Arabeya Blog

Food You Should Try in Egypt

  If you are one of those living for food, Egypt is a destination not to miss! Traditional cuisine of Omm el Donia has a big variety of dishes, including dishes you cannot find in another country, and mostly based on veggies and plants. Let’s discover altogether in this post what Egypt has to offer for you!

   This is a great destination for vegetarians and vegans because Egyptian daily diet includes lots of veggies and plants. Ta’meya and foul is the favorite of most of Egyptians, and especially for breakfast. Ta’miyya is made of crushed fava beans paste and fried and it is similar to falafel, but believe me tastes so much better! Foul is another cheap and delicious breakfast option for you and is also made of fava beans as Ta’miyya. Served as sandwiches in warm and thick pita bread aka Eish balady, there’s nothing better than passing through foul cars in the morning and enjoying a small and cheap feast. Another vegetarian-friendly dish is the well-known Koshary, an Egyptian dish made in the 19th century, mixing together rice, macaroni, lentils, chickpeas and crispy fried onions topped with a spiced tomato sauce and garlic vinegar. This delicious cheap dish will make you feel full for hours and hours! Of course Egypt has a lot more to offer for vegetarians from Bamya ( stew made with lamb, okra and tomatoes) to Mesaqa’ah ( eggplant based dish).

   Coastal cities of Egypt also offer a variety of seafood for seafood addicts! You can enjoy delicious grilled fish or Gambary (shrimps) served with Sayadiya rice (spiced rice with caramelized onions) either in the Mediterranean coast or by the Red Sea.

   If you are a meat lover and cannot imagine a life without it, Egypt is a great place for that, too. Egyptians like eating kebab or Kofta (Oriental meatballs) most commonly served with lots of rice on the side. Another more common meat dish is Shawarma- one of the most favorite street food of most of the Middle Easterners. Kebda Eskandarani remains as another alternative, a liver plate originally of Alexandria, served with its own spicy juice and pepper and commonly eaten with bread. Served mostly on festive occasions, Egyptian Fattah (mixture of rice, lamb meat and oven-baked Eish Balady) will be one of the unforgettable tastes for you in Egypt!

   If you have a sweet tooth, Egypt will be your paradise. Konafa is one of the most common and it consists of very thin noodles served with cream, honey or caster. Another delicious alternative to that is Omm Ali, always served in the weddings, Egyptian shortbread with milk, nuts, raisins and sometimes also with cream. Egyptians also love to eat their semolina cake, Basbousa, after lunch or dinner. Feteer meshaltet, Egyptian layered pastry, is also irresistible as a dessert or even as breakfast, if filled with some cream and hot honey. You could also have your Feteera salty, with cheese or with Basterma, air-dried cured beef.

 Egypt has so much to offer food-wise that it is not even possible to mention all in one post!

 Come visit Egypt this winter and enjoy all the food it could offer according to your preferences! And also don’t forget to pass by delicious fresh juice shops after your meal, see you!

 

Common Words in 'Ammeyyah, Meaning and Origin

What is the origin of words like “yalla bina”, “ma3lesh”, “aiwa” or “shwaiah”? Did you ever wonder how these words were created and adopted?

 Egyptian colloquial dialect, like every dialect of Arabic, has lots of words that vastly differ from the Standard. These words are often those that are most frequently used, especially in the context of ordinary conversation. Some of them are simply borrowed from other languages, but some others are the result of the combination of words in Standard Arabic. Usually this last group of new words dates back to centuries ago, which makes it difficult, or sometimes impossible, to actually locate their real origin.

 Yalla (يلا) is a good example of this. It is an expression denoting “come on” or “hurry up”. It is also used to make a suggestion, like in “Yalla nakol dlwa2ty?” -Let’s eat now?-, without expressing the urgency of the English sentence. You will hear it that often that you will not have any problem to identify its meaning and the manners it is used.

But what is the origin of this word? Yalla is actually a sort of contraction of Ya Allah (يا الله), which is a direct calling of God (Oh God!) and is also used nowadays. It is used to express affliction or displeasure and also to complain or request something from the divinity. How the meaning would get from that religious calling of God to a more secular "let's go" or "hurry up" remains still uncertain. Feel free to make your own guess.

 The origin of the word ma3lesh (معلش) is also found in Standard Arabic. In Egypt we use ma3lesh as “Never mind!” as well as, depending on the context, to express the sorrow while trying to make someone feel better. Ma3lesh is a contraction of the three words ما عليه شيء, literally translated as “not a thing on it”. According to Arabic sources, ما عليه شيء where used, even before the revelation of the Qur’an, as to express the lack of offence and blame in the acts of an unconscious or just demented person.

 

VISIT CAIRO IN Only 3 DAYS

Do you have only few days in Cairo and afraid not to see and do everything? No worries, read this article and get some tips on how to enjoy all the beauties that Cairo could offer, only in 3 days!

 Start the first day right with a trip to the pyramids of Giza! You can easily take a cab (check they have the meter) or an UBER to the area, without asking for a guide. The entrance ticket is currently 160 pounds for foreigners, but keep in mind that you should pay more to get inside the pyramid. And yes, we know that you want to take one of those pictures on the top of a camel, and for that you should be paying around 200 pounds per person, and of course do not forget to bargain! After visiting the pyramids, depending on your budget and your taste, you could either have breakfast or coffee in one of the hotels nearby with a pyramid view, or you can check out the food post on the blog and discover one of these yummy gems in any other local restaurant! After visiting the pyramids, to continue the day you could visit the Egyptian Museum in Tahrir. It is a great chance to get to know more about Ancient Egypt, and only for 120 pounds for foreigner adults and half the price if you are a student. Visiting hours are 9 am- 5 pm everyday and on Sunday and Thursdays you can also visit from 5:30 to 9pm! You also need to pay some extra cash in order to visit the mummy rooms. in order to end this very long day at its best, you could visit Al Azhar Park, but don’t forget to walk around the very iconic Tahrir Square and Talaat Harb street before heading there! Al Azhar Park is a nice spot to have a picnic or just to sit and order your food in a restaurant. The park sees the Citadel and has a very beautiful view of Cairo, especially during sunset.

