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This guide was created to help you navigate the different aspects of travelling abroad as a UCEAP student. All important aspects of attending university in your host country are addressed here, including academic information, extension of UCEAP participation, cultural awareness, orientation, transportation, finances and much more.
Remember to also visit the Participants
section of the UCEAP website for important information and deadlines.
Click a heading below to see section content.
Student Finance Accountant
UCEAP Systemwide Office
6950 Hollister Avenue, Suite 200
Goleta, CA 93117-5823
Phone: (805) 893-4762; Fax: (805) 893-2583
Bookmark your Participants
program page. This resource lists requirements and policies you need to know before you go abroad, including your Predeparture Checklist, UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
, Program Calendar, UCEAP Student Budgets, and payment instructions.
Study Center Abroad
The program is administered on site by a UC faculty member, assisted by local staff. Together they advise UCEAP students on academic matters and assist with social, cultural, and other logistical issues as needed.
University of California Education Abroad Program
American University of Cairo
P006 Core Academic Center
AUC Avenue, PO Box 74
New Cairo 11835, EGYPT, A.R.E.
Phone: (011-20-2) 2-615-3591
Study Center Director Cell: (011-20-1) 01-935-0830
AUC Emergency Cell: (011-20) 010-006-6907
Phone Number Codes
U.S. international code .........011
(dial 011 to call from the U.S.)
Egypt country code ..............20
Cairo city code ................... 2
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Please see the Academic Information
chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
for critical academic information and policies, including unit requirements, taking less than the program requirements, the MyEAP Study List registration process, changing courses, petitions, and grades. While abroad, direct all academic questions to the Egypt Study Center Director first, with one exception: all questions regarding satisfying home department degree or major requirements through UCEAP coursework must be directed to your home UC department or college advisor.
Visit the Egypt program page
on the UCEAP website to learn more about the American University in Cairo (AUC).
Recommended areas of study include anthropology; Arabic language, history, and religion; development studies; Egyptology; Egyptian and Middle Eastern studies; and business and international relations. Strong coursework for UC students is also available in international business, global economics, and international management of engineering projects. AUC offers one of the few engineering programs outside the U.S. that is accredited by the U.S. Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
You may participate in either: 1) a general program; or 2) a full-time intensive Arabic language study program. Both programs begin with an orientation designed to provide an introduction to Cairo and Egyptian culture and society.
You will take approximately five courses per semester, including one course in either modern standard Arabic or Egyptian colloquial Arabic. Arabic language courses take place at the Arabic Language Unit, a component of the Arabic Language Institute that is available to AUC students.
Select your courses carefully to fit around the hours of your Arabic language classes. Choose your remaining courses from the four undergraduate schools of the university: Sciences and Engineering; Business; Global Affairs and Public Policy; or Humanities and Social Sciences. Most UCEAP students enroll in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, which offers courses with an emphasis on the Middle East. All courses, except Arabic language study, are taught in English.
UCEAP Students say...Take colloquial Arabic whether or not you are taking classical Arabic. Colloquial is necessary for getting around. The pace is very comfortable in classical Arabic. If you put in a little time each night it’s not difficult to keep up. There's a good balance between lecturing and student participation in classes, and all are required to participate daily.
Optional Survival Arabic Instruction
Survival Arabic language instruction is not a mandatory component of the orientation period. However, you can choose to attend Survival Arabic as an optional feature during the orientation period. Make arrangements with the AUC New York office before departure to take this course and pay for it directly. The course is taught in four-hour sessions for five days and is designed to provide basic Arabic phrases to enable you to communicate in the local community. No academic credit is awarded for this short introductory course. The content of this course will be duplicated in the Beginning Arabic language class during the academic term.
Intensive Arabic Language Program
AUC’s Arabic Language Institute (ALI) offers full-time, intensive Arabic study. Each term you will spend several hours per day studying the Arabic language and learning about Egyptian culture as you explore Cairo and surrounding areas. ALI requires that you take a placement exam that determines your level of Arabic; you are then placed according to the results. Instructors are accommodating and may adjust your placement or workload if needed. The number of courses per term will vary depending on UC unit values assigned to language courses.
AUC provides training based on American standards and methods with an emphasis on specialties appropriate to Egypt and the Arab world. Although there are similarities between the AUC and UC educational systems, various cultural, social, and other elements make study at AUC unique.
Egyptian family background is one aspect that contributes to the unique atmosphere at AUC. Egyptian students usually grow up in a very close family setting and, unlike most UC students, have never lived away from home. Most AUC students come from elite sectors of Egyptian society; they live at home and commute to class.
English is the second or third language for most Egyptian AUC students, and almost all speak Arabic at home. However, the language barrier should not prevent you from making Egyptian friends. Egyptians often speak Arabic among themselves, but most are usually happy to speak English, even if they are shy at first. You can break the ice by speaking as much Arabic as possible and getting help with your Arabic while helping the Egyptian students with their English.
Although they may be fluent enough in English to benefit from instruction at AUC, many Egyptian students cannot manage reading extensive textbooks and writing term papers in English. Your native ability with English may give you an advantage over some of your classmates, but the Egyptian students’ knowledge of more than one language gives them new and different perspectives.
If you do not feel challenged by the required reading in a course, you may ask the professor for more reading assignments and do more extensively researched term papers than required. You may also take an Independent Study Class.
Most classes are held on a two-day schedule; either Sunday and Wednesday or Monday and Thursday. For most students, Tuesday is reserved for student meetings, activities, seminars, etc. However, all intensive Arabic classes in the Arabic Language Institute intensive study program meet five days a week (Sunday–Thursday), and many laboratory sessions for science and engineering classes are held on Tuesdays. Weekends consist of Fridays (the Islamic day of communal prayer) and Saturdays. AUC’s detailed calendar lists holidays and term dates. AUC closes for Egyptian national holidays, Islamic religious holidays, Eastern and Western Christian holidays, the American Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day. There are no long vacations during Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s. A long vacation period takes place during the four-week break between semesters, and a 12-day spring break occurs during Eastern Easter and Sham El Nessim. The Islamic fasting month of Ramadan, which occurs at a different time each year, necessitates a shortened workday and altered schedule for that month. However, from 2011 through 2016, the month of Ramadan will fall during the summer break.
Textbooks and Library Materials
The library at AUC is Egypt’s largest English-language library and the country’s second largest academic library. It is not, however, as well stocked in some subject areas as UC libraries. It is Egypt’s only academic library with open stacks. The university also has a rare book collection and the famous K.A.C. Creswell Library of Islamic Art and Architecture located
on the New Cairo campus.
Western textbooks are used for AUC courses. Because the books are imported, most from America, they are not always available at the beginning of a course. You may be unable to purchase some textbooks in Egyptian bookstores due to the high cost, scarcity of supply, and slow delivery from the U.S. and Europe. These factors also affect the AUC library. You may be able to find secondhand books at AUC’s Student Union. AUC relies heavily on online materials, be prepared to use Blackboard.
UCEAP Students say...
Attending the university and dealing with exams and papers is not easy in Egypt; at the end of the day you feel completely drained of all energy, both emotionally and physically.
If you have books you think may be helpful to you during your courses, take them with you to Egypt because the library is definitely inadequate. Many books are now available online; it helps to have a Kindle account.
You are required to take a full-time course of study while on UCEAP and enroll in a minimum of 22.5 UC quarter units (15 AUC semester units) each term. To convert AUC semester units into UC quarter units, multiply by 1.5.
ALI students: A reduced load of 18–21 UC quarter units is allowed based on the recommendation of ALI staff.
Registration During Orientation
You will join other incoming international students at AUC for advising and registration sessions that take place daily in four-hour sessions during the orientation period. AUC faculty and staff will discuss course registration, recommended courses, living and studying at AUC, life in Egypt and the Middle East, security and cultural issues, and expectations. You are required to attend all UCEAP and AUC orientation sessions.
