When Brandon and I first got posted to Egypt, we had a pretty good idea of the housing available. In Maadi, the suburb we live in (a suburb of Cairo in the way that Draper is a suburb of Salt Lake City), we had two general options: compound housing or local housing.
Compound housing is what it sounds like: an apartment complex, surrounded by one of those ubiquitous 12-foot cement walls. This complex, however, is a little different. All of the apartments are individual units laterally and as such have no walls touching anyone else’s apartment. We only share a floor and ceiling with those above and below us. And either the people above us are very quiet, or concrete floors dampen sound quite well.
This being Cairo, the only lawn to speak of is a ‘dog waste area,’ and the rest of the open space is brick courtyard with some palm trees. There is a small rubber-floored play area for the children.
To come inside the walls one must have the doors opened by a guard and to drive in one has to live in the compound and be subject to the usual sweeping and trunk-check. This set-up makes the housing very safe (sometimes I don’t even bother to lock the door), but has its disadvantages in accessibility. To get a cab one has to go outside the compound and wait, and the same goes for any friends that come to visit. For deliveries (I know, poor me; not only the restaurants but the grocery store and the dry cleaners deliver) I have to walk down to the guard shack with the girls if nobody else is home.
Our actual apartment is very nice, about 1400 square feet with Pergo floors throughout and 10 foot ceilings. Besides the bedrooms (one of which is set up as a study), we have a good-sized kitchen and a large living/sitting/dining room which also serves as the girls’ play room. To preserve privacy, the windows are only on one side of the apartment and overlook a small street with trees. This has the disadvantage of making the apartment very dark because all of the windows except one bank are sliding doors that open onto balconies. These balconies are very dirty, very shallow, only two feet wide, and block a lot of light, especially when the trees are in front of them.
One can’t complain, however, as it’s much larger than anything we could afford on our own and we didn’t have to furnish it either. There are certain advantages to picking up your whole life and moving it overseas for the next 20 years.