13 September 2016

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani - Expat in Egypt

Maryanne Stroud Gabbani - Expat in Egypt

We’ve had the chance to talk to Maryanne Stroud Gabbani, 67, a Canadian expat who has moved to Egypt with her family. Mrs. Gabbani who has been living there for 28 years, now works as a theoretically retired, chief cook and bottle washer at Al Sorat Farm.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: I was born in Southern California and moved to Canada in the 70’s in protest to the Vietnam War, but I fell in love with Canada and became a citizen in 1976. I met my Egyptian/Sudanese husband in Ontario when we were grad students at the University of Waterloo.      


Q: What made you move out of Canada?

A: My husband had been traveling between Toronto and Egypt for about seven years, and I got tired of shovelling the snow by myself.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I am living on a small farm near the pyramids of Abu Sir, south of Giza, which is my third general residence in Egypt since 1988. We first moved to Alexandria, then to Maadi in Cairo, and I moved out here about 12 years ago when my children were in the US studying and working.


Q: How long have you been living in Egypt?

A: I have been resident here since 1988 but from about 1977 to 88 we travelled here almost yearly.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: I was originally living with my husband and children here on a trial move of two years but after 18 months no one wanted to go back to Toronto. We were never really expats in some senses. We had a lot of expat friends, but we also had, even more, family and friends here in Egypt and family in Sudan, who were for a while expats in Egypt as well.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: Never missed my home and family, especially considering that most of my family was in the US while I was living in Canada. I’ve never had a problem of homesickness except when I visit the US. Then I really miss Egypt.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: After almost 30 years, I am one of the locals. We run a veterinary charity from my farm manned by “locals” who are vets, farriers, and harness makers who treat animals and teach farmers preventative medicine.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Egypt? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: When I first moved to Alexandria I looked for a group of women and found the American Women’s Association, a group of expat and Egyptian women living in Alexandria. They were a great source of information about my new home and a way of getting involved in the life there. Over my first five years in Alexandria, I ran the group’s newsletter, edited a guidebook to Alexandria with other women from the group, and I hosted the group’s library composed of books that people left behind when they moved. I also got to know other people through my children’s school and The Hash House Harriers. When I moved from Alexandria to Cairo, I had to do things all over again, but this time, I relied on friends from my kids’ school and people that I met riding since I’d brought two horses with me from Alexandria.


Q: How does the cost of living in Egypt compared to your home?

A: To be honest I have no idea what things cost in Canada or the US these days. I only go to the US for three weeks a year to visit my kids. In general, life is cheaper in Egypt than North America, and other than our amazing fresh fruits and vegetables, we have fewer products available that are processed foods.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Egypt?

A: I believe that you need to have a residence permit and a good sense of humour. Nothing in Egypt works the way it’s supposed to, and rules change all the time.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: Most employers take care of visas and work permits because dealing with the authorities is a nightmare. There are people who can help you but you will find them by word of mouth. Currently, the authorities are being very tough on visas and work permits and on taking hard currency out of the country.


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Egypt is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: If you get referrals to good doctors healthcare here can be very, very good. It is best to ask around where you are going to be living. Egypt is very Cairo-centric and most of the benefits, as well as the headaches, are there. Alexandria is much better than it was when I moved here.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in your home or Egypt? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: I get international coverage with a pretty high deductible since healthcare here is much cheaper than abroad. I just need something to cover a major emergency. I personally have no intention of leaving Egypt for treatment, but I’m unusual in that respect.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Egypt? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: Moving to Egypt in the late 80’s was nothing like moving here now. I don’t think that it is comparable.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Learning Arabic.


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Egypt?

A: Egypt either fits you or not. I like the weirdness, the lack of predictability, but these things also drive other people crazy.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: There are so many things to do in Egypt you’d have to live here for a century to try them all. We have beautiful deserts, amazing beaches, antiquities, good music, great food. Anything at all.               


Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: I have no plans at all to move anywhere.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Pack a sense of humour and be prepared for everything that you don’t expect.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Egypt?

A: I run a news service about Egypt and the Middle East on my Facebook page. There are lots of blogs out there, though.