UCEAP grades will not be posted to UC records as quickly as UC campus grades are posted. This, along with other issues concerning grades, is discussed in more detail in the Academic Information chapter of the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
You may participate in various kinds of field study or community service for academic credit by signing up at the UCEAP Study Center for a Special Study Project. You may also design an independent study project or an internship to be posted to your UC record.
The city of Cairo offers a variety of internship and volunteer opportunities, especially ones related to refugees and human rights. Past UCEAP students have volunteered with refugees through Student Action for Refugees
on campus. For students especially interested in matters relating to refugees, AUC’s Center for Migration and Refugee Studies
has additional information about classes offered and activities on campus.
You may also want to take advantage of your time in Egypt by studying Egyptology in the land of the pharaohs. Work with leading scholars in the field of Egyptology, take seminar-type courses, and conduct field study at active Egyptian excavations.
Additional opportunities also exist to work in fields including Islamic art and architecture, women’s studies, and Arab culture and civilization.
Volunteer positions are available at organizations like the Egyptian Red Crescent and the Palestinian Red Crescent Hospital. You may also volunteer to teach English to Sudanese, Ethiopian, or other refugees.
If you decide to take advantage of these exciting opportunities, you must plan ahead. Speak with AUC security and the Study Center Director about security issues and updated information as you consider the safety environment in a particular location.
Graduate-level research at AUC is not available through UCEAP. In Egypt, government permission is required for most kinds of research one would do outside a library, including data gathering and audio or video interviewing.
The process of obtaining government permits for any type of field research usually takes several months and involves multiple government agencies. Because field research is highly regulated, anyone found gathering data without official permission can be arrested. Do not attempt any primary data gathering, even among students on campus, without the prior approval of the Study Center Director and supervision of a faculty member.
Language Assessment and Class Pre-registration
Prior to departure, you will complete an Arabic Level Assessment found on the AUC New York website for correct placement in language courses. If you do not complete the form, you will either complete it upon arrival in Egypt or be given an oral language exam for correct placement.
Similarly, you will have the opportunity to submit an early request for your AUC classes prior to arriving in Cairo by filling out an electronic Preliminary Course Planning form. Note that this process does not guarantee you the desired classes, as some may already be closed or require instructor’s approval; however, completing this form prior to departure gives you an advantage over students who wait until arrival to register for classes. If you do not complete the form, you can register for classes after you arrive during the orientation week through the end of the first week of classes.
Extending UCEAP Participation
It is possible to extend your fall participation and remain at AUC for the year. First, submit a DPA form (Departmental/College Preliminary Approval) to your campus EAP office before departure. If you decide to extend after you are abroad, inform the UCEAP Study Center and submit an RFA form (Request for Final Approval) to the Study Center. Both the Study Center and the UCEAP systemwide office must approve the RFA. Once the extension is approved, UCEAP will notify AUC and your campus EAP office; the campus office will notify your UC campus Registrar and Financial Aid office. You are responsible to extend your visa or obtain a new visa, as appropriate. You will also need to sign electronically the Student Agreement and Waiver of Liability for the new participation option in MyEAP.
Learn about Egypt and the Middle East before departure. Keep up-to-date on current events by reading articles in newspapers, magazines, and journals, such as Egypt Independent and Al-Ahram weekly newspaper.
The following is a list of resources invaluable to your predeparture preparation.
Read fiction, such as the works of Naguib Mahfouz, for insight about Egyptian culture.
The family is the most significant unit of Egyptian society. In Egyptian society as a whole, the degree of social conservatism of a woman’s background may govern where—and in whose company— she may go and what she may do. A woman, Egyptian or foreign, who ignores societal conventions is open to social disapproval and may be inviting unwelcome advances. Women need to know where and under what circumstances to behave in a particular way without stirring unwanted reactions.
Egyptian society is also conservative in areas of male-female relations, dress, religious identity, and alcohol and drug use. Unmarried men and women do not meet in private, especially in apartments. This is an absolute rule in the university dorms. In rented apartments, neighbors will complain to the landlord or even the police. Public displays of affection are unacceptable in Egyptian culture. Further, it is considered a sexual advance for a woman to speak to a man. Some tourists may get away with wearing informal attire, but they are in the country for a matter of days. Long-term visitors will be treated rudely, criticized, or harassed for inappropriate dress or behavior.
Dress conservatively, especially in public places. Long hair and untrimmed beards on men, revealing clothes on women (including sun dresses, short skirts, and shorts), and profanity are generally unacceptable in Egyptian society.
Women should not wear shorts; rather, it is preferable to wear skirts or dresses that cover the ankles or, at the very least, the knees, and long sleeves. If you have long hair, tie it up or cover it. Men should cover their shoulders and wear long pants.
Western women who violate the dress customs are disrespected and often harassed by Egyptian men.
Alcohol & Drugs
Islam forbids the consumption of alcohol, and you can get into serious trouble if you are found under the influence of alcohol.
According to the U.S. Department of State, Egyptian law defines drugs as any natural drug, including but not limited to hashish, heroin, cocaine, opium, morphine, cannabis or marijuana, or any synthetic drug without a prescription. The penalty for possession or distribution of illegal drugs in Egypt is the following: capital punishment with a fine of between LE 100,000 and LE 500,000, or hard labor for life or temporary hard labor.
U.S. citizens violating Egyptian law can be arrested, fined, imprisoned, or expelled. If arrested in Egypt, U.S. citizens will be processed through the Egyptian legal system, and neither UCEAP nor the American University in Cairo or U.S. embassy will be able to provide students with legal representation or help.
Relationships & Sexual Orientation
Western women must proceed cautiously in relationships with Egyptian men and must keep in mind the significance of their behavior in the Egyptian social context. American women are often stereotyped as being sexually liberal or “easy” because their behavior would not be acceptable in an Egyptian woman. Be sensitive to social mores and adapt to a way of dress and behavior more in tune with the Egyptian culture. A male international student, meanwhile, may find that some Egyptian girls are willing to spend time with him on campus, but not off campus. This is because convention dictates that unmarried men and women should not mix freely in unsupervised social situations except in a few places, such as on the school or university campus, or in the workplace.
Public gestures of affection between two persons of the same sex that are perceived as homosexual behavior can provoke a strong reaction. Also, earrings on men are considered to be a sign of homosexuality. There is no gay rights movement in Egypt because homosexuality is illegal and rejected by both Islam and Coptic Christianity. For the crime of committing “disgraceful impudent acts,” the law imposes up to one year of imprisonment and a fine. Historically, when this law has been implemented with Westerners, they have often been deported instead of imprisoned. In any case, it must be stressed that homosexual relations are not welcome in Egypt.
Religion is a powerful influence on Egyptian life. Whether Islamic or Christian, most Egyptians take religion seriously, even those who do not practice regularly. Nearly all believe in the existence of God, and someone who says that he or she does not believe is regarded as strange and perhaps untrustworthy. Such phrases as inshaa al-laah (God willing) and il-ham-du-lil-leh (thanks be to God) are heard frequently in conversations among Egyptians, and they are usually spoken with heartfelt sincerity. Show a healthy respect for Egyptian attitudes toward God and religion. For example, joking about religion is an insult to devout Egyptians, whether Muslim or Christian.
Refrain from initiating conversations with Egyptians that compare other religions with your own. However, if the subject does arise, express your opinions diplomatically, remaining open to hearing another view. Tolerance and respect for differences should guide any such discussions. Terms such as “fundamentalist” and “born again” do not mean the same in Egyptian society as they do in the U.S.
Advice on Adjusting to AUC and Egypt
The following is a letter written to UCEAP by an American resident in Cairo. The letter contains good advice about adjustment to AUC, Cairo, and Egyptian society.
Too many gifted students have come here only to be discouraged and to leave primarily because they were not prepared to deal with the new environment. There are several reasons for this. First, because of Cairo’s importance as a political center in the Arab world, there is a large diplomatic community. Because of its prestige, many of the children of diplomats, military officials, and other important persons from all over the world, as well as the children of important Egyptian figures, attend the American University in Cairo. Since a large percentage of the university’s population is comprised of such people, civilian students will not be aware that their existence creates certain unique problems (security) which require definite precautions. (Think of a school in the U.S. attended by the children of the president, ranking generals, U.S. cabinet members, and foreign VIPs, and you will have the idea.) For obvious reasons, the fact is not publicized.
