Life in Egypt
Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), or “fusha”, to give a loose phonetic rendering of the Arabic word, is the language of the media, literature and some “educated” conversation. Most, if not all, Arab children learn MSA in school. It is derived from Classical Arabic that has its most standard example in the Qur’an. In order to follow political developments in the Arabic-speaking world it is necessary to have a command of MSA. It is arguably one of the most difficult languages in the world, considering its complex grammatical structures and rules, though it is also one of the most beautiful. The expressive capacity of the Arabic language allows its authors to wax lyrically. Spoken MSA is the official language of Arabic newspapers as well as news stations.
MSA is not, however, a spoken language outside of the realms discussed above. Different variants of Arabic dialects are used in each region, or country, of the Arabic-speaking world. These varieties can be so dissimilar as to be nearly incomprehensible from the speaker of one dialect to that of another. At Arabeya, we teach the Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (ECA), or Egyptian “Amiyyah” (again, loose). As a result of the popularity of Egyptian cinema and entertainment industry, past as well as present, ECA is the most widely understood dialect in the Arabic-speaking world. Its grammatical constructs are much less strict than MSA and overall it is much easier to learn. ECA is also, however, nearly a completely different language from MSA. Often words and expressions used in ECA are not the same as those used in MSA.
For those who intend to live in Egypt for any extended period of time, at an interest in ECA is encouraged - it is indispensible to a true understanding of Egyptian culture and society. It also makes life in Cairo significantly easier.
In Cairo, there are three main modes of transportation: Taxi, Metro, and Bus. There are two types of buses: Microbus and Autobus. Microbuses are smaller and more cramped, but also slightly cheaper (about 75 and 1LE respectively). The Metro is a very efficient and cheap way to travel in Cairo although it helps to be near metro stations as there are only two lines. .
Taxis are always an option in Cairo, as there is an abundance of them. Older taxis, the black ones, require that one bargain and reach an agreement with the driver before his or her trip. It helps to know the length and price of the trip, though if one doesn’t know he or she can always ask someone. White have meters in them that eliminate the necessity of bargaining
Taxis are nevertheless the most expensive of the modes of transportation, even though most students will find them to be quite cheap.
Average monthly expenses, excluding tuition and rent, are about USD 300 . This is for a relaxed budget, in between those with a real tight budget and those who choose to eat in expensive restaurants, etc, frequently. In Cairo there is an extreme spectrum of social class/income distribution. Those familiar with society in Cairo will already know this. It is therefore possible to spend money like one would in any major European city. But it is also possible to live very frugally. In almost every aspect of life here there are more and less
expensive options. One may live well on a small amount of money (USD 200, if he or she chooses.
Cairo is not an ultra-conservative city, though there are acceptable ways to dress that one can notice when he\she arrives. For men, pants are more acceptable than shorts, although shorts are not culturally forbidden. Woman should avoid bearing their shoulders or wearing skirt or dresses that expose their knees. This goes for the summer as well. Of course there are areas where one will notice that the dress is a bit more liberal. Students are encouraged simply to observe customs. When visiting mosques, or religious areas in general, the woman’s arms should be completely covered.
Most students coming to Egypt in order to study Arabic obtain tourist visas. Upon arrival, one-month tourist visas are dispensed at the airport. They cost around USD 15. For those intending to remain in Egypt longer than the initial one-month visa allows, visa extensions are quite easy and painless. The process takes about 2-3 hours and it is accomplished at the ‘Mogamma’ in Tahrir Square, directly across from our Downtown Branch. An extension costs about 15 LE, including photos, which may be obtained at the Mogamma. Student visas are unnecessary in Cairo as tourist visas are sufficiently uncomplicated. Students should be responsible about their own visas. Note: there have been cases of Visas taking longer than 2-3
hours to process, but this is usually not the case. Mostly, they stamp for 3 months and you should do the same if you intend to stay longer in Egypt before the end of the three months.
Safety is sometimes a concern for those who have never been to Cairo. Despite the teeming population of this metropolis, this city remains one of the safest. People in Cairo are usually kind and hospitable and provided students stay out of the poorer areas on the outskirts of the city at nighttime, there should be no problem concerning safety. The best way to know about safety issue is to contact one of our current students whoa re living here to give you and idea about the real life and safety issue.