My first two Months in Egypt: the Triumph and the Tragedies of renting an apartment Part 1


As I alluded in a previous post, I did not have internet access in my home during the first two months.  There are a lot of reasons for that, some of which I will explain later.

but first of all Alhamdullilah!  I have internet in my house!

Ok so let’s get to why I did not have any for the first bit.  The reason is the landlord mindset here.

Like any other place, real estate is an investment.  But unlike any other place I have lived in the States, the tenant is responsible for anything and everything that breaks.  Oh yes, and did I mention that the landlord makes little to no effort to keep up his (or in my case her) property?

The day we signed the lease there were a few minor problems.  The landlord wanted a 2 month deposit in addition to first month’s rent and swore on the Prophet Mohammed that this was what she was promised (it absolutely was not).  There was a lot of arguing back and forth, but I took it as a great opportunity to dive in and get my Egyptian dialect training on.

Then, the carpenter who was supposed to come that day to affix wooden doors to the chest of drawers in one of the rooms, and on a table in the living room, never showed up. (He showed up the next week demanding 50 Egyptian pounds for just bringing the doors to our apartment,  but not actually fixing them).

The other issues were not big ones, just a lot of little recurring ones that were really getting to me.  Such as:

The tv  (satellite/cable) was in one of the bedrooms not the living room and had to be rewired

the tv later on went dead, the problem turned out be the that the satellite dish box was broken (the landlord swore it was brand new— I think I was just super amazed that it wasn’t the television that was the problem… the tv looks like it might be older than me!.)

the intercom to call the doorman and buzz people into the building when the gate is closed doesn’t work.
There is only one fan in the house instead of three (Egypt can get hot)
the washing machine worked only once, broke, then we called someone to fix it, it still didn’t work
there are lots of roaches in the kitchen
the faucets were running uncontrollably (the handles on the sinks in the kitchen and bathroom did not work correctly)
the fridge stopped working one day

the electric fixtures were melted and in one place in the living room had receded into the wall and was therefor unusable

So my room mates and I were in quite a quandary.  Talking to the landlord did not help as all she cared about is getting their rent.  For about 3 weeks we were in a “should we or should we not move?”conversation with ourselves and with each other.

This also meant no internet in the apartment because we didn’t want to sign a contract and then lose even more money when we moved and could not move with that contract.

At the end of the first month a bit of a protest was staged…We just didn’t send the rent, and refused to do so until things were fixed (i.e. until we dedducted from the rent the things that we paid for).   Money Talks!

We got a mixture of promises and acceptance of responsibility for leaving the apartment in shabby shape.  But we were kind of sort of sure that we would stay.

And then we discovered that our landlord did not pay her phone bill… Since the phone company and the internet provider are one and the same, we had to wait for her to pay them…

This, of course meant more drama.

Now, Alhamdulilah!  I have internet.

Of course things are not squared yet, I do not look forward to doing this dance of “you can not treat me this way, just because I rent your apartment”  every month. But now that I am more sure of myself and my surroundings and my responsibilities as a tenant and hers as a landlord, I hope I will be able to “do the right thing.”

Meanwhile, I still think about two things:

1. I am really not alone, some of my classmates have landlords who run away from them, and they have worse problems than I do.

2. We live in pretty upper class (upper middle class) neighborhoods.  It’s by no means the ghetto. I am not being a princess, the things that we have/needed fixed are all things that the average middle/upper class Egyptian household has.

I guess that is what makes these apartment experiences so strange… Are we getting played by our landlords because we are foreign?  Is this the normal experience? my instincts tell me yes.  More on apartment decour in a future post.


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