first flight during the breaks kinda’ sounds like China too…;-)

  38. Sam says:

    After having lived in Africa and in Europe I went to teach in the middle east. Dreadful experience. I totally agree with Anonymous. It is not a nice place to be, specially for a western woman. Local teachers are treated with no respect, people are generally unhappy is most schools/places, owners of the schools thieves, children from rich families badly uneducated. The world is too big and interesting to waste your time as a teacher in places like Kuwait or Amman.

  39. Iguanab says:

    I have to disagree with Anonymous. I have found the salaries in Kuwait to be quite good. With that said, the international schools Anonymous mentioned are right on. And while March – mid-November are very hot, the winter is great. It has been a constant 19-23C for the last few weeks. Holidays abound here and when you’re dealing with Arabs from the non-GCC countries, you will find most are warm, welcoming and kind. It isn’t the place foe those looking for a cool singles scene – but it is a great place to raise a family and for those who prefer a quiet life.

    • Expat Teacher says:

      The salary and packages were actually decent in Kuwait. Great health care at the International Clinic! However, the cost of living was very high so the necessity to “work two jobs” came into play. I would teach all day, go straight from school to tutor, and come home around 7:00 every night, meaning I was working 12 hours every day, five days a week. Working weekends was the norm for the teachers at my school. I was exhausted and found I simply wasn’t able to put the time into my teaching that I normally would due to the fact that I had to leave by 4:00 every day to tutor. I really worked hard for my money while living there.

  40. annonymous says:

    I was in the Middle East for several years and if you don’t keep a clear grasp of reality you can easily start telling others it is a great place to be. It is not. It is a region you go to for a specific reason – the money – and then start justifying it with travel opportunities (everyone is on the first flight out at holiday times), nice hotels, mega shopping malls, luxury living. Deep down it is a physically inhospitable region and but for AC for those who can afford it many would not go. It is a socially inhospitable region with the expats ‘banding together’ because the locals don’t want to know. It is a political inhospitable region where the rulers rule and do what they like, and it is a morally inhospitable region where slaves work in houses, maids continually raped and beaten and the authorities turn a blind eye. The white foreigners are left to their own devices, the others are treated as dirt and paid a few dollars a day. Teachers can love the Middle East with their cheap tennis games, clubs and pubs, while the rest of society suffers in slum conditions. I saw it all in my time there and so glad I got out and adjusted back to a normal life where women are treated equally, there is no discrimination and locals and foreigners share mutual respect…….and as for the owners of schools …… they are the robber barons of the 21st Century desert.

    • rose says:

      So true!! You wrote my thoughts in such a nice real way… I feel very much the same about the middle east.

      • T says:

        Oh, and how about the filth and the animal cruelty! Driving down the Gulf Road and watching them dump trash out of their giant SUVs because the little guys in orange jumpsuits will clean it up. And how about using children as airbags and kids hanging out of car windows and sun roofs.

        • Amrcn_in_ME says:

          All schools in the Middle East serve at the whim of the owner or governing entity. This has a huge impact on the school experience for teachers and can invalidate the best intentions to provide a fair and equal education for all students. This applies to the how staff are treated as well. You may be treated well or poorly, but the protocol for that treatment can be arbitrary and unrelated to your actual performance. This happens at many international schools, but the Middle East is exceptional in its overwhelming reliance on foreign labor. How many other countries can you name where the ex-pat population is double or triple that of the locals? For better of worse always remember where you are and whom you work for.

    • Jon says:

      “…if you don’t keep a clear grasp of reality you can easily start telling others it is a great place to be….”Very, very well said. $ and location to places other than the Middle east are the only benefits. If you like malls then you will be fine. Oppresively hot 8 mths a year, dreadful for expats in Ramadan and mostly boring for the rest….unless you like sand. Some love it, but for my family we couldnt wait to escape. Could never get used to hanging out with the boys club on campus boasting of their latest SUV purchase while the slave labour battle away in 50C heat for pennies.

      • Anonymous says:

        I have been teaching in UAE for several years now. This comment above could not of been stated any better. To add insult to injury the largest employer in the region, GEMS Education, announced they are ending the ability of teachers to tutor for extra money claiming it is “against UAE law.” In reality the rumour is that they have started their own internal tutoring program. This part of the world is not the place to be if you are interested in having a genuine cultural experience and frankly, not if you want to leave with any savings at all. If you are looking for a place in the world to experience international teaching, only use Dubai or Abu Dhabi as a location to change planes on your way to your next destination and please keep going!