Second, the culture of the Middle East is vastly different from our own. Cairo is by no means the most conservative city of the Arab world. Its technology, dress, education, and fads are very modern. It has, in fact, taken on most of the sophisticated trappings of Western society. But its habits, its heritage, and its core are Middle Eastern and therefore traditional. And this, not the superficial trappings, is what affects the way Cairenes view the world.
Any newcomer, particularly from California, will find that informality, at least to the degree Americans use it, is frowned upon. No one wants to lose his or her personal identity, but behavior modification is critical.
In Egypt, everything centers heavily around authority; specifically, paternalistic authority. This is not only operational in the family, which is the core of Egyptian life, but extends to every other area: social, financial, political, or educational. To question authority of a superior, right or wrong, much less to challenge it openly, is like flouting the authority of one’s parents. In this society, it is not done (as with anything, there are exceptions, but an American is not likely to understand the system well enough to handle the extreme subtlety involved). In general, students don’t publicly question or critique the behavior of professors, even in a friendly way. It could sabotage their academic careers (AUC, however, does have evaluation forms and there are opportunities to critique, complain, or praise).
There is also the matter of class. Class structure here is always existent and very apparent; who your family is, where you come from, your level of education, or your experiences in living abroad are some of the indicators. People are very sensitive about their positions; titles count. To us this may seem extreme (at least the fact that there is little attempt made to hide the class structure factor), but it exists in Egypt. American society has a democratic mindset that attempts to dampen the effects of class differences. We tend to mix with people of all classes because our ideology expects that we shall. In many countries (even other Western countries) this pattern of behavior does not exist.
Interestingly enough, coming from a Western country, particularly America, automatically confers upper-class status, and status is necessary to survive. But trying to mix classes in Egypt rarely works. Egyptians understand their culture, even if we do not.
A unique matter is the status of women. Again, superficial things get in the way. Do not be deceived just because you see a young woman in the latest Paris fashions dancing to the latest disco tunes. The overwhelming odds are that she’s dancing with her fiancé. Otherwise, it’s probably her brother. Not much dating occurs, although there are many gatherings in family homes, the best place to experience Egyptian life. Men undeniably have preference over women and deference (at least, in public) is expected. Marriages are still arranged, and the husband’s word is law. A single woman in her twenties does not have the same freedom to come and go that Americans expect and enjoy. For women things are fundamental. There are two types of women: good (virtuous) and bad (experienced). Thanks to misconceptions spread by the media, it is often assumed that American women are collectively the latter. Any American woman would do well to go very slowly in relationships with Egyptian men so that her conduct will not be misunderstood (Egyptian men are very protective of women whom they classify as “good,” Egyptian or otherwise). Conversely, an American man who is “courting” an Egyptian woman may find himself unintentionally moving toward marriage. And don’t be surprised if you often find yourself explaining why you’re not married. It’s part of the mindset.
Then there is the power of connections. One cultivates relationships with people in authority and people in the upper classes because these individuals have the power to get things done. Even with friendships, a favor buys a favor. This doesn’t mean people only make friends to get things out of them. Egyptians are a friendly and generous people. They are devoted to their family and friends and assume it’s a two-way street. And it’s much easier to cut through the bureaucracy when you know who is in charge.
People are understandably curious about Americans and their lifestyle. There’s a certain magic to being an American. Unfortunately, Americans tend to be too honest and too open. Discretion about personal affairs is just as necessary abroad as at home. Our definition of privacy does not exist in this culture. Sometimes information flows even without your assistance. People tend to be very observant. Forewarned is forearmed.
Egypt is not home. And the difference can be mind-staggering, but I don’t wish to discourage students from coming to Egypt. It’s stimulating, sometimes frustrating, always fascinating (in other words, it’s fantastic!).
Official Start Date & Mandatory Orientation
Official UCEAP Start Date
The last date to arrive in Cairo and get settled into accommodations is the Official Start Date found in the program calendar on the UCEAP website. If you fail to appear on the official start date, you may be subject to dismissal from the program (Student Agreement, Section 10). The Official Start Date is the same date AUC housing opens. If the AUC housing opening date changes, the Official Start Date will change.
You are responsible for making your own travel arrangements and for reserving and purchasing your airline tickets (even if you are on full financial aid). The Financial Aid Office is not responsible for purchasing tickets. You are strongly urged to purchase a changeable ticket; standby tickets are not appropriate.
You can request to be picked up at the airport by an AUC representative. Reserve this service well in advance through the AUC New York office. UCEAP highly recommends the service because the cost is about the same as a taxi and is more convenient and reliable. Also, the AUC driver can contact the UCEAP Study Center if you encounter any problems at the airport.
On arrival, contact the UCEAP Study Center. Contact numbers are found in the UCEAP Network chapter of this guide and in the Arrival/Orientation Information in the online UCEAP Predeparture Checklist.
The program start date can change due to unforeseen circumstances. You are responsible for making modifications in your travel itinerary to accommodate such changes. UCEAP is not responsible for any unrecoverable transportation charges you may incur for independent travel arrangements.
In order to be kept informed of program changes, update your address, phone number, and primary e-mail address in MyEAP. You are expected to check e-mail announcements from UCEAP regularly. For this reason, you must maintain an e-mail account that is accessible at all times, even when traveling. There are many free online accounts available for this purpose. If you know you will be discontinuing your present e-mail account, or if you know that your present account will not be accessible after departure from UC, investigate the available online options and set up a new account as soon as possible.
Inform AUC about your travel itinerary on the online AUC Travel Plans and Airport Pick-up Request Form and keep AUC informed of any subsequent changes to your travel plans. AUC will share this information with the UCEAP Study Center, but you may also receive questions about your travel plans directly from the UCEAP Study Center.
The program begins with a mandatory on-site orientation that provides an important introduction to the Egypt program. Some segments are run by UCEAP and others by various AUC units. Orientation begins on the day AUC housing opens and continues with meals, social events, field trips, safety and security meetings, class registration, and other important meetings. Failure to attend the entire orientation is grounds for dismissal from the program. Details concerning the orientation agenda will be available on the AUC website and in emails from the UCEAP Study Center.
Updates to the orientation agenda may be e-mailed to you only a few days before the program begins. Regardless of the orientation agenda, go directly to your prearranged accommodations on the official start date and notify the UCEAP Study Center that you have arrived.
UCEAP orientation segments and AUC segments usually do not have time conflicts, but last-minute changes and additions can occur. If that happens, the UCEAP segment takes priority. If there is a time conflict, be sure to notify the UCEAP Study Center in case they are not aware of the conflict. AUC administration and the AUC housing office have both been increasing the social events offered during orientation; it is important that you do not miss the UCEAP segments.
Field trips and meetings during orientation and throughout the year will introduce you to the people, history, and cultural background of Cairo and Egypt. Visits may be made to the pyramids and the Sphinx, Alexandria, Saqqara, Memphis, Coptic Cairo, Islamic Cairo, and the Cairo Museum. Depending on available funds, UCEAP may organize one or two overnight field trips to locations outside Cairo. The cost of these initial orientation tours and UCEAP field trips is included in your program fees. UCEAP participants have found the orientation field trips beneficial, noting that they provided an opportunity to make friends and to become familiar with Egyptian culture. In addition to the initial tours, AUC sponsors group tours to other parts of the country during the year. You can sign up and pay for these additional trips independently. The cost ranges from $100 to $200 per trip.
From Cairo to the New Campus
The new AUC campus is outside the city of Cairo and there is no public bus transportation between the two. There will be a frequent AUC bus from various points in the city; it can take an hour and a half one-way. If you reside in the Zamalek dorms, you are required to purchase the AUC bus pass. The cost is included in your UCEAP Student Budget but it is not paid to UCEAP in your fees. AUC will bill Zamalek students for the AUC bus pass, which previous students report is less expensive than purchasing individual tickets. The cost is around $350.00 per semester. There is WiFi on the AUC bus; there is no AUC bus service on Friday.
