Language and Communication
Arabic is the official language of Egypt. Note that there are significant differences between the MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) – the official lingua franca of the Arab world, used in schools, administration and the media – and the colloquial language, ie the everyday spoken variety of a particular region. Of all the Arabic dialects, Egyptian Arabic (provided in this chapter) is probably the most familiar to all Arabic speakers throughout the Arabic, thanks to the popularity of Egyptian television and cinema.
Most Egyptians, particularly those who operate in tourism can speak some English. If for any reason they don’t, the tourist will be guided to some other person that speaks English. Egyptians are normally welcoming and accommodating. Egyptians know different methods of communication as well as skills, therefore is rarely and issue to communicate with them.
Most Egyptians get excited when tourist speaks some Arabic words to them. Such as; “Salam Alaikum for Hello, Bekam for how much or Shokran for Thanks.” This develops are friendly serene between the foreigners and the locals. It is advised to learn some Arabic or even better to travel with a local guide if you have plans of reaching areas, cities or neighborhoods that aren’t common to tourist. However, listed are some of the most popular useful words that might be necessary on your exploration of beautiful Egypt.
Egyptians have a whole array of nonverbal ways of getting a point across – if you know some of them, you’re less likely to get offended, run over or neglected in a restaurant. For example, ‘no’ is often expressed with a simple upward nod or a brusque ‘tsk’ sound. This can seem a bit rude if you’re not expecting it or are not familiar with it, but if you use it casually when dealing with touts on the street, they might just leave you alone.
Another signal often misinterpreted by foreigners is a loud hissing sound. No, that guy isn’t commenting on your looks – he’s trying to get your attention so you don’t get trampled by his donkey cart coming down the narrow lane. Interpret a hiss as ‘Watch out – coming through!’
The most essential gesture to learn is the one for asking for the bill at a restaurant. Make eye contact with the waiter, hold out your hand (with the palm up), then make a quick chopping motion across it with the side of your other hand, as if to say ‘Cut me off. Works like a charm.