We Four in Egypt

Now back in the US!

Desta Poppins

So our first housekeeper, who was set to start tomorrow, found a full-time position and won’t be working for us. We didn’t even realize she wanted full-time work; indeed, we thought working part-time for us would free her up for another job so she could make more. Ah well.

The good thing is that her friend and roommate, also from Ethiopia, was looking for a new position. So Hana (housekeeper number one) brought Desta (housekeeper number two) over. We liked her and could see right away that she’s good with kids, and we had a good recommendation for her.

So no messing around this time. We aren’t ready for full-time, but we offered her about six hours of work a day (full time here is 8am to 6pm, so she said). She’ll be here from noon to 6pm five days a week. We may hire her for more hours down the road, particularly if Mr. Four finds a job he likes. She’s also available (for extra pay) for evening babysitting on weekends, which is perfect. I don’t want to leave the kids with random strangers, but I do want to go out sometimes.

We asked Desta if she could cook, and she said, “Only Ethiopian food, but you can show me how to make other things.” Only Ethiopian food sounds perfect to us! And the hours sound great, too. She starts on Monday.

The process of hiring a housekeeper involves, first, a decision: whether to hire an Egyptian. Egyptian housekeepers have terrible reputations amongst expats. Indeed, even an Egyptian colleague told me that most are dishonest. They are also reputed to have a poor work ethic, napping away on the job and often not showing up. Egyptian housekeepers are also the cheapest.

The preferred housekeepers are Filipino, Sudanese, and Ethiopian (and perhaps some other nationalities I’ve forgotten). They are immigrants who prefer to be paid in dollars and are said to be harder, better workers who also receive higher pay.

At least one expat I know said she was very satisfied with her Egyptian housekeeper. So who knows. Our interest in an Ethiopian housekeeper is because of our kids, and we’re glad to pay a bit more for someone who can cook Ethiopian food and speak Amharic and who obviously likes kids.

Apparently many housekeepers prefer working for expats. As Egyptian housekeepers have a bad reputation, so too do Egyptian employers. Desta (so I was told by another expat who knows her) was working for an Egyptian family who wanted her there ’round the clock, but didn’t give her a room. So Desta slept on the floor in her employer’s room. And only had one day off each week.

So it seems like this new situation could work out for all us. (An Egyptian would now say Insha Allah, meaning, if Allah wills it.)


1 September 2007 - Posted by | ethiopia, nanny


  1. Greetings from Chicago,

    I’ll be moving to Maadi in November and will be hiring a housekeeper. I’m Filipino/American and prefer a Filipino housekeeper. This will make communication easy for me since I only speak English and Cebuano. What’s the process and are their placement services? What’s the average cost? Any advice you can give on this topic will be appreciated.


    Comment by andy | 12 October 2008

  2. Andy, you might want to check with your employer. Most folks I know have hired people through word-of-mouth, through a friend or colleague’s recommendation. If you find someone with a Filipino housekeeper, ask if that person has a friend to recommend. Or perhaps your company knows of someone who recently left Cairo who left behind a good employee.

    I think there are services, but I don’t know of anyone who has used one.

    I hope this helps–good luck with your move!

    Comment by Ms. Four | 12 October 2008

  3. I’m so happy to hear about Desta all that, i’m really looking for someone like her. We are family of 4 mambers (2 infants) and we are looking for some like Desta, could you please ask her if she can reommend someone for us. We live in New Cairo.

    [deleted phone number for privacy -ed]

    Comment by Ahmed | 20 January 2009

  4. Hi Ahmed… with apologies, I’m afraid I won’t refer you without knowing you. I have heard horror stories of terrible employers here in Egypt, and while your family might be wonderful, I don’t know that and thus I can’t suggest this to Desta.

    Comment by Ms. Four | 20 January 2009

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