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Lingo tips for Egypt travel: 5 words and phrases you should learn to say before your trip

May 7, 2012, 6 a.m.

Becoming fluent in a language before you visit a country isn't practical for most of us, but learning just a few key words and phrases can go a long way towards building goodwill among the citizens of your vacation destination. This is especially true in middle eastern countries like Egypt. If you'll be visiting the Pyramids in Gaza this summer or taking a leisurely cruise down the Nile, here are a few phrases you'll want to add to your vocabulary:

  1. Greetings. Assalaamu alaykum is the standard, formal Egyptian greeting. Salaam is a less formal greeting, and can be used both when meeting people and when saying goodbye (similar to Aloha in Hawaiian.) For a more formal goodbye, use ma'assalaamah.
  2. Please and thank you. Arabic is gender specific with many phrases. When saying please in Egypt, say min fadlek to men, min fadlik to women, and min fadloku to a group. How to say thank you depends on if you are a man or a woman. If you are a man, say mishakeer . Women should say mishakeera. A more formal thank you for both genders is shukran (literally, thank you very much.)
  3. Excuse me. This phrase is useful for a variety of occasions, from apologizing for bumping into someone (easy to do on crowded Cairo streets) to getting someone's attention. To say excuse me, say low samaht to a man, low samahti to a woman and low samahtu to a group. Asef is a casual, frequently-used apology.

Keep in mind that if you know a few Arabic words from another region, these may not help you much in Egypt. Arabic pronunciation, idiom and even grammar varies widely between countries and even between regions.

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