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  1. #1
    just a vessel EJCC's Avatar
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    Default Traveling to Alexandria, Egypt

    (Not sure if this is the right subforum, but I'm not sure where else travel/culture stuff would go.)

    I'm spending 8 weeks in Alexandria, Egypt over the summer, studying intensive advanced-level Arabic, trying to figure out 'ammiyya (dialect), and generally studying a whole lot, and only going out and having fun when I have the time for it, and when the program hasn't scheduled something for me to do.

    We'll be traveling to the North Coast for one weekend, and to Cairo for another. Our classes will be from 8am to 2pm, our homework will probably take us 4-5 hours, but the rest of the day will be free for hanging out with each other, with our language partners, and generally having a good time.

    Keeping all of these (possibly unnecessary) details in mind... If you've been to Egypt (or anywhere nearby), or if you know any fun phrases in Egyptian Arabic for me to learn, or good songs to sing (besides "Inta Masry" by Nancy Ajram), or general tips/warnings for a wayward American (female) traveler to Alexandria, this is the place to post them! And surely someone else who would plan to go to Egypt might benefit from this thread too.

    So... Does anyone have any words of wisdom for me?

    !شكرا جزيلا
    EJCC: "The Big Questions in my life right now: 1) What am I willing to live with? 2) What do I have to live with? 3) What can I change for the better?"
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  2. #2
    Artisan Conquerer Halla74's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EJCC View Post
    So... Does anyone have any words of wisdom for me?
    (1) Be very courteous to the staff of the hotel you are staying at. Tip them well. They will offer you useful information to keep you alive if you tip them well. I'm not kidding.

    (2) "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." - There's alot of truth to this age old expression.

    (3) Don't go off anywhere by yourself. Stay with people from your group.

    (4) I'd give the same advice to you traveling to ANY CITY.

    (5) Use your common sense; be aware of scoietal norms, including who's in charge in your area, and what common crimes are in that region. Chances are if it's a big tourist spot, things like pick-pocketing and other forms of pilfery are not uncommon.

    Have fun, and good luck!!



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  3. #3
    Anew Leaf
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    I'm so jealous!!!

    Have a brilliant time!! Be SAFE!!

    Also share loads of photos... you need a new blog.

    If you don't, I shall cry.

    P.S. listen to halla

  4. #4
    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    My friend lived in cairo for 5 years tizek hammurah and ahyz bieera are all I know. Good luck! (Don't say the first it means "your ass is red" [because someone was assfucking you])

    Oh yeah don't buy trinkets from street vendors

    Haggle! They will inflate the price on you

    If a woman is alone in a bar she is probably a prostitute so steer clear

    The culture is super conservative beware.

    Don't hook up with other ex-pats it causes lots of drama.
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

  5. #5
    Listening Oaky's Avatar
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    I have been living in Egypt for the past two-three years now EJCC. Granted, I'm not very fluent in Arabic but I know a little more than enough to get by. If you wish, we could have a meet-up in your free time. I'd be in Cairo but I'd not find much difficulty in reaching Alexandria to give it a look for a day. Locals in Egypt are often very curious as well as people-inclined so it's highly likely you'll get a large number of social interactions with repeating patterns of questions. Quite likely by the end of the 8 weeks you will have memorised a lot of your replies. It's a flexible country where the nodes of fun can be altered in what you wish, so it's always good to explore to see what things you would enjoy. I've heard good things about the Alexandria library so I'd imagine it may good spot to give a look.

  6. #6
    Sweet Ocean Cloud SD45T-2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EJCC View Post
    So... Does anyone have any words of wisdom for me?
    If you are taking small arms fire remember that most parts of a car are cover, not concealment. The only part of car that will provide reliable cover is the engine block. Other than that, stay frosty and don't pet a burning dog.
    1w2-6w5-3w2 so/sp

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  7. #7
    just a vessel EJCC's Avatar
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    Great advice, @Halla74, as per usual.

    And @Saturned, I'll be creating a blog, but it won't be on TypeC -- in fact, I don't plan on spending ANY time on TypeC during those eight weeks, because I want to avoid the English language as much as possible -- so I'll distribute the URL at some point before I leave.

    Quote Originally Posted by UniqueMixture View Post
    My friend lived in cairo for 5 years tizek hammurah and ahyz bieera are all I know. Good luck! (Don't say the first it means "your ass is red" [because someone was assfucking you])
    I'll keep that in mind! What does the second one mean?