 On your second day, you can visit the Citadel and Mohammed Ali Mosque that you have already seen the silhouette from Al Azhar Park the day before. Citadel has a great panoramic view of Cairo, and you can make legendary pictures there! After that, get ready to lose yourself in the streets of Khan el Khalili which is a magic place to shop for some souvenirs for your family and friends, to have some tea and also to discover some oriental spices and fruits. You can also see the famous Al Azhar University and Hussein Mosque, and you can end your visit by buying a nice galabiyya from one of the many shops which are in the neighborhood. If you are not tired yet, you could continue your journey to the Ibn Tulun Mosque and then visit the house of Gayer Anderson Pasha!

 On your third and last day, you should go visit the Coptic Cairo with the Hanging Church and the Coptic Museum. You would love the ancient Coptic wood work! Once you are done with your visit, just take a sunset felluca, local boat, from Garden City and enjoy the beauty of Cairo under the city lights. In addition to those places, check out the blog post about music venues and art scene in Cairo to see what to do more at night.

 Hope you enjoy your visit!

 

How hard is it to learn Arabic?

Despite of the fact that “difficulty” is normally something subjective, meaning that it will be as difficult as you think of it, there are some obvious difficulties which our experience with our students has shown us what they struggle the most with.

 The more important one is vocabulary. The amount of words is quite massive -between 90 million and 500 million words, compared to one million in English- and it will be your main trouble all along your path in Arabic. On the other side, words in Arabic are all derived from a root of three (or sometimes four) letters with an implied meaning. If you know what the root means, you can at least make an educated guess at the meaning and even use a correct word that you never read before.

 And this brings us to another point, grammar. Even native Arabic speakers find Arabic grammar difficult. It has so many grammatical rules that could change the whole sentence using only one letter, which doesn’t make it easy to cover it all. But, and it’s a big but, to a big extent, what level of grammar you need to learn is dependent on what you want to do with Arabic: if you want to know the language for, say, communication with local people, then the basic grammar lessons that you will receive in our ECA classes are enough; if you want it for a job that requires knowledge of Arabic, then the level of most MSA courses will be quite sufficient. Only if you are concerned with Islamic studies and Law language, you will need more advanced classes, all of them available at Arabeya.

 Another issue that many students are worried about when deciding to start learning Arabic, is the differences between MSA and ECA. We will write with more details in another entry since it’s a topic of big concern for our student, but for today’s purpose we need to say that most of the things that you will hear about this differences are way exaggerated. Some say that they are completely different languages, some say that they differ as much as Shakespearean and Modern English; the difference isn’t that great actually. They are purely derived from the different contexts these variations are used in. Since ECA is used in daily conversations, pronunciation is simplified, grammar rules are flexible, sentence structure and verb conjugations are reduced to essentials and only few words have changed completely.

 With all of this we intend that yes, Arabic may be more difficult to learn than some other languages, but it is not impossible by any mean, and it always depends on your willingness to learn it and to what extent. And which is more important in any case, isn’t beauty based on its complexity, on its uncountless manners to talk, modify and style it in different situations or with different purposes?

 

Being a Female Foreigner in Egypt

  Yes, as a female foreigner I have visited Egypt alone. And no, you should definitely not to be afraid of it . The first time when I told my parents and friends about my study plans in Egypt, they tried to convince me not to do so, especially as a solo female traveller. However I took what others considered as “risk” and I don’t regret it at all.

   The idea of travelling alone is scary to most, and it gets even worse when it’s about visiting a country that you don’t know that much about the culture. However, in order to widen your horizon and achieve your aims, you should always take the step and go forward to it. The world we live inside offers so many new things to discover that it would be sad to let our bias take over. I know, in media we hear so many bad stories about Egypt and the Middle East in general, however in reality, visiting Egypt is a true enriching experience, and there is really not that much to be afraid of. The main concern is mostly related to being alone in an unfamiliar context, however you can easily get over with it.

   I would like to share some small tips with you that could make your life in Egypt easier and help your process of getting used to the culture easier. So here we go:

 First, try to wear an appropriate dress. It is out of respect for the Egyptian culture not to be wearing clothes covering your shoulders and your knees, and don’t forget to have a scarf with you if visiting a mosque.

 Public transportation could be tricky as in any other country. Therefore you should take the women-only carriage in metro and try to sit next to women. Also try not to sit in the front seat of taxis or microbuses.

 In Egypt, some places such as local coffee houses are men-only affairs, keep that in mind.

 If you hear someone catcalling you, just ignore and avoid any further discussion. You are a foreigner and different to them, and as in any country people will try to get your attention.

 Those are obviously not the precautions you should be taking in Egypt, it is almost the same in any other country. Once you take those simple precautions, you can start enjoying all the beauties that Egypt can offer to you. Plus, Egyptians are one of the most welcoming people in the Middle East, and they will spoil you with their nice talk and great food. One last thing I could recommend you is to start to earn some Arabic, which will make your life here so much easier and will also help you to integrate into the real Egyptian culture. So check out our offers in Arabeya, join our family and start discovering Egypt.