Sunday, August 17, 2008

House Hunting

Yesterday marked the beginning and the end of our apartment hunt. It was a long day!
We began by getting SIM cards for our cell phones in order to call a few real estate agents that had been recommended to us. We walked all the way to Maadi Grand Mall but every phone store there was closed for the day. That’s what we get for going on a Saturday, I suppose. We asked people in other stores where to find SIM cards and they’d always tell us the name of the phone store in the mall. We’d tell them it was closed and then ask where else we could find a SIM card. They’d say they didn’t know and then go to answer their own cell phone…
Somehow I have a feeling that they really did know where to get a SIM card since they all had one in their phone.
We headed off to Road 9 via taxi. When we got dropped off we stood there, somewhat stupidly, wondering where to go. We were debating whether we should head up the road or down the road (I’d use N, E, S, or W but I really don’t have my bearings yet) when I saw a bunch of blonde children. Upon further staring, I noticed that I knew them. It was Kevan with his four oldest children in tow. We asked him where to go and he pointed to the Vodaphone store that was right under our noses, just across the street.
Getting the SIM card there was a lot more official than when we got them in Jordan. We had to show them a copy of our passport, fill out some paperwork, and then buy both the card and some minutes. In Jordan they just hand you the card and tell you to have a nice day. Much easier, but much less official, as well.
We phoned Nahad soon after getting our phones and she said she had to work but would call us back later. Since we wanted to get started looking for apartments right away, we called another agent recommended by the university who said he could meet with us that afternoon.
We met him at the McDonald’s on Road 9 and he took us to several apartments.
The first apartment was really nice. Bigger than we had been thinking, but clean, and relatively cheap (considering the size). Rachel jumped right down and started exploring.
The next one was a little trashy, smaller, and more expensive. The third had a view to die for—it was on the seventh floor and you could see Saqqara and the Nile from the reception window—but it was being remodeled and, although our agent said it would be finished in “2 or 3 days” it looked like it would take several weeks to get it back to normal.
After looking at those three, he dropped us off back at the McCallisters, promising to pick us up to meet with the owner of the first apartment at 8 o’clock that evening.
Soon after we arrived “home,” the first agent called asking if we’d like to see a few apartments. We did, and she picked us up at 6. Most of the apartments she took us to were more expensive. One particular apartment was rather scary. It belonged to an old French man for 10 years. Apparently he didn’t want to leave Egypt, but his family came and took him home because he was too old to live alone. My personal opinion is that he died in the apartment and that’s why they came to take him home.
All of his personal belongings lie right where he left them. His cupboards were full of food and his fridge stocked with molding produce. The apartment smelled musty, and a little like cat pee. The worst, though, was the bathroom.
The agent took us back there and pulled aside the shower curtain to show us the tub…which was full of cockroaches! They were falling down from the curtain into the tub by the dozens. I must have looked disgusted.
“I know in America things are different,” she explained, “But this is normal for Egypt. You’ll have to get used to living with them.”
I don’t think so. A few of the other apartments we looked at had some visible cockroaches. All of them had ants—those don’t bother me as much, though (every time Andrew opens his laptop ants crawl out from under the keys. I wonder if that’s bad…). But none of them had cockroaches just swarming the place. I hardly noticed the tub for all the cockroaches.
There was no way I was living there. I told Andrew that. He agreed, oddly enough.
She took us to a few more apartments that were better than that first one, but not what we wanted. The last one she took us to, though, was oddly familiar. It was the first apartment the other agent had taken us to. We walked around it again, laughing about how two different agents had taken us to the same apartment. Since we had been considering this apartment all afternoon, it was nice to go back and look at it again. We made sure to double check a few things that we couldn’t remember from the last time—that it had a washing machine, and that it wasn’t completely covered in cockroaches.
Good on both fronts. But the price she quoted us for the apartment was higher than the first agent.
We thanked for showing us the apartments and she dropped us off at the McCallister’s again. Soon we were picked up by the first agent to look at a few more (trashy) apartments and to meet with the owner of the apartment we’d seen twice already that day.
Rachel smiled when she saw the bowab—they’d already become friends when we visited the first time—and he took us to meet the landlord. He was a pushy guy! He asked us point blank whether or not we wanted the apartment and got right into haggling for rent.
Andrew and I were not prepared for this. And we are an indecisive couple. We wanted to think about it overnight, but the landlord said no.
I think this is typical. It seems that this was how it happened in Jordan, as well, for a lot of people.
“Do you want it or not? Yes? Good. No? Bye.”
They just want to work fast, I guess. Andrew and I took a while to debate, while Rachel threw a few temper tantrums. She was ready for bed.
The landlord was chain-smoking and pacing the floors. Our agent kept talking up the apartment. The bowab kept opening windows and turning off and on all the appliances to prove that they worked. Andrew and I bit our lips and hummed and hawed. Rachel screamed and kicked her legs.
The landlord dropped his price.
We waited longer.
He dropped his price again, but only for the first year.
“We need to decide.” I whispered to Andrew.
“What do you think?” he asked.
“I think the kitchen is scary, but I could live here.”
“So could I,” he said to me, and then announced our decision to the rest of the crowd.
And that is how we found our apartment. Andrew’s over there right now signing the contract. Hopefully things will run smoothly!


  1. I can't wait to see pictures! I'm so glad you found a place. Even if the kitchen is scary :).

  2. Yay! lol I do miss that bit of Turkey. I also miss the time-scheduling thing. When I read what you were saying about the apartment that should be finished in 2-3 days, I remembered Ira parodying our fix-it man in Turkey, in the event that he had ever seen the Hale-Bop Comet (it came through when we were living there): "Oh. Is very nice. I fix tomorrow." Ira's other comment was, "Murat, if you is die tomorrow, you is live forever."