    Oh yeah don't buy trinkets from street vendors
    So if I do want trinkets (say, for friends back home), where do I buy them?
    Haggle! They will inflate the price on you
    Yes indeed! I've heard that from other people who've been to Egypt. I've also heard -- and I'm not sure if this will work -- that the price they offer will be lower if I tell them I'm Canadian.
    The culture is super conservative beware.
    ! I'm wearing clothes that cover my elbows and knees (and cleavage) at all times, and I'm considering covering my head, too.
    Don't hook up with other ex-pats it causes lots of drama.
    Excellent advice!
    Thanks for this post
    Quote Originally Posted by SD45T-2 View Post
    If you are taking small arms fire remember that most parts of a car are cover, not concealment. The only part of car that will provide reliable cover is the engine block. Other than that, stay frosty and don't pet a burning dog.
    I'm going to Alexandria, not Mogadishu!
    Thanks, though.
    Quote Originally Posted by Oakysage View Post
    I have been living in Egypt for the past two-three years now EJCC. Granted, I'm not very fluent in Arabic but I know a little more than enough to get by. If you wish, we could have a meet-up in your free time. I'd be in Cairo but I'd not find much difficulty in reaching Alexandria to give it a look for a day.
    Wow! I had no idea. I guess I presumed you lived in Europe, this whole time. A meet-up could work. I'm probably going to be extremely busy -- and I'm not sure how hyper-scheduled my life will be as a result -- so I'm not sure. But I think it could happen?

    If it's not too personal -- what inspired you to move to Egypt, and what do you do there?
    Locals in Egypt are often very curious as well as people-inclined so it's highly likely you'll get a large number of social interactions with repeating patterns of questions. Quite likely by the end of the 8 weeks you will have memorised a lot of your replies. It's a flexible country where the nodes of fun can be altered in what you wish, so it's always good to explore to see what things you would enjoy. I've heard good things about the Alexandria library so I'd imagine it may good spot to give a look.
    Oh, absolutely! It's pretty close to the university where we'll be taking our classes, I think. Apparently past students in the program have had lunch at the Library cafeteria every day during their half-hour lunch break.

    I'll bet you're right about the replies. Has it been the same for you? Do you have any general social tips based on your time in Egypt?
    EJCC: "The Big Questions in my life right now: 1) What am I willing to live with? 2) What do I have to live with? 3) What can I change for the better?"
    Coriolis: "Is that the ESTJ Serenity Prayer?"



    ESTJ - LSE - ESTj (mbti/socionics)
    1w2/7w6/3w4 so/sx (enneagram)
    want to ask me something? go for it!

  8. #8
    Senior Member UniqueMixture's Avatar
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    @EJCC: the second one means "I want a beer" or "Bring me a beer." Something like that. As we all know it is important to know 4 phrases in any language:

    A. Hello, how are you?
    2. Bring me a beer.
    C. Thank you.
    4. You have beautiful eyes or if the beer was not brought in a timely manner the proper curseword/phrase

    You can buy trinkets on the street just don't be guilt tripped into doing it and do not go home with them to meet their families! . They'll just try to sell you more stuff haha.

    Oh, and stock up at the duty-free store in the airport. Basic "western" goods are like twice the price they are here because only the elites can afford them.

    As a woman you may have difficulty traveling alone. I don't know how it is for expats there, but if an Egyptian woman is seen talking to a stranger in public (for example a cafe) she is assumed to be a prostitute.

    Lastly, I hear cafes are a great place to hang out esp. if you like turkish coffee & hookah.
    For all that we have done, as a civilization, as individuals, the universe is not stable, and nor is any single thing within it. Stars consume themselves, the universe itself rushes apart, and we ourselves are composed of matter in constant flux. Colonies of cells in temporary alliance, replicating and decaying and housed within, an incandescent cloud of electrical impulses. This is reality, this is self knowledge, and the perception of it will, of course, make you dizzy.

  9. #9
    Away with the fairies Southern Kross's Avatar
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    WARNING LONG POST

    I travelled to Egypt a few years ago and learned a little arabi.

