You'll be fine - everyone speaks English!
Well, in Luxor it really is true - of everyone who deals with travellers daily, anyway.
You really and truly can get by perfectly well speaking English in Luxor (although the official language in Egypt is Egyptian Arabic). Mohamed will help you if you get stuck!
But many travellers enjoy learning the basics of a new language. Many think it's only polite to have a stab at saying 'hello' (Salaam aleikum), 'yes' (Aiwa), 'no' (La'a), 'please' (min fadlak) and 'thank you' (shukran) to local people in their own language — and Egyptians really will appreciate your efforts! Those people who don't have much contact with the tourist trade - as well as a huge number of women - actually haven't had a chance to learn much English, so if you're the kind of person who likes to 'make contact' beyond the universal smile, a few polite words will help. So we've provided a few phrases to get you started! If you want to learn Egyptian Arabic more systematically, we can also recommend some great Egyptian Arabic learning resources available.
Some hieroglyphic symbols only make sense if you understand the culture - for instance, the word "god" ('netcher') looks like a flag on a flagpole, which makes sense if you know that Ancient Egyptian temples all had flagpoles. The hieroglyphic represents what was worshipped at a temple (ie. the god).
The little sparrow often found at the end of a word denotes 'littleness', 'weakness' or 'evil'.
The Egyptian Arabic Phrases for travellers (below) are written phoenetically - as they sound to an English speaker. We have not reproduced any of the Arabic script.
What's your name?
Ismak eih? (to a boy)
Ismek eih? (to a girl)
My name is . . . Ismi . . .
How much is this? Bikam di?
Do you speak English?
Enta bitikallim Inglizi? (said to a male)
Enti bitikallimi Inglizi? (said to a female)
I don't understand
Ana mish fahim (said by a male)
Ana mish fahma (said by a female)
Where is...? Fein...? (pr. 'fayn')
Bus stop Mawif el otobis
Bathroom El hammam
Police station El bolis
Road / street El sharia
Sharia al-Mahatta runs from the train station to Luxor Temple. Sharia al-Karnak runs from Luxor temple to Karnak Temple.
Town square El midan
Market El suq (pr. 'issook')
Enough! (Stop!) Bass!
Go away! (to nuisance children) Imshi!
(but in tourist areas the tourist police will usually prevent children from being a nuisancel!)
Son; My son Ibn; Ibny
Daughter; My daughter Bint; Binty
Children; My children Awlad; Awlaadi
Husband; My husband Gooz; Goozi
Wife; My wife Merrat; Merrati
Hello Salaam aleikum (pr. 'salam alaykoom')
(formal, "peace be with you")
And also with you Aleikum issalaam (pr. alaykoom isalam)
This is the way to reply when you are greeted with 'Salaam aleikum'
Hello (informal, as in 'welcome') Ahlan wa sahlan
Goodbye Salam / Masalama
Pardon/Excuse me Afwan / ahlan
You're welcome Al-affu / 'afuann
Please Min fadlak (to males)
Please Min fadlek (to females)
Please Min fadlokoum
Thank you Shukran
No La'a (pr. 'la')
No thank you La'a Shukran
No chance! Feel mish mish
(a much stronger way to say "no!" - lit. "when the apricots bloom")
My dear Habibi
Someone might say this to your child, so explain the meaning to your child in advance, to save them getting upset! The person is not calling them a baby - and it doesn't mean "hi baby".
Tonight Innaharda billil
Afternoon/ Evening Ba'd id-duhr
Evening/ night Bil-leel
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