    • Anonymous says:

      This could not be more accurate.

    • Anon says:

      Thanks for stating it so succinctly and for pointing out what so many seem to block out: the inhumanity. Slavery is rampant here. But it is justified because “in their own country, they would be even poorer”.

    • Expat Teacher says:

      I absolutely agree. The rubbish everywhere is disturbing, but not as disturbing as the treatment of animals and people. I have never seen a culture with less respect for living beings. It is so sad. As for it being physically inhospitable, I suffered from lung infections, pneumonia, and developed asthma living in Kuwait. The filth is on the ground and in the air. You don’t even realise how bad the air quality is until you leave and see clear, blue skies and breathe air that you can actually taste.

      • Expat Teacher says:

        What I meant to write is breathe air you can’t taste. You can actually taste the pollution in Kuwait. Some days you can feel the dirt in your mouth. Horrible.

      • Teachermom says:

        Slavery is out in the open in the Mid East, and there’s no condoning that. I lived there for 10 years and saw all the things you did.

        However, if you’ve ever bought chocolate or cheap clothes or electronics….you have bought products made with slave labor. Look it up, all the major American chocolate companies look the other way and get their cacao from farms staffed by enslaved children.

        My point is–it’s hypocritical to bash other countries’ human rights abuses without at least an admission that America does many of the same things. We’re just better at keeping it out of sight.

        Instead of throwing your hands up and damning a whole region, why not instead work to raise awareness of these injustices with your rich students, the ones who will be running these countries in a few decades?

        • Expat Teacher says:

          I think that bringing in what happens in America is totally out of place in this conversation. Nor is it hypocritical to write about the slave labour of the Middle East simply because I have eaten chocolate or own technology. That’s illogical and does not respect the fact that this is a conversation about life in the Middle East, not a conversation about human rights. The human rights abuse you see living in the Middle East is a focal point of many, many comments on this site. It is not hypocracy, it is information, which is the point of this conversation stream.

          The fact is most of us spend our time in Kuwait teaching locals and trying to get them to wake up to the injustices of those around them, and trying to get them to realise their role on the planet. We can only do so much as educators when the culture of the region is one that shows little respect for others or for the environment. I worked with the richest of the rich, princes and princesses. The vast majority of the students I taught while in Kuwait were locals. I did everything I could to open their eyes to the need to take care of the planet and all creatures living on Earth. We had long conversations about human equality and how important it is to treat others the way you would like to be treated. My teaching team and I taught entire units about such issues to local children, the leaders of the future. Were we effective? Only time will tell.

          • Freebird says:

            I agree with human rights issues in the ME, and while I worked in Qatar, much was being done about educating the populace, however most westerners do not grasp the concept that Arab culture is a collective culture based on tribal laws and desert hardship. If you don’t belong to a tribe, family, you have no defined value. Unless you are educating that tribe, family, etc. there is not a place for you in that society. Hard concept to digest for the western world, but it is the harsh reality in the ME.
            This is also a reason why many of those cultures have sustained themselves.

    • Anonymous says:

      THANK YOU SO MUCH for speaking TRUTH!

    • Laurie says:

      I concur with this. Foreigners are left completely alone and do need to band together since we are regarded as “others” whose existence is only tolerated because we teach English to their children.

    • kate says:

      Thank you for saying exactly what I wanted to! I just returned from teaching in the UAE – it was a horrific experience and I am still trying to feel normal again. A truly horrible place. The worst part was seeing how terrible the workers (other than teachers and doctors) were treated by the Emirate people- like slaves. The students were the most violent children I have ever seen. The schools are run by expat thugs who are making money hand over fist and doing nothing to truly advance education in the country- a joke. I am so glad to be out of there!!!

    • I’d agree with what you say… I was just explaining to a friend visiting from Australia that it’s easy to fall into the trap of good money, lots of shopping, facials, massages, manicures etc So many I know end up broke. Be careful if you choose to come here.