Travel to Your Host Country
Do not ask other students to carry items of any kind abroad for you (laptop, camera, extra bags, etc.) and do not volunteer to do so for others. Airlines will ask you if you are carrying items for someone else and, if so, they will not allow you to take them. If you board the plane with the items, Customs abroad may charge you a high duty upon arrival. They will assume you plan to resell them, especially if you already have one of your own. This is particularly a concern with electronic goods.
Information about passports, visas, and other documents that are required for participation in this program is provided in the online UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
and AUC’s website, which provides detailed instructions on obtaining a student visa.
Contact an Egyptian consulate for information about taking cameras, computers, and other expensive electronic equipment into the country.
Identify each item of your luggage on the inside and outside with your name, home address, and destination.
When traveling always carry your passport, visa, ticket, prescription medications, and money. Never put valuables in your checked luggage. Leave extra credit cards at home and carry only what is necessary. Luggage restrictions vary by airline. Most carriers have weight restrictions.
- Layered clothing (T-shirt, shirt, fleece vest, button and pullover sweaters)
- Lightweight jacket
- Warm socks
- Flip-flops, walking shoes, casual footwear
- One dressy outfit
- Bathrobe and slippers
- Beach towel
- Lightweight blanket
- Seat pad (good for train and bus travel)
- Travel-sized sleeping bag
- Empty backpack (to bring home items purchased abroad)
- Travel alarm clock and flashlight
- Heavy jacket or coat
- Small, lightweight gifts for foreign hosts and new friends (suggestions: CDs; T-shirts with city, state, or campus logos; UC pens or pencils; decals; baseball caps representing professional sports teams; California postcards, posters, or scenic calendars; or scarves)
- Antidiarrheal medication
Do Not Pack
- Medications that are illegal in Egypt
- Fragile items unless they are bubble-wrapped
The average temperatures in Cairo are comparable to those in the American southwest, with hot summers and cold winters. For the most part, Californians are comfortable in Egypt’s predominantly moderate, dry, and sunny climate. The Nile River and heavy irrigation, however, create humidity disproportionate to the area’s scant amount of rainfall. Air pollution is increasing each year in Cairo. If you suffer from asthma, bring a year’s supply of inhalers and other prescription medication.
Nearly all buildings, including dwellings in Cairo, are built to shut out the heat with thick walls, high ceilings, and shutters. This makes the inside cooler without air-conditioning in the summer; however, it has the same effect in the winter, so with no central heating, room temperatures in the winter fall well below 65ºF. Most students find it harder to adjust to the winter cold of Egypt than to the summer heat.
During the summer, comfortable, lightweight, loose (but not revealing) cotton clothes are coolest. In the winter, because there is no central heating, you will need to wear layers of clothes, even indoors. Fabrics for winter should be wool or wool-synthetic blends, nylon, cotton, and polyester knits—all washable if possible. Take cotton underwear, because synthetic fabrics are uncomfortable in any hot climate and they trap perspiration and promote infection.
A typical UC wardrobe with some minor modifications is adequate. Cleanliness and neatness are important. By California standards, Egyptians dress up, but you do not need a large wardrobe to dress appropriately. Nice jeans are acceptable for campus or street wear. Consider taking a suit or dress to wear to a disco or to a formal social occasion. You will need a warm winter jacket that is both washable and versatile (down and GORE-TEX products work well).
Take comfortable walking shoes. You will likely wear out several pairs of shoes, since you will be walking a lot over the rough terrain of Cairo’s streets. Shoes in special sizes (large or small sizes or narrow widths) are virtually impossible to find, and half sizes are unavailable. If you wear half sizes or have an uncommon shoe size, take a term or year’s supply of shoes. Egyptian sandals and shoes for men and women are moderately priced, but not sturdy or particularly comfortable.
Wool clothing tends to be heavier than woolens available in the U.S. Good quality socks are usually expensive, so both men and women should take plenty of their favorite style of socks. The bathing suits available in Cairo are expensive and flimsy.
The UCEAP student budget does not include funds for the purchase of clothing.
You will be more comfortable on the streets of Cairo if you wear long-sleeved blouses and skirts instead of pants. Even covering your head with a simple scarf will go a long way toward preventing hassles.
Dress pants and neat jeans (not tight) are common on campus, as are sweaters and skirts. Many Egyptian women take pride in being fashionably up-to-date by following Parisian and American fashion trends. Generally, women do not wear sleeveless blouses or dresses, sundresses, halter tops, shorts, tight jeans, form-fitting clothes, miniskirts, or clothes made of sheer fabrics in public. Such clothes may be worn indoors, at sporting clubs, or on the beach. On the AUC campus, daring fashions are worn by some women; however, off campus they attract unwelcome attention. By dressing and acting modestly, you can decrease the chances of being harassed. Women dressed in jeans are assumed to be tourists and attract more unwelcome attention than those wearing skirts.
Men generally dress as they do in U.S. metropolitan centers. Shorts are not worn in public (except for sports). Although men are beginning to dress more casually, luxury restaurants and hotels still prefer a jacket and tie for meals, and nightclubs require dress attire. A suit or jacket, good slacks, and a tie are appropriate for social or official occasions. In class, men wear shirts (no tie necessary) and pants or neat jeans in hot weather. In cold weather, they wear several layers of sweaters and long underwear. If you shave with a manual razor, take extra blades and shaving cream. Good imported razor blades are available, as are canned creams, but they are expensive. If you plan to take an electric razor, be sure it has dual voltage, or take a voltage converter.
The current in Egypt ranges between 220 and 240 volts alternating at 50 cycles per second (standard current in the U.S. is between 110–120 volts alternating at 60 cycles). The higher voltage in Egypt can be stepped down to 110–120 by means of a transformer. Transformers are available in Cairo; U.S. retailers sell smaller voltage converters. Take dual-voltage appliances if possible.
The difference between 50 and 60 cycles is not significant for operating most equipment. Appliances such as an electric razor or hair dryer will run slightly slower. However, for appliances that utilize the alteration in current to produce a given speed of running (such as clocks or tape players), the difference of 10 cycles is extreme. Take battery-operated audio recorders or those designed to run on 50 or 60 cycles. Take rechargeable batteries for pocket calculators (at 220 volts, 50 cycles), since this size may not be available.
Insurance for Personal Possessions
AUC does not cover the loss of student belongings—even in university accommodations.
If you do not make round-trip arrangements, book a return flight with plenty of lead time once abroad. Go to the AUC Travel office for information on return travel. Flights to the U.S. fill up fast and economy-fare seats are booked early.
Understanding Your Finances
Your MyEAP Account & Budget
The AUC website will provide additional details on money arrangements and banking services in Cairo.
The basic unit of currency in Egypt is the Egyptian pound (£E), which is subdivided into 100 piasters (pt.). Unlike the U.S. dollar, which is “hard” or internationally used currency, the Egyptian pound is “soft” currency and may be used only within Egypt. Egyptian currency and exchange regulations are designed to protect the value of the Egyptian pound and to prevent unauthorized outflow of hard currency.
Take a debit card to access money by ATM. See the UCEAP Student Budget for estimated expenses (textbooks, supplies, lab fees for some courses, personal expenses including laundry and daily local travel, etc. If you are planning to travel in the region, you will need additional funds (for example, a group tour to Luxor for an Egyptology field trip will cost approximately $450 per person). Additional independent travel usually is the single biggest expense. Students in the Arabic Language Institute will have course-related travel expenses which will vary due to unpredictable fluctuations in the currency and cost-of-living increases in Egypt.
Personal checks are rarely used in Egypt; cash is used almost exclusively.
Handling money is easiest if you have an account with a U.S. bank that has a correspondent bank in Cairo. Before departure, find out if your U.S. bank is affiliated with an Egyptian bank and ask what services are available. The Commercial International Bank at AUC offers accounts to students who are over 18 years of age.
