How Safe Do I Feel Doing Language Immersion In Egypt Now?

Arabic Immersion Cairo

Leading up to my flight here I was getting the same reaction from almost everyone – is Egypt really safe for foreigners?

Are you sure it’s wise to go there?

I’m certainly no expert on Middle East politics but what I can do is tell you how I feel living here at the moment.

First of all I don’t really feel any different now in 2014 than I did the first time I arrived here back in 2002.

Let me say up front that Egypt is and always has been my favourite place to visit. The people here are some of the most hospitable and friendly that I’ve met anywhere in the world.

I feel at home here.

North Africa and the Middle East have always been unpredictable but as we’ve all seen in recent months and years there’s been a lot of turmoil in the region:

  • Tragic loss of civilian life in the latest Gaza/Israel conflict
  • Militias in Libya to Egypt’s West
  • Attacks on the Sinai peninsular
  • Syrian civil war
  • One of the most barbaric crimes in modern history currently being carried out by ISIS murderers against Assyrians and Yazidis in Iraq).

Egypt of course has gone through a roller coaster of political upheaval over the last couple of years and even though there seems to be a stable government now in power, the revolution is still fresh in peoples’ minds and I think it’s too early for anyone here to say what’s ahead.

As my Egyptian friends have been telling me there are still a lot of frustrated and angry people here after everything that’s happened and this is compounded by the fact that the economy is in a pretty bad way at the moment.

People are struggling financially.

As well as the economy, electricity cuts out every day here in Cairo (it’s really annoying!) and I’m told by a lot of people that this is at least partly because the Qatari government who supported the ousted Brotherhood cut fuel exports to Egypt in protest.

Again, I’m no expert on this but it’s what I keep being told here.

You can tell that there’s definitely more of a security presence on the streets here now (e.g. more concrete barriers to prevent car bombs around buildings, heavily armored soldiers guarding many places, the closure of Sadat metro station in Tahrir (it’s so annoying having to transfer at Shohadaa station instead on a hot train packed full of people! :() and so on).

But apart from these things life goes on as it always has and Egyptian kindness and hospitality are always the same.


I feel safer living in Cairo than I do living in Australia

Okay so I had two bad experiences here last week.

The first time was when two guys tried to take my wallet (it was kind of my own fault for being stupid enough to get into the situation) and the other was a group of young guys calling me ‘yahudi’ (Jew) and telling me to ‘itla3 min musr’ (get out of Egypt).

To have two shitty experiences in the span of a couple of days was disheartening to be honest. It made me question whether Egypt had gone downhill since the last time I was here.

But after thinking about it for a while I realised that I was actually just very unlucky.

These are very rare instances and I just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I’m absolutely certain that walking alone at night through big cities like Sydney, London, Paris (or probably just about any city in the US) is far more dangerous than walking through a city like Cairo.

There are more murders, bashings and robberies in those places than there are here without a doubt.

Sure, you get the occasional ‘nasab’ (نصاب) trying to get money out of you in a place like Cairo but as a foreigner you very rarely feel physically threatened by anyone.

I admit that for the first time I did have some doubts and concerns about coming to the region because of all the current news but shortly after arriving here I realized that those fears were mostly unwarranted.

I’m not saying we should disregard headlines entirely but it’s not wise to let the media scare you away from travel.

Bad shit happens everywhere.


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Arabic Immersion In Cairo – The Simplest Strategy To Improve Quickly

Learn Egyptian Arabic in Cairo

عاملين ايه يا جماعة؟ :)

G’day from sunny Cairo!

After a much needed, relaxing 3 months up near the Italian alps I’ve finally made it back to Egypt (after too long!) at the end of the Eid.

The last few weeks have been hectic for me as I’ve been dividing my time between improving my Russian (I had Russian friends visiting me for a month in Italy) and working on this new Arabic project that I’ve talked about so much lately.

The truth is I’m behind on it and had hoped to have it ready by now but it’s going to take a little bit longer than planned unfortunately!