    • singleexpat says:

      I agree, though I did find when I lived in Egypt that the people made the difference, from the taxi drivers to the boabs on the street. I enjoyed my four years there. The people were very welcoming and I still go back to visit Egyptian friends. I have not found that in the Gulf states. I wanted to move on to Asia, but was told that this one institute I am at was “so amazing” to work for, so I took the job. I tried to quit in the first few months. At this point I will do my two year contract and leave For all the reasons listed above. I find that justifying the money is the biggest lie. I want to wake up and enjoy going to work, not just put up with it. I don’t want to tutor to double my salary and I want to be part of the country I am living in, not a parasite. One thing they forgot to mention is the media blackout on anything that occurs that might tarnish their image here in the Gulf – their news reports are about everything around the world, but never anything that occurs in their countries – because they’re “perfect.”

    • anonymous says:

      Based on my experience in the ME, I’d say this is a very fair assessment of the region. Glad you got out, I’m counting the days with my family!

  41. expatmom says:

    We lived in Qatar and it was easy and we made good money. They have all the usual: The Gap, Banana Republic, McDonald’s, Dominoes, Boots plus all the up scale things. It is VERY hot from April to October but really nice the rest of the year (think Arizona weather). The Qataris don’t want to get to know foreigners but they are polite as long as you are respectful of their customs and culture. Women can drive. There are expat beaches where you can wear a bikini. You can only drink alcohol at the fancy hotels (where you have to show your passport) or at home (there is one government place to buy alcohol). There are clubs for dancing, comedy clubs, quiz nights at the Irish Pub, etc. There are movie theaters, play lands, parks, LOTS of great sporting events (we saw Serena Williams play for $15 USD!) and many nice resort style hotels to spend the weekend or go to a spa. Overall… easy, but not very exciting.

    • Lisa Roeck says:

      I really enjoyed reading this I must say with a bit of relief since I am moving to Qatar in August! Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts!

      • Pete says:

        A good description of the country Lisa but your experience here will be greatly influenced by your school. Hope you have researched it well as some are hell.

        • anonymous says:

          There are loads of dodgy schools here in Qatar that have you sign contracts that aren’t worth the paper written on and what they sell you at interview can be completely different to the reality. Many employers will change the conditions in your contract on a whim because they can and there is nothing you can do about it – not even leave (as you have to get their permission to leave the country every single time you want to catch a flight). This all hugely impacts whether you enjoy your stay here or not. That being said, not all schools are terrible here, but the majority do seem to be ones to avoid.

          • Anonymous says:

            I totally agree with your comments about Qatar and only being able to leave the country upon your employers sayso.
            Certain schools do not tolerate illness. The one I was at would not allow a teacher time off even though she was undergoing treatment for cancer. She would be in school the day after chemo and the British head did nothing to help. I myself was penalised after having major surgery!
            Traffic is also a nightmare and you risk your life on the roads everyday.
            If money is your only priority in life, Qatar okay.

            • freebird says:

              Always stay away from dodgy schools- apply to accredited, International or American schools and you should be pretty satisfied. They really do work hard to keep expats happy.
              There are lots of activities to join from desert hiking, salsa dancing and tennis lessons.

            • Chereylene Gilbertson says:

              I worked at a fully accredited, “international” school in Kuwait and it was pretty dodgy in many respects. I think the school has tons of potential, but the problems are inherent in the culture of the school itself, so massive changes need to happen before the levels of “satisfaction” go up.

              In Kuwait, outdoor activities were very minimal due to the extreme heat, although I did know of a few teachers who tried desert camping in the “winter”. Activities such as salsa dancing and tennis lessons were so expensive, it was very difficult for the average teacher to afford. Some teachers joined clubs, but they always said their time at the club was spent seeing their students (who are members) and watching the pollution floating in the Gulf (You do not want to go in the water in Kuwait!). I wish I could have found salsa dancing and tennis lessons that I could have afforded while I lived in Kuwait. I also wish I worked at a school where they did care if I was happy. I would have been much happier!

            • freebird says:

              Sorry to hear about Kuwait. I worked in Qatar under Qatar Foundation and private tennis lessons cost $16 per hour- wherein the USA tennis lessons cost $65 per hour. Salsa dancing was a little more $ because it was in the hotels- which allow alcohol where I think Kuwait does not. Desert camping was big too- of course the Gulf (with the exception of Oman) leaves much to be desired for water activities, as most of the desalinated water has been pumped back into it and killed a lot of sea life. As far as heat is concerned, get out of those countries in the summertime, take up activities in the evening until the weather breaks in November.