Take at least one major credit card to Cairo. American Express, Visa, and MasterCard have proven very useful. With an American Express card, you can write personal checks for cash or travelers checks at the American Express Office in Cairo.
With an American Express, Visa, or MasterCard, $100 to $10,000 can be wired within 48 hours between the U.S. and Cairo. The transaction is conducted through an American Express agent’s office. Expect to pay a fee for this service. You can use Visa or MasterCard to obtain a cash advance in U.S. dollars through some banks in Cairo. You can obtain up to $150 per day with Visa or $100 per day with MasterCard. The cash advance is billed to the Visa or MasterCard account and there is usually a fee for the service.
Financial Aid Students
Financial aid students should budget carefully for their time abroad. Know when financial aid checks are due, how much will arrive, to whom the checks will be sent in the U.S., and how money will be transferred to you. Arrange either to have financial aid checks deposited directly into your own U.S. bank account or sent to a person in the U.S. who has been assigned your power of attorney. This person can then deposit the money in your home bank account. The money can be wired to a corresponding bank account abroad or it can be accessed via ATM. Do not have checks mailed to you. They may not arrive safely, and if they do, banks will take 45 days to clear them before the money will be available to you. Think ahead and plan accordingly.
After arrival, you can apply for a free e-mail account at AUC. The computer facilities usually are very crowded. You should bring a laptop and if possible a small printer..
You are required to check your AUC e-mail account at least once every 24 hours. AUC circulates security alerts and other important announcements by e-mail in addition to SMS text messages. You will need Internet access immediately. WiFi is available in the dormitories, on campus, and on AUC buses. If you do not have Internet access you can purchase a USB Internet dongle at Vodafone or Mobinil.
Phone communication in Egypt is improving. Directory services, reached by dialing 140, can find any number, but it helps to speak a little Arabic. While you can receive international calls in your flat or dorm, you cannot make outgoing international calls.
You cannot make collect calls from Egypt to the U.S. You usually have to pay for international calls in advance. It is much cheaper to have calls made to you from the U.S.
Verify your phone numbers with parents and friends once abroad. If people from the U.S. have difficulty reaching you in Egypt, they should contact the overseas telephone operator and arrange to place a person-to-person call. If you are staying in the AUC dormitory in downtown Cairo, the caller can dial the main switchboard at (011) 202-2-739-7040 and ask to be connected to your room. AUC has an English-speaking operator at this number 24 hours a day.
The dorms in New Cairo have two main switchboard numbers: 011) 202-2-6154010 for female students and (011) 202-2-615-4020 for male students. In case of an emergency, family members may call Study Center staff, who will in turn contact you to request that you call home immediately.
Many students use Skype for long-distance calls. Family and friends in the U.S. can call you, at low rates, using Skype from their computers. You can Skype family and friends from any computer with Internet access. Computer-to-computer Skype calls are free. You will need a headset and microphone.
International airmail letters from the U.S. should reach Cairo within two weeks. Letters to the U.S. will take at least as long. Letters usually make it to their destination in Egypt although packages may not, and magazine/newspaper subscriptions probably will not be delivered promptly, if at all. It is best to avoid sending packages in the mail.
Students living in the Zamalek dorms can have mail sent directly to the residence:
Full Name of Student
AUC University Residence
16 Mohamed Thakeb Street
Zamalek, Cairo 11211, Egypt
Students living in the New Cairo dorms can have mail sent to the following address. There is a mail office station in the Campus Center, open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., where students can send and receive mail. Identification must be shown to pick up mail:
Full Name of Student
The American University in Cairo
AUC Avenue, PO Box 74
New Cairo 11835, Egypt
U.S. Postage Stamps
Because the regular mail service from Egypt is slow and somewhat erratic, past UCEAP participants suggest taking U.S. postage stamps for sending important letters and cards home with U.S.-bound travelers to mail when they arrive back in the U.S. You cannot buy U.S. postage stamps in Cairo. An alternative is to use either DHL or the EMS, Egyptian Express Mail Service, which is available at any post office in Egypt. For approximately $6, letters will be delivered to the U.S. in about three days.
AUC usually refers to the Zamalek dormitory as a “hostel” and the residential buildings on the new campus as “cottages.”
Housing information varies by current security situation. There are three possible scenarios:
1) You may live in AUC housing or any other housing you choose, as described in detail below.
2) You may live only in AUC housing, either in Zamalek or New Cairo, but preferably in Zamalek.
3) You may live only in AUC housing, either Zamalek or New Cairo, or in private apartments ONLY in Zamalek. The Study Center Director must know your apartment address and will visit you after you move in.
CURRENTLY, OPTION #2 APPLIES TO FALL 2013.
You may choose from a handful of options where you will live: the new AUC dorms on the new campus in Qattamya, also called New Cairo; in AUC dorms in the Zamalek section of Cairo; or you may seek accommodation in off-campus apartments in Cairo. At this time, off-campus apartments appropriate for students are limited in New Cairo.
The current group of UCEAP students recommends the Zamalek dorms. Although the new dorms are conveniently located on the new campus, the Zamalek dorms are situated in the heart of Cairo, where many students enjoy spending free time (AUC will assign some students to hotels in Cairo rather than the Zamalek dorms due to space constraints). The new dorms are in a remote suburb that will not be fully developed for several years. UCEAP students felt isolated there and preferred to cope with the time-consuming transportation issues rather than live in an undeveloped area. On the other hand, some students did not mind living in the new dorms to avoid the long daily commute. AUC offers a special bus service between the new dorms, downtown Cairo, Citystars shopping mall in Heliopolis, and El-Rehab City. This service is included in the AUC shuttle bus pass which most students purchase, or is available on a per-ride basis for about $4.
Renting an apartment in Cairo requires careful planning due to access to transportation and time necessary to reach the new campus. The AUC shuttle between sites in Cairo and the new campus may not be close to some apartment rentals.
Living in the AUC dorms requires flexibility to follow the strict visitor rules and hours. UCEAP participants recommend living in the dorms at least for the fall semester. It offers the best way to become acquainted with Egyptian students and other international students. After the first semester, you will be familiar with the AUC shuttle schedule and your class schedule and can look for apartments near the shuttle pickup sites.
It is critical to meet the housing application and housing payment deadlines set by AUC or you may be forced to live in a part of Cairo where it will be complicated to coordinate transportation to campus with your class schedule.
Q: What should I do if I want to live in AUC dorms?
A: In order to live in AUC dorms, reserve a housing space with the AUC New York office before July 1. The Office of Student Affairs in Cairo assigns rooms on a first-come, first-served basis, depending on the date AUC New York receives your housing deposit. Send in the confirmation note and deposit as soon as possible. AUC cannot guarantee dorm housing will be available after July 1.
All students, including those on full financial aid, must pay the required security deposit when making reservations. The security deposit is refundable, but is held against early withdrawals, losses, or damage of university property. Detailed housing information will be provided by the AUC New York office on their website.
Q: Where will I stay upon arrival and during the orientation period?
A: You will stay in the accommodations you have pre-arranged for yourself. If you plan to search for an apartment upon arrival, inform the UCEAP Study Center and they will reserve a hotel room for you for a couple of nights. Contact the Study Center on arrival in Cairo. This is a mandatory requirement of the Egypt program. It is a safety and security precaution as well as the means to ensure you are accommodated in the correct pre-arranged housing.
Q: What are the AUC dorms like?
A: Many foreign students are housed in the AUC dorms in Zamalek, a residential section of Cairo located on Gezira Island. The island has many shops, restaurants, and embassies. You can get to downtown Cairo from Zamalek by taxi (for a reasonable cost), Minibus 49, or the AUC shuttle bus.
Zamalek houses 360 students in double rooms. Service facilities include a general lounge for receiving visitors, garden courtyard, recreation room, computer room, cafeteria, laundry area, health clinic, and security system. Each room has two beds, desks, chairs, and wardrobes. Pillows, blankets, and linens are provided. Each room has a heater and air-conditioning unit and paging equipment connected to the reception area.