    Egypt is an amazing place to visit, but it can be a hard place to be travel in (especially as a western woman). Tips I would give:

    • Clothing.
      Take lots of light-coloured, comfortable, cotton clothes. I didn't go to Alexandria but even in north, I imagine you will cook in the summer - and unfortunately wearing skimpy clothing isn't appropriate. Wear tops that covers your chest, shoulders and upper arms and wear long skirts or pants. Make sure they're fairly loose, for modesty and so you don't expire in the heat. It is a moderate muslim nation so don't get too panicky or upset about dressing modestly - it's mainly a respectful cultural courtesy and it discourages disapproving (or creepy) looks. Find yourself a nice all purpose light scarf/shawl to drape around your neck. This can help make lower cut outfits a bit more modest, it absorbs the sweat and it comes in handy when you walk into a mosque (so you can just pop it over your hair). Wearing a hijab is not expected of you, although it is a good idea to cover your hair in a mosque - but even then, often people don't seem to mind.
    • Markets/tourist places
      Egyptians are lovely people, but to many you are merely a walking wallet. You will get BOMBARDED with people trying to entice you into their shop, to be your tour guide, to sell you a ride on their boat/camel/donkey/horse and cart/taxi etc. It isn't as bad in Cairo as it was in Sinai and in the South but you still get it everywhere. You have to steel yourself a little. People will try to exploit your politeness and lack of knowledge and will try to emotionally manipulate you. I found sometimes you simply had to avoid eye contact, ignore people or coldly wave them off with "Laa, Laa". This sounds (and feels) very rude but it's whole lot better than flying into a total rage and ripping them a new one, which, after a while, even this patient, understanding, mild-mannered, INFP did a few times.
    • Baksheesh and other payments
      I'm sure you've heard about this by now - Baksheesh is a mixture of tip and bribe. It isn't customary for people to help you for free in Egypt. So smiling people inside tourism spots are often about to offer to help you in some way for Baksheesh - if you don't want to pay, avoid them. When I was there, a small favour required 1 or 2 Egyptian pounds (20-40 cents US). Everything costs money in Egypt so sometimes you will have to pay twice for things. For example, at Giza you pay to get in but you also have to pay to go inside the Great Pyramid (which was grossly overpriced and I heard that it was not that worth it, so I didn't do it). Also at the Cairo Museum, it cost something like EP50 to get in but another EP100 to see the royal mummies (which were totally worth it). Also sometimes people lie and say you have to pay extra, when you don't. When I went to the Red Pyramid our tour guide told us not to pay the guy at the entrance, who claims you needed to in order to go inside (also so worth doing!).
    • Bargaining
      Make sure you learn how much things really cost and don't get taken for a ride. In Egypt there are 3 different prices ranges for a single product: Egyptian/locals price, smart tourist price, and dumb tourist price. You will probably never get the super cheap price locals pay but you will have to develop bargaining skills if you don't want to get the dumb tourist price. Bargaining is used almost everywhere except proper established shops in cities (like a convenience store), public transport or to get into tourist sites etc. Always make your starting offer far less than you are actually prepared to pay and progressively drive down the shopkeeper's price. Don't show too much interest in the product (they see this as weakness and will exploit it) and be prepared to walk out rather than get ripped off. Walking out is seen as hardcore bargaining and they will usually try to stop you leaving to secure a deal. Often during bargaining shopkeepers will go on about needing to feed their family and about how they won't make any money off selling it at that price etc - don't fall for this ploy, and remember, they won't ever agree to a price they aren't happy about, no matter how much they gripe about it.
    • Water and dehydration
      It's not as much of a problem in Alexandria, but further south (like Cairo, or worse, Luxor), in such a hot climate, you need to drink ridiculous amounts of water. If you are outside walking about, you will need about a litre (about a 1/4 of a gallon) per hour. You will sweat like nobody's business, so much so you can drink gallons of water and go without needing to pee all day. Don't drink the water out of the tap (including things like ice in your coke) because your delicate western stomach won't take it, but eating the food is fine (although it is better to avoid unpackaged raw food or fruit you haven't washed yourself). Read the nutritional labels on bottled water - some brands are full of chemicals and taste like pool water, so those are best to be avoided. Also take a whole bunch of hand sanitiser. Even touching Egyptian money is like sticking your hand inside a public toilet that hasn't been cleaned since last century - it's beyond filthy.
    • Sexual harrasment
      Unfortunately Egyptian men are a bit confused by Western women. They watch a lot of Hollywood movies where women all behave like total sluts and some then think this is reflective of western women in general. You may get the odd pervy comment or get touched inappropriately. Dressing modestly can discourage this but some are just creeps. I personally only had a few experiences of this (gross teenage boys) but I have heard many other women have them too. Apparently the best course of action is to say "shame!" in Arabic (unfortunately I can't recall the word itself now). This makes them feel guilty and they don't do it again.
    • Transport
      Travel first class on trains if they give you the choice - 2nd class is not worth the meagre saving. Cairo taxi drivers drive like TOTAL MANIACS and there is next to no traffic laws enforced. I remember my drivers weaving through oncoming traffic and careering around corners, down narrow lanes, dodging pedestrians by inches at 80km/hr. Sometimes I had to close my eyes and grip the armrest, because I believed it likely that myself or others would be killed imminently. You just have to have faith in their abilities - they know what they're doing. Also crossing the road in Cairo is like Russian roulette. The traffic is so heavy and fast-moving that it's borderline impossible to get across. Believe it or not, what you have to do is find a half gap and just step out and start walking across, letting the cars dodge you. As long as you walk they can gauge where you are and avoid you - don't run! The other option is get a local between you and the cars and walk when he/she does. Nonetheless, it's one of the most terrifying things I've ever done.
    • Rules and systems
      Prepare for lots of abritray rules; particularly about what you can take pictures of. It's frustrating as hell but there can be harsh fines. Also, nothing runs on time, follows a schedule or is remotely efficient - take this into account
    • Safety
      Egypt is a safe place. You are probably safer from mugging, pick pocketing or being attacked than you would be in say France or Italy. Some people will try to convince you to be paranoid but you don't need to be. I backpacked around the country by myself and walked around alone at night and felt safe as anything. You will get strange looks a lot because you really stand out - but there's nothing in it and you just need to get used to it.