            • Anonymous says:

              Yikes that is scary. I am interviewing for a job in Qatar tomorrow. Could you email me which schools do this? Thanks. Fortesias@yahoo.com

            • freebird says:

              Entry and exit visas are the norm for Gulf countries, it is no big deal. Concerning sick days, check the credentials of your school, as long as there are some expats at the top, it should be fine.

            • Anonymous says:

              You don’t need exit or entry visas for the UAE.

      • I’m moving to Doha in August as well. Which school are you going to, Lisa?

    • singleexpat says:

      You failed to mention the American teacher murdered here in Doha a few months ago. Nice news blackout as they were just about to run the UN conference so they didn’t want that nasty little secret out. You really should highlight that for a family it is easier, but for singles it is difficult. It also depends on where you live and who you work for. Driving is a nightmare. Near me there are accidents on a daily basis. There have been some good things, but in the end most of the things you mention – shopping highlight the overwhelming mall culture here. Most of the imported events are for the expats.

    • anonymous in QA says:

      I have been living in Qatar for almost 2 years now, and while expatmom says is true, unfortunately once you’ve done it all, you’ve done it. Qataris on the whole are inviting if you are lucky to form a relationship with a family, but very tied to tradition and can see Western women as no more than ‘fun to be with’. If you are thinking dashing Arab men riding camels and sweeping you off your feet, it won’t be in Qatar.
      The Islamic aspect of Qatar can be hard for a western-thinking person but if you are open to another perspective of life, embrace it, and learn something new!
      The traffic can be chaotic, but I lived in Vietnam and Thailand, this isn’t anything compared to that!
      Be prepared to spend a large amount of your time in shopping malls, great air conditioning and facilities. I would recommend you look beyond the expat experience of Qatar, and try to see the other side of living here and when you have holidays, travel, it’s the only way to keep a clear perspective of living here!

  42. Anonymous says:

    I have lived in Kuwait for 5 years. Kuwait is a great central hub for travel to Africa, Europe, Asia, or anywhere in the Middle East. In my time here I’ve been able to visit Italy, Greece, Egypt (prior to the Arab Spring), UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Jordan. The salaries in Kuwait are a little low when you compare them to China and Europe, but they are tax free which makes up for it a bit. Kuwait is not a place for people that enjoy running outside, walking outside, dog owners that enjoy taking them for a walk in the neighborhood, or outdoors types. It is dusty, dirty, and to hot to do anything outdoors 6 months of the year. You can easily double your salary if you tutor a couple of hours each night (and you will be able to if you want it). Kuwait would not be my first choice in the Middle East but it is a good choice. I’d try to land in Jordan, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat, or Doha before coming to Kuwait. If Lebannon was safer it would be great too with its beautiful climate and nice people. I’d avoid Egypt and North Africa at all cost. To much turmoil in these places to consider working there at the moment.

    • Anon says:

      Regarding doubling your salary easily with tutoring, I know a lot of teachers including myself who can’t find tutoring. Some schools have an affluent clientel while others don’t. If this were my own problem, I would not mention it, but as stated, I know of many good teachers tutoring at agencies for 9kd or less per hour, teaching 3 students at a time. They can’t get any students for the going rate. When I came here 5 years ago the demand was much higher. So don’t count on tutoring for extra salary unless you know someone who is sending students your way.

    • Maureen Fitzgerald says:

      I work in Cairo, and have not found the ‘turmoil’ to be problematic so far. The demonstrations generally happen downtown or in Heliopolis (an area of Cairo), which are both a good 45 minutes from where I live (Maadi – expat part of town) and New Cairo (suburb), where I work. I have been unsettled a few times when there has been a greater amount of demonstrations, but so far nothing at all has happened that has made me feel directly threatened. Cairo can be a hard place to live – noisy, dusty, crowded – but I also have enjoyed many things about it. The cost of living is low here, so my husband and I can afford to live here on my salary alone, and still to abroad for holidays 2-3 times a year. It probably helps that I like the school where I work.

      • I agree Maureen. I do live in Helio but I’m still not close to the areas that have the demonstrations. I have not felt threatened in any way when I walk my neighborhood or do my weekly marketing and I’m a single woman and I probably stand out more in Helio than in Maadi as more expats live there. And you are also correct, helps if you like the school. I like my school ;) I do spend a lot on groceries but that’s probably because I tend to buy imported goods. But wow, the produce is great and cheap here. I love all the stalls.

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