There are separate quarters for men and women. In keeping with Middle Eastern customs, men and women are not permitted to visit each other’s rooms. Students will, however, be able to mingle in reception areas, the garden, recreation room, and cafeteria. No alcohol is allowed in the dorm.
You are expected to be in your dorm by 10:30 p.m.; if you arrive after 10:30 p.m., you will have to sign in. UCEAP students note that this policy usually is not enforced with Americans whose parents have signed a permission form (it is mostly designed for Arab dorm residents). Note the detailed rules governing social conduct and regulations.
The new dorms in New Cairo are well described on the AUC website. Each of the 12 residential buildings has a courtyard and roof terrace. There are workout and computer facilities, plus study rooms; 24-hour security ensures safety.
Q: How do I pay for housing?
A: You must pay the full housing fee for the fall semester to the AUC New York office by August 15. The fee may include an obligatory charge for the shuttle bus (dorm-to-campus) and local phone usage, or the shuttle bus cost may be billed separately. For spring semester the full housing fee is due by January 15. There are financial penalties for cancelation or withdrawal from the dorm. The penalties are noted in the housing fee information on the AUC website.
Q: Where can I do my laundry?
A: Laundry service is provided in the AUC dorms at no extra charge. If you live in an apartment, you will have to do your own laundry, send it out, or hire a launderer and send items out for a makwagi to iron by the piece. Non-automatic washing machines are available at Laundromats at reasonable prices. Laundering tends to be rough on clothes. Wash your delicate items by hand, including wash-and-wear clothes, underwear, and any clothes containing elastic. Regular laundry detergent is available.
Q: What if I don’t want to live in the dorms?
A: If you choose not to live in university housing, you can look for private housing once you are in Egypt. Past UCEAP students have had little difficulty finding apartments in downtown Cairo. In the recent past, two-bedroom, furnished apartments ranged from about $240 to $400 per month, not including utilities, phone, and garbage collection. To keep costs down, most students share apartments. Insects and rodents can be a problem, but exterminators and mosquito netting are available. Despite the drawbacks, many students prefer private housing after one semester at the AUC dorm.
Q: Will UCEAP or AUC automatically locate an apartment for me?
A: No. Neither UCEAP nor AUC can help you find an apartment or negotiate the rent. You need to make your own arrangements. The Study Center will provide you with printed information regarding what to do (and what not to do) when renting an apartment. The Study Center also maintains a list of apartments that have been rented in the past by UCEAP students. Private housing is advertised on bulletin boards at AUC and availability is circulated by word of mouth.
Q: What should I know before signing a lease?
A: You are responsible for knowing and complying with the terms of your lease. Neither AUC nor UCEAP will arrange or sign a lease for you before arrival, nor will AUC or UCEAP be able to assist with problems that might arise between you and your landlord. Before signing a lease, check with the landlord and find out if visitors of the opposite sex are allowed to stay overnight in the apartment. This issue has been problematic for UCEAP students in the past.
There are no cooking facilities in the dorms; however, you may purchase or rent appliances for limited cooking. The university operates a cafeteria in the Zamalek dorm with hot meals and snacks five days a week for about $3 to $4 per meal. On the new campus, there are restaurants and cafés, including McDonald’s and Subway. Small convenience stores on the new campus are open 24 hours.
Numerous restaurants in Cairo offer a variety of international cuisine. Afternoon and evening meals at inexpensive local restaurants cost about $6 to $10 each. Western-style restaurants are usually more expensive.
As at home, cooking for yourself is the most economical way to eat. It takes time and effort, however, to shop for ingredients. There are few quick meals and most things must be prepared from scratch. Although meat, poultry, and fish are expensive (comparable to California prices), seasonable fresh vegetables, fruits, and bread are relatively inexpensive. Dairy products vary in price depending on whether they are locally produced or imported. Imported food is very expensive, and items available one month may not reappear on the vendor’s shelf for long periods of time. When eating out, avoid eating raw vegetables and salads in most restaurants. Also, avoid eating the food sold by street vendors.
It is safe to purchase the food prepared at the numerous food carts on the new campus. These are not street vendor carts.
Public transportation in Cairo is crowded and can be difficult during peak hours or in the early- and mid-evening. It is often necessary to walk long distances to get anywhere.
Although Cairo’s transportation is hectic, once you learn to use the metro and taxi services, it becomes an easy and inexpensive way to get around. However, women are advised to avoid riding the public buses for safety reasons. Do not ride a bicycle in Cairo; doing so is very dangerous.
In order to integrate more fully into the Egyptian community, you are encouraged to participate in cultural activities. UCEAP and AUC staff have information on cultural and social events and will arrange various activities and excursions during the year. UCEAP participants have been active in sports, drama, journalism, photography, and have worked on excavations and in museums. Join clubs, sports, or music/art/theater groups; provide volunteer services to social organizations; participate in athletic events and religious activities; and attend lectures, discussions, and receptions in academic and community circles.
Living in Egypt, you will find certain cultural tendencies toward group activity to which you may not be accustomed. For example, Americans tend to be individualists who cooperate in groups only as long as this cooperation is serving their individual interests; however, in the Middle East the group is the basic social unit, and collective goals are more important than the individual goal.
Students with Disabilities
While in Egypt, students with disabilities may find accessibility and accommodation very different from the United States. Businesses and institutions in Egypt generally do not make special accommodation for persons with disabilities. Additionally, Egyptian authorities do not effectively enforce laws mandating access to transportation, communication, and public buildings. Pedestrian sidewalks and walkways are limited, and when present, often end abruptly. Accommodations on public transportation are not offered for persons with disabilities. Pedestrian crosswalks are rarely established and not adhered to, creating risk for pedestrians traversing roads in both business and residential areas.
Students who need a notetaker are advised to bring their own recording device. Students who are vision-impaired will need to be put in contact before departure with AUC staff who may have advice and can offer assistance in becoming familiar with the housing and campus. This is not a formalized service such as that on UC campuses, but might be contact with a professor who has offered to assist students. Students who need personal caregivers cannot hire a local caregiver, but will need to bring their own caregiver. (Caregiving in Egypt is done only within the family.)
The UCEAP Student Budget does not include funds for recreational travel.
For travel and other cultural information, refer to some of the following books and guides: Blue Guide to Egypt; Complete Guide to Archaeological Sites; Baedekker’s Egypt; Thornton Cox, Egypt; Fodor’s Egypt; Let’s Go Egypt and Israel; Frommer’s Egypt on $20 a Day; Egypt Today; Berlitz Egypt; and Lonely Planet’s Travel Survival Kit for Egypt and Shoestring Guide to the Middle East.
Bus and train service is good and reaches most points within the country. UCEAP students recommend using only the new air-conditioned public buses for travel outside the city.
Travel to the Sinai Peninsula at this time is strongly discouraged at this time due to the high number of kindhappings. The Sinai, specifically near the Israeli border, has been an area utilized by terrorist groups in carrying out cross-border attacks into southern Israel. U.S. Embassy personnel in Egypt are currently prohibited from traveling to the Sinai, except by air to Sharm El Sheikh. Overland travel by U.S. government employees anywhere in the Sinai outside of Sharm El Sheikh is prohibited.
Special permits are required to visit various Egyptian areas. Information should be confirmed with the Travel Permits Department, Department of the Ministry of the Interior in Cairo. Also, you can obtain the necessary permits from the support services office at AUC.
Hitchhiking is strongly discouraged.
In addition to the comprehensive UCEAP insurance coverage, which provides coverage anywhere in the world, AUC provides a limited amount of health insurance. After arrival, you will be issued an AUC health ID card, which entitles you to treatment at the AUC clinic on the new campus, and either the Al-Salam Hospital in downtown Cairo or the Al-Ahly Bank Hospital in New Cairo. The AUC insurance does not offer coverage outside Cairo. Full details will be provided at the on-site orientation.