    Sorry for the novel but it helps to be prepared for Egypt. I can suggest some more specific places to visit if you want - just let me know. Have lots of fun though! It's a beautiful place! As'salaam aleykum wa ma'assalama!

    BTW, "kus emek" is the best Arabic swearword
    INFP 4w5 so/sp

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    they've gone through and through me, like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind.

    - Emily Bronte
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  10. #10
    figsfiggyfigs
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    Quote Originally Posted by UniqueMixture View Post
    tizek hammurah
    Tizek hammurah= donkey's ass(feminine)

    Tizek AHmarr= Red ass. (masculine)


    But then again, this could have a lot to do with dialect.

    edit: humrah is also a way to say red. but also feminine.



    @ EJCC, Good luck, and have a ton of fun. Make sure you try local foods. They usually have great noms everywhere. There is an episode of Anthony Bourdain where he goes to Egypt and covers the popular local foods in Egypt, so I suggest you check that out.

    I've never been to Egypt, but I've been to a few Arabic countries with similar temperatures and customs.

    Make sure you keep a really good eye on your things at all times.

    Be nice, but ALWAYS be at least slightly suspicious of people. A lot of people will try to to trick you out of or into thing. Especially the kids.

    Try not to get too physically close to guys. I don't know about Egypt, but Arabic countries have the odd ill-mannered pincher or two :/
    Don't wear anything too revealing.

    Try to talk as low as possible, or you'll have stalkers following you around and eavesdropping to your conversations, or constantly making remarks at you in English.

    When shopping, make sure you practice your Arabic; try to refrain from using English as this will likely make the prices go up double fold. This is the curse of the foreign shopper.

    Do not smile at men, or they will likely misinterpret that as sexual interest.

    Take some anti-nausea and peptobismol medication.

    ALWAYS carry water with you and wear a summer hat to keep the sun off your head.

    Take very light summer clothing because it will be very hot, and you wont be able to dress too revealingly. That means don't bring jeans, nor skirts. Linen or cargo pants will help.

    SUNSCREEN!!

    A hand held fan when you're stuck in a taxi cab or a place without air conditioning.

    Strong but light sandals, because the street markets can be very chaotic and you can easily trip and snap your sandals.

    Always stay with a friend. Never wonder off on your own.

    It is important to be respectful, especially the older people. Salamalakum, and maslama are useful greetings.


    Edit: Souther Kross had a great post, I'd listen to her!

    Quote Originally Posted by Southern Kross View Post
    BTW, "kus emek" is the best Arabic swearword
    lol! BAD!

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