In the few days I’ve been here in Cairo I’ve been fortunate enough to connect with more native speakers offering to help with it from here in Egypt as well as Iraq, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Morocco, Algeria, Saudi Arabia and even Sudan.

If you’re learning Arabic and want to stay updated on this then liking The Mezzofanti Guild’s Facebook page is the best way to do it since I post more frequently there (and on Twitter).

In the meantime, check out a few of my recommendations for learning Arabic here, herehere and here.


The importance of following your passions

I’ve spent quite a few years now vagabonding around the world learning different languages and blogging about them here.

It’s what I love to do.

But you know as much as I love the excitement of moving to new places to learn new languages all the time, I’m noticing more and more that it’s having a seriously detrimental impact on the language that I’m most passionate about – Arabic.

It’s great to be able to communicate in many languages but unfortunately the more languages you try to learn and maintain, the less you’re able to focus and specialize on the one or two that are really important.

For me, I’ve always had a special place in my heart for Arabic and the Arab world.

I had a pretty tough childhood and adolescence, and it was largely because of the welcoming arms of the Arabic-speaking community that I got a renewed sense of purpose and drive.

Deciding to learn Arabic had a profound impact on my life that words could never adequately describe.

I’m often reminded of this when I travel and cross paths with Arabic speakers. For example, being in Dubai while learning Russian and hearing Arabic spoken around me or running into Egyptians in Seoul when I was in Korea.

I hear it and I almost feel a sense of guilt for taking my attention away from it for so long.

The thing about passions is that they constantly tug on your heart – no matter where you are or what you’re doing, you always feel something inside you pulling you in another direction.

So here I am finally back in Cairo with two goals:

1) To drastically improve my Arabic.

As of Monday, I’ll be taking private lessons 5 days a week. 6 hours of those lessons will be in person with friends of mine who teach Arabic and the rest will be online via italki.

2) Get to work on finishing this new project for Arabic learners. I’m employing two part-time assistants at present to help speed it up and improve the quality of its content. As much as it’s going to take up most of my time, I’ll try my best to produce more frequent content for The Mezzofanti Guild as well (been a bit slack on that lately because of my holiday in Italy).

If you’re a learner of a spoken dialect of Arabic with a blog then I’d love to connect with you as well to see how we can help each other. Contact me here and let me know about your blog. :)


Functional, topic-based learning is the best and most measurable way to progress in a foreign language

Here’s my strategy for improving my Egyptian Arabic while I’m here (it’s always been my approach with all languages in fact).

It’s very simple.

Every couple of days or each week I focus on getting something done.

Something real and practical.

Something necessary for living here.

These could be things like getting my visa extended downtown, discussing short-term rental contracts with a landlord, organizing a trip to Sudan by boat (more on that later) or even something as simple as a haircut.

These are ordinary, practical things that I can use as measuring posts for improving my command of the language.

If you’ve ever been thinking to yourself, “I just don’t know if I’m improving” then the best way to determine this is by whether or not you’re able to talk about things you previously weren’t able to.

Or perhaps you can already speak about most of these topics (as in my case) but you need to improve the vocabulary and expressions you use to do so.

So if I set myself a day later in the week when I’m going to get something done, I then have the time leading up to that day to learn or improve enough for it.

It’s a clearly defined, short-term goal and there’s no confusion over whether or not it’s been reached.

I’ve always believed that people focus too much on abstract goal posts such as learning certain grammar points or a set amount of vocabulary but these things don’t necessarily mean you’ve achieved anything. What’s the point in memorizing 500 words if you can’t order a cup of coffee properly?

All of my lessons here in Cairo focus entirely on helping me get things done properly. Even if I can already do something, there’s always going to be room for improvement! :)


If you’re learning Arabic or would like to then make sure to follow this blog here and on Facebook.

For those of you learning Arabic I’d like to hear your suggestions for the kind of the content you would find most useful. If there’s anything in particular that you would find especially useful then please let us know here in the comments or on Facebook. Thanks! :)


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About The Mezzofanti Guild

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