Tuition and Renters Insurance
Consider purchasing a tuition and renters insurance policy that can be applied to study abroad programs. You may also choose to purchase policies through GradGuard
Medical care in Cairo is good and students frequently visit the clinic on the New Cairo campus, the clinic in the Zamalek housing, and two hospitals in Cairo, showing their AUC identity card for admittance. Change of climate, unaccustomed diet, and air pollution are the causes of most medical visits.
Ensure that your doctor is aware of where you are going and the duration of your stay. The stresses of international travel, especially if it is over a longer period of time, can often intensify pre-existing medical conditions.
Even with professional predeparture travel advice, vaccines, and medications, a person is not 100 percent protected against all diseases or injuries anywhere in the world. Practice healthy behaviors:
- Be careful about food and water (do not eat food from street vendors, drink only bottled or boiled water, or carbonated drinks in cans or bottles)
- Protect against insect and mosquito bites
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water to prevent many
common travel illnesses
- Increase your awareness of cough hygiene or respiratory etiquette (such as covering one’s mouth when coughing); it is not only a courtesy, but if generally practiced, it will help reduce transmission of respiratory and influenza-like illnesses
Maintain good health and fitness. UCEAP students have noted that they needed increased stamina to adjust to the climate and to move through busy, crowded streets with few sidewalks or traffic signals.
If you feel sick or have a medical emergency, seek medical attention and contact the Study Center Director immediately. The Director can recommend a clinic to visit, provide information about the UCEAP insurance claim process, and assist if arrangements are needed with your professors for an extended absence from class.
Have enough prescription medications to last the duration of your trip, including inhalers or allergy medication.
Medications must be in their original pharmacy container labeled with your name. Be sure that the name is the same as on your ticket. Don’t combine your medications into one bottle; take each type of medication in its own labeled bottle. Place all medications in a plastic bag for easier security screening. Follow TSA security guidelines if the medicines are liquids.
Some medications commonly prescribed in the U.S. are illegal in other countries. Contact Europ Assistance (UCEAP’s assistance provider) at 1+ (866) 451-7606 before departure to make sure any required medications are legal.
AUC student health providers can refer students to psychologists or psychiatrists. Counseling is good and is advised for any students experiencing homesickness, culture shock, academic difficulties, or any other unexpected issues.
If you are taking a medication, make sure you have enough of your prescription to last the length of your stay. Tell your doctor how long you will be away. Carry a prescription scrip with you in case you need a refill so a local doctor can consider authorizing a refill. Remember to have your doctor list both the name-brand and generic versions of the drug. You may need an appointment with a local doctor to get a prescription refill. Carry a letter from your US doctor specifying your diagnosis, treatment, and prescribed medications.
Air quality in Greater Cairo is not good, like in many other major cities around the world, and it is a concern for the Government of Egypt and its environmental agencies. Engine exhaust emissions are one of the major sources of air pollution in Greater Cairo. The government of Egypt is working collaboratively with other countries to improve air quality.
Many UCEAP students have emphasized the presence of pollution and some have missed classes due to pollution-related illnesses. As air pollution principally affects the body’s respiratory and cardiovascular systems, consult a health care provider before travel and carry sufficient medication if you have a chronic health condition.
Avian influenza A (H5N1) is endemic in Egypt. The risk of human infection is low. It is greatest for those involved in slaughtering, de-feathering, butchering, and/ or preparing poultry for cooking. Stay away from live birds and undercooked poultry. Birds excrete large amounts of the virus in their feces; avoid direct contact with surfaces or objects contaminated by bird droppings.
Egyptian Ministry of Health Requirements
The Egyptian Ministry of Health requires foreigners to submit to an HIV test within one to three months after arrival in Egypt. For the Egyptian test, blood samples will be taken by AUC’s university clinic using disposable syringes provided by the university. The Ministry of Health will test the samples. Those who test positive will take a second test administered by the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit in Cairo. Those who again test positive will have to leave Egypt.
In light of this policy, AUC requires that you undergo an HIV test before leaving the U.S. as part of a general physical examination. Acceptance by AUC will be conditional upon receipt of a negative result from this initial test and an AUC physical examination report. The form for this report can be accessed via the online UCEAP Predeparture Checklist. You can schedule the AUC physical exam at the same time as the exam required for the UCEAP Health Clearance. Some UC campuses require the health clearance to be completed at your campus Student Health Services. If you prefer to use a private physician for the AUC physical exam, you may do so whether or not the UCEAP Health Clearance is completed at a UC Student Health Services location.
Follow Study Center and AUC directions regarding safety and security matters, which can change depending on specific tensions or issues. Staying safe and secure requires you to take personal responsibility for culturally appropriate behavior, exercising sound judgment, and abiding by UCEAP policies and procedures.
Understand that you are responsible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for exercising good judgment to protect your health, safety and well-being. Essential behaviors include being aware of your surroundings, understanding how your conduct and actions may be perceived, and being sensitive to the impact that your behavior could have on your personal safety.
Choices in dress, living arrangements, transportation, entertainment, and companionship may have a direct impact on how the local community views and treats you. Living and traveling in an unfamiliar environment and having a limited understanding of local language and culture are some of the factors that can put you at risk anywhere in the world.
Punishment for drug use and trafficking in illegal drugs is severe in Egypt
You are required to read the Safety Handbok that is available through the Egypt Predeparture Checklist.
Crime levels continue to be of concern, although areas around AUC's campus are unlikely to be affected. Petty crime has risen in part to a lack of police presence in many areas. Pick pocketing and purse snatching are becoming much more prevalent. A number of cases of women’s handbags being swiped in the Maadi area have been reported to the U.S. Embassy. This crime is generally carried out by groups working out of a vehicle or from a motorbike. On at least two recent occasions, expat females acquired minor injuries when they were pulled to the ground as perpetrators attempted to swipe the handbag.
Political uncertainty will remain the norm. Civil unrest continues to present the most significant security concern. There are frequent demonstrations centering on Tahrir Square, usually on Fridays.
Avoid all demonstrations, as even peaceful ones can quickly become violent and a foreigner could become a target of harassment or worse. In the past nine months, demonstrations in Cairo, and other cities, have quickly degenerated on several occasions into violent clashes between police and protesters, in some instances resulting in deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage.
There have been instances of instability and civil unrest in some other areas of Egypt, most notably in the Nile Valley governorates of Assiut and Sohag, located between Cairo and Luxor. These governorates, along with the adjacent governorates of Minya and Qena, have been areas of extremist activity in the past. U.S. Embassy personnel traveling to these areas (apart from Luxor and adjacent tourist destinations) require advance approval. Egyptian authorities also restrict the travel of foreigners to these governorates.
Common Protest Sites
Tahrir Square is one of the most common sites for civil unrest in Cairo. Hundreds of Egyptian troops are deployed to Tahrir Square and other potential protest sites on important anniversaries. Demonstrations at Tahrir Square may result in a large security presence, violence, and severe traffic disruptions. Do not go to Tahrir Square during demonstrations.
Egyptian security forces may use batons, tear gas, and fire hoses to disperse protesters. If caught in a potentially violent situation, leave the area immediately and avoid any involvement. If necessary, seek shelter in a large hotel or restaurant.
Traffic & Transportation Safety
Roads in Cairo are congested and traffic is poorly regulated. Sidewalks and pedestrian crossings are non-existent in many areas. Traffic drives on the right, but driving on the wrong side of the road or in the wrong direction down one-way streets is common. Exercise extreme caution when crossing roadways, especially in high-volume/high-velocity streets such as Cairo’s Corniche, which follows the east bank of the Nile River.
Intercity roads are generally in good condition, but unmarked surfaces, stray animals, and disabled vehicles without lights or reflectors are among the many hazards that can be encountered on highways, especially after dark. Embassy personnel in Egypt are prohibited from traveling outside Cairo by motor vehicle after sunset and are encouraged to travel between cities via air or train.
Public buses and microbuses are not considered to be safe, and U.S. Embassy Cairo personnel are prohibited from using them.
