Egypt is one of the most popular tourist destinations. It attracts millions of visitors every year with its beautiful beaches, hot weather, and rich culture and history.
Though many Egyptians, especially those involved in the tourism industry, speak some English, it’s always better to know a few basic phrases in the official language of the country you’re visiting. And what language is spoken in Egypt? Actually, there are a lot of them.
1. Standard Arabic
This is the official language of Egypt, the one that all the citizens of the country speak. It’s also the language that children learn at school, and that is used on television, radio, newspapers, and in official speeches.
2. Egyptian Arabic
While Standard Arabic is the language that’s understood and used by most of the Arab countries, Egyptian Arabic is Egypt’s own local dialect. Still, other countries, such as Isreal and Saudi Arabia, have Egyptian Arabic as their second language.
You’ll stumble upon Egyptian Arabic in newspapers, advertisements, novels, and everyday speech in Egypt. However, the differences between the Standard Arabic language and its Egyptian dialect aren’t many or obvious, so as a tourist, you’ll be fine just with Standard Arabic.
3. Sa’idi Arabic
Sa’idi Arabic, though