By Ilona Kauremszky

Q: Any interesting Arabic phrases for the newbie. I’m off to the Middle East starting in Egypt but don’t know where I’ll be off to next.

A: Egyptian Arabic is different from the other Arabic countries. For instance, you won’t be able to understand folks in Tunisia or Lebanon but there are some handy phrases that will be sure to cast a smile on your greeter or local. I found learning some basic phrases will open the door for you in more ways than one.

On a trip to Egypt this winter, I scribbled notes on phrases using phonetics and whenever I bumped into a charming Egyptian (which there were many), I pulled them aside and gently asked them for some quick translations.

You’ll find many Egyptians understand English and if they don’t you’ll find they often know the basics like “Where are you from?” On the promenade in Aswan, I took my friendly cab driver aside and said “beautiful country,” to which he replied “Ballad Gameela” and when I uttered “Beautiful people” his eyes lit up and he replied “Nez Gameela.”

Thank you is a cinch. It’s “shukran” and hello depends on the time of day. “Sabah al-khair” for good morning, “Massa al-khair” for good afternoon and for good evening. “Hello peace be with you” is “Assalaam Alykum” If you visit the Egyptian Tourism Authority online, you will find a fabulous audio dictionary you can download and bookmark. Visit for details.


dispatches | q&a | photos | fork | newsletter | archives | links | search | store | streaming | submissions | about | contact | home

All text & photos © 2002-07