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.
While MSA is indispensable in the spheres of Middle Eastern politics, media, religion, and literature, it is not the spoken language.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”. As a result of the popularity of Egyptian cinema and entertainment industry (sometimes referred to as the “Hollywood of the Middle East”), ECA is the most widely understood dialect in the Arabic-speaking world. Its grammatical constructs are much less rigid than MSA and overall it is much easier to pick up and 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, investing in some ECA is encouraged - it is indispensable to a true understanding of Egyptian culture and society. It also makes life in Cairo significantly easier, and allows you to hold casual conversations with new people you meet.
In Cairo, there are four main modes of transportation: Bus, metro, taxi, and Uber. 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, but only if you find yourself near a metro station, as there are only two lines that run through the city.
Taxis are always an option in Cairo, and you can find a handful on any street corner, ready to take you to any destination you might require. To secure a ride on one of theolder, black taxis, you must first barterwith the driver to reach an agreement on pricebefore the trip starts.If you’re not yet comfortable with effectively bargaining in Arabic, you have the option of taking a white taxi, which have meters in them that eliminate the necessity of bargaining.
Uber has gained considerable popularity as well as a form of ride sharing, and allows you to track your ride, pay by card, and not have to manually give your driver directions. It is the most expensive of the options, though most students still find Uber to be quite affordable.
Check out our blog post on budgeting for a cost and convenience comparison of the different forms of transportation!