Taxis usually provide more secure transport. Official Cairo taxis are usually black and white; in Alexandria, they are black and orange. Taxi meters frequently do not work. Pay fares in exact change; tipping is not expected. In Cairo, some drivers have established standard prices for routes. These drivers will typically tell you the fare before your journey begins. They cost more than other cabs, but the drivers usually speak English, drive well, know the city, and do not pick up additional passengers. Women should not sit in the front seat, as this could be misinterpreted by the driver as a sexual advance.
A clean, modern and efficient metro system services most areas of Cairo. Metro cars are not air-conditioned, but stations are. The first car on every train is reserved for women only; female passengers are less likely to encounter harassment or petty theft in the women-only cars. .
Instances of sexual harassment that can elevate to improper touching have been reported by females, including UCEAP students. Fear of harassment is a fact of life for women in Egypt, even those whose dress adheres to Islam's standards of modesty. Activists acknowledge that the root of the problem is not deficient policy, as sexual harassment and assault are technically illegal. Rather, the issue lies with prevailing social norms that subjugate women and stigmatize those who speak out. For years, human rights and feminist organizations in Egypt have been confronting these norms with social and political activism, yet the situation has worsened. A recent United Nations survey indicated that 99.3% of Egyptian women had experienced harassment of one form or another. Sixty percent of those asked said they had been touched inappropriately.The majority of these types of incidents generally occur on the streets of busy cities.
Women will receive catcalls or unwanted advances. Although the inclination may be to react forcefully, UCEAP students recommend staying calm, remember that it is not obligatory to respond, and try to ignore the incident. Female UCEAP students have noted that they were approached and even touched by strangers, usually men. Prepare yourself for this. Talk to the Study Center Director if you cannot cope with street harassment.
Verbal harassment is generally best ignored, but if a harasser will not leave, screaming and creating a scene will generally frighten him away. Strangers who approach you and try to make conversation are best ignored; politely trying to extricate yourself from the situation usually only encourages more harassment.
Openly displayed tattoos, particulary on females, will attract unwanted attention. It is suggested that clothing be used to cover any tattoos when in public. This is especially true in rural areas outside Cairo.
Tips for women:
- Travel with a trusted male companion.
- Avoid direct eye contact with Egyptian men.
- Avoid walking the streets alone after dark
- Sit next to a woman or alone on public transport.
- When using a taxi or chauffeured car, sit in the back seat. Do not allow taxi drivers to pick up additional passengers. Do not engage in conversation, beyond basic pleasantries, with the driver.
- If harassed, continue walking and enter a populated establishment, such as a hotel, shop, or restaurant. Responding to the perpetrators and politely trying to get out of the situation usually only encourages more harassment.
- Be conservative in dress and behavior. Cover your legs and shoulders and avoid garments that are tight or otherwise revealing.
- Remain distant when dealing with Egyptian men, as friendliness is often perceived as flirtation.
- If you are touched or threatened by harassers, yell and seek help immediately (Egyptian men generally behave protectively toward women, including foreign women, and have been known to come to their defense).
- Ask female Egyptian friends for advice.
- Learn a few phrases in Arabic that can be used to ask others for help with unwanted attention.
Never submit to behaviors that feel unsafe or uncomfortable. If it feels inappropriate or makes you uneasy, get yourself out of the situation. Never sacrifice yourself or your sense of safety for the sake of cultural sensitivity.
If you feel harassed, seek counsel from the UCEAP Study Center. Harassment issues may be difficult to identify abroad, where cultural norms are different than in the U.S. A fair rule of thumb is to assume that sexual harassment consists of any unwanted sexual advances and behavior of a verbal, visual, written, or physical nature in living arrangements and in educational or work environments. Read more in the UCEAP Guide to Study Abroad
Internet Access Required
All students are required to have internet access, to check their e-mail regularly, and to respond in a timely manner to the Study Center Director and UCEAP officials, as important security information and alerts will be relayed through e-mail in addition to cell phone and text messaging.
There are restrictions on photographing military personnel and sites, bridges, and canals, including the Suez Canal. Egyptian authorities may broadly interpret these restrictions to include other potentially sensitive structures, such as embassies, other public buildings with international associations, and some religious edifices. Refrain from taking photographs of any uniformed personnel.
UCEAP Travel Warning Policy during the program
UCEAP students who are visiting Israel are prohibited from visiting the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, whether or not Israel has closed the border to one or both areas. Students who travel to these areas will be dismissed from the program.
UCEAP Contingency Plans
If a local situation requires increased caution or a program suspension and evacuation of participants, UCEAP will activate contingency plans. For security reasons, contingency plans are not public and cannot be shared with anyone except UCEAP faculty and staff.
UCEAP Program Suspension Policy
If the U.S. Department of State or CDC issue a Travel Warning after the start date of the program term, UCEAP may suspend the program. If time and local security conditions permit, UCEAP will consult with the UC Study Center Director, U.S. Embassy, U.S. Department of State regional and security analysts, other organizations that offer programs in the same country, and area experts to determine the appropriate timeframe for suspending the program and/or for the evacuation of the students from the host country.
In the Event of a Local Emergency
The Cairo Study Center Director and/or the UCEAP Systemwide Director will contact you immediately to ascertain your welfare and to provide information, instructions, and advice. Contact your parents, guardians, or emergency contacts to reassure them about your welfare. Depending on the emergency, the UCEAP Systemwide Office will post a message on the UCEAP website and provide updates to your emergency contacts.
U.S. embassy security warnings are posted at the AUC campus and dorms and are e-mailed to you by the UCEAP Study Center. Monitor U.S. Department of State
warnings and statements on travel in Egypt and surrounding areas regularly.
UCEAP Contingency Planning
All public areas and rooms are fitted with smoke detectors and alarms. Fire hoses and extinguishers are well placed and easily accessible. Fire exits are well marked and were clear at the time of inspection.
All buildings on campus are equipped with fire protection cabinets. These contain portable fire extinguishers, fire hydrants, and a fire hose reel 1 inch in diameter and 30 meters in length.
Fire exits are well marked and clear.
All buildings are equipped with automatic sprinkler systems.
There is an automatic alert system installed which connects to the local fire department.
Elevators are stopped automatically in the event of any fire and the AC system shuts down when alarms are activated.
A fire emergency response plan is on file and copies are kept by designated fire wardens who are responsible for ensuring their floors/areas are clear in the event of an evacuation and implemented any required response or alerting medical teams in the event of injury.
The campus has its own fire response team and maintains two fire fighting vehicles with full crew.
The fire safety posture of the campus is acceptable.
Other locations in Cairo
- Know how to call the fire department.
- Install a smoke alarm. If you cannot install one, place it on an elevated surface.
- Identify two escape exits and practice your escape.Fire spreads quickly.
The Egypt fire service is under-trained and poorly equipped. Response times to calls are slow partly due to understaffing but also due to Cairo‟s heavy traffic.
The UCEAP required security evacuation will override AUC’s voluntary departure of students on U.S. government-arranged flights that require U.S. citizens to sign a promissory note with the government. The security evacuation of UCEAP students, managed by UCEAP, is covered by UCEAP insurance (there is no cost to the student). UC students must follow UC safety directives.
When possible, UCEAP will assist students in completing their academic program while minimizing adverse financial consequences. If you refuse to participate in a mandated security evacuation, or any part of a security evacuation, no UCEAP insurance benefits will be payable under the UCEAP policy.
The University of California, in accordance with applicable
Federal and State law and University policy, does not
discriminate on the basis of race, national origin, religion,
sex, gender identity, pregnancy,* disability, age, medical
condition (cancer-related), ancestry, marital status,
citizenship, sexual orientation, or status as a Vietnam-era
veteran or special disabled veteran. The University also
prohibits sexual harassment. This nondiscrimination policy
covers admission, access, and treatment in University programs
and activities. Inquiries regarding the University’s
student-related nondiscrimination policies may be directed to
the campus Equal Employment Opportunity/Affirmative Action
* Pregnancy includes pregnancy, childbirth, and medical
conditions related to pregnancy or childbirth.