Travel & Teach - Egypt
Egypt is a fantastic location if you want to see and experience the heritage from the ancient world, such as the Pyramids and temples that have made this country famous. Yet you’ll find that Egypt offers much more than tourism. From the quiet solitude of the desert, to the meandering splendour of the river Nile (the longest river in the world) to the operas, fine restaurants and exciting nightlife of the capital Cairo, Egypt is a wonderful experience waiting for you.
Having gained independence from the UK in 1922, Egypt acquired its own full sovereignty following World War II. It has a rapidly growing population (the largest in the Arab world), yet suffers from limited arable land, so over dependence on the Nile still causes stress to society. However the Government has attempted to reform the economy and has made large-scale investment in communications and the physical infrastructure. Although part of Africa, Egypt lies next to the troubled region of the Middle East (and shares a border with Israel). Because of this Egypt remains one of a number of countries where there remains a threat from international terrorism. There have been a few well-publicised attacks on western tourists in recent years, and British travellers would be wise to contact the Foreign Office for the latest advice on travelling here. Go to the Foreign Office website for the latest information: http://www.fco.gov.uk/ and follow the links for travel. Other nationalities should consult with their national Embassies or Governments for up-to-date advice.
Culturally Egypt is a fascinating country with generally warm and welcoming people. Cairo, although noisy and polluted, is a promising first stop for the new teacher, as demand for learning English is enormous. Teaching standards in the state sector vary so that school students attend extra private classes in many subjects, outside of regular school hours. However, expect much of the demand to come from the business sector.
British Council http://www.britishcouncil.org/
British Council in Egypt: http://www.britishcouncil.org/egypt.htm
Egyptian Embassy UK: http://egypt.embassyhomepage.com/
Egyptian Embassy USA: http://www.egyptembassy.us/
Egyptian National Tourist Office: http://www.egypttourism.org/
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Luxor is the number 1 or number 2 tourist spot in Egypt after Cairo’s Pyramids. Most people go for a week or maybe 2 weeks. There are some incredible tourist sights, including the Luxor Temple, Karnak Temple, Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, River Nile and much more.
The Egyptian men who work with tourists are incredibly friendly and more than helpful. However, it must be remembered that the average wage there is £30 a month, and the people are desperately poor and very frugal with their money. Thus, even the simplest transaction involves people ‘matter of factly’ taking a tip for themselves for their help, and sometimes asking for ‘baksheesh’ (a tip) as well. They assume Westerners are unbelievably rich. The air fare to Egypt is probably more than they could earn in a lifetime, so to them we are rich. They have no concept that we’ve saved up to go there! Purchasing anything involves haggling, and some people later find out things are a few pence cheaper, a few pounds cheaper, and occasionally a huge amount of money cheaper in reality. This can make any friendship strained, and all money transactions suspicious.
Published statistics reveal that 94% of people are Sunni Muslims, and religion is therefore very important to most/ all families. It is an integral part of life, not separate to it. The Koran has been interpreted as saying that women must wear clothes which cover all of the body and their head. Some women will wear gloves and a veil to cover their face. It actually says in the Koran that women must not flaunt their beauty. But Westerners are usually amazed at how the women put up with the heat in a huge amount of black clothing. Western women can wear what they like of course, but get stared at continually if they aren’t covered. Egyptian men can wear traditional Galibayas (a long dress) or Western clothes.
Egyptian women aren’t allowed out of their house unless with a relative or close family friend, so it is very rare for Westerners to opportunistically make friends with any Egyptian woman. Occasionally, if you’ve made friends with an Egyptian man you could be invited for a meal, but the women have to sit separately in a different room from visitors. A female visitor could go into the women’s room, but the women rarely speak English, so there’s a lot of body language, giggling and pointing. However, the food and the atmosphere are lovely. As a Western woman, I try not to judge these situations, and feel dismayed that women are kept in their house and segregated, but they all seem happy enough, and who am I to judge?
Egyptians speak Arabic, and those who work with tourists speak fluent English. The opportunity for work comes with teaching Egyptian men how to write English, and to help business men make their English more fluent/ perfect. If the average person is earning £30 a month, you can see how much money they’d have left for English lessons! So, you’d only ever be dealing with very rich (by their standards) business men. Because they are allowed 4 wives, some of these men may see Westerners teaching English really as an opportunity to make money rather than learn English, so female teachers need to question any Egyptian man’s motives. You’d also have to think about how you’d advertise your services, because few Egyptians read English. Maybe you could make friends with someone who could write a notice for you in Arabic in return for some free lessons?
Accommodation is very cheap, but usually rather dirty by Western standards (because of the sand and dust), so you’ll either need to rent somewhere that seems grotty and do it up, or find a cheap hotel. It depends if you’re going to work there for a profit, which is really highly unlikely, or trying to finance yourself, while you travel and experience the lovely country. Some Westerners have now bought restaurants or rent out flats, so you could try to find these people and get some tips/ help from them about locating yourself.
Some helpful Arabic words:
“Shokran” thank you
I am writing these comments as my interpretation of some years of visiting Luxor for a week or 2 every couple of months. The country is absolutely beautiful, romantic, steeped in history, beautiful food, and warm people. However, because of the money situation, friendships are always strained, so keep your wits about you!
Penny Walters, Dr.
Travel and Teach
Jobs at private language schools appear in the TES (Times Educational Supplement) on Fridays and the Guardian EFL pages on Tuesdays from spring onwards. But more and more are beginning to appear on the Internet. You’ll find that schools at the elite end of the market will often want significant qualifications (CELTA) + experience and it is only these schools that can usually afford to advertise in the UK. However, there is definitely more choice if you are able to travel to the country and seek work on arrival. The British Council has an office in Cairo and they can help direct you towards organisations of interest (see Useful Contacts). Otherwise, simple word of mouth and interaction with the locals is likely to yield results. Once you are installed, there should be ample opportunity for lucrative freelance teaching. You’ll find that almost everyone in Egypt wants to learn English!
Whilst business students require English year round, the school year starts in September and schools start recruiting as early as May. You may want to time your arrival with this in mind. Go armed with all certificates and dress to impress. We would recommend at the very least you take a Global English Level 1 TESOL or a Weekend TEFL before you go. The good news for the new EFL teacher is that experience is often not a prerequisite for being taken on. Prospects of finding EFL employment are good for confident, adventurous native speakers and armed with a degree and Global English Level 2 TESOL you should be even better placed.
A word of caution; even if you have obtained a position by informal means ensure you clarify all terms and conditions precisely and be cautious. There are some dubious organisations. You might find the guide to writing your CV on our site quite helpful here.
Pay and conditions do vary greatly. There are cowboy schools, but with care you should be able to negotiate yourself a fair deal. In Egypt, a little money by western standards does go a long way. The average hourly rate is around E£50-E£55 per hour, gross. You can expect to earn up to twice this amount for teaching freelance and business English. If you are offered a contract with an oil company then you will have the opportunity to earn much more. Deductions are low with a tax rate of around 7% and the cost of living is very cheap. In Cairo, your biggest expense is likely to be accommodation and standards vary greatly. If you are able to secure work from abroad, accommodation may be included as part of the contract. For more information on teaching English in Egypt we suggest you try Teaching English Abroad.