Travelling to an Arabic-speaking country – especially Egypt – is a great way to put your new Arabic language skills to the test.
So, you book yourself a trip and set your itinerary to include a visit to some of the most popular attractions throughout Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and more. Despite your best efforts, though, it turns out to be more difficult than you thought to find people ready to sit down and have a chat.
That could be because in these areas with high tourist potential, you’re going to run into as many tourists as you do locals. You may be in a tour group with someone who takes care of all the speaking for you. And you might just be too busy going from place to place to get a chance to really sit down and interact with some new people.
There are, however, some great places you can visit all over the country that may offer more opportunities for some simple conversations and more chances to immerse yourself in the language. Consider a few of the following:
Khan el-Khalili is a famous bazaar down in a historic area of Cairo. While this is definitely an attraction for a lot of tourists, there are plenty of locals who frequent the shops here. Whether you’re looking for traditional crafts, unique clothes, ceramics, jewelry, or almost anything else, you can find it here. More importantly, you can speak to the people who are selling these items in their own language and learn what it’s like to maintain a shop in such a busy and popular place.
A museum is one of the best places to strike up a conversation in Arabic. The people who visit these famous places are usually more than happy to discuss the objects on display and share what they personally know about it.
There are many choices throughout the country, with the Alexandria National Museum and Cairo’s Egyptian Museum (the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities) being some of the most popular.
Just like anywhere else, you don’t want to bother anyone as they explore the displays, but you may be surprised how quickly these other visitors will join in on a conversation if you ask the right questions.
Hurghada has gone through quite a few renovations over the years, and now the marine port in the city has become a popular place for both locals and visitors to just wander around, enjoying the fresh air, or exploring the many restaurants and shops.
Hurghada Marine Boulevard is filled with cafes, shops, restaurants, and bars. You can catch live music, shop at the souk, or catch one of the many seasonal events or festivals in the area.
In other words, there are plenty of chances to work on your Egyptian dialect around here.
Hurghada Old Town
But if you really want the authentic local experience, you can head into Old Town. This will take you away from the more tourist-centric area around the marina and introduce you to a traditional souk where you can find plenty of local foods, spices, crafts, traditional clothing, and more.
If you’re in Hurghada, though, you’ll also want to take a quick trip to the Giftun Islands. Here, you can meet other people who are enjoying a day out on the beautiful beaches, sunbathing, swimming, or diving. These beaches are becoming more famous all the time, but you can still find plenty of opportunities to talk to other water sports enthusiasts in this unique place.
Restaurants and Cafes
Some restaurants or cafes may be the perfect setting to meet new people. You can test your language skills in simple ways (like ordering your meals) or challenging yourself a little more by speaking with nearby people (if they look open to conversations). There are famous restaurants in Cairo like Taboula, a Lebanese restaurant that has a distinct Egyptian feel. If you’re headed down town in Cairo, Felfela is a must-try.
Of course, you can always just ask your guide to take you “where the locals eat” to experience some of the unique flavors of the area and maybe get some of the other patrons to recommend the best things on the menu.
There are beautiful mosques, churches, and other structures that are examples of amazing architecture and say a lot about the local culture. In other words, there is a lot more to see in Egypt than the pyramids and the Sphinx. These locations aren’t always the first stops on most tours, so you can find a lot more opportunities to try out your language with the locals.
Some great sites include:
- Museum of civilization
- St. Simeon Monastery
- Al-Hakim Mosque
- Cairo Opera House
- Mosque of al-Mu’ayyad (the Red Mosque)
- Church of St. Barbara
- Mosque of Amr ibn Al-As
- Al-Azhar Mosque
- Al-Azhar Park
- Abu Serga (Church of St. Sergius and Bacchus)
And this is just a hint of some of the amazing places you could visit in the country.
Tours Designed to Help You Practice Arabic
Most tours that take you to Egypt are focused on making sure you see all the well-known and famous sites in the country. That’s fair, and definitely something everyone should consider at some point.
However, if you’re really interested in learning Egyptian Arabic, you can take a tour that has a lot more practical value.
At Arab Academy, we offer an Arabic Immersion Program in Egypt that takes students on a 4- to 32-week adventure in Cairo, Egypt. You will receive instruction every day and, more importantly, have the opportunity to really immerse yourself in Middle Eastern culture. You will get to go on a variety of tours, but they will be led by your instructor who will facilitate more opportunities for you to put your language skills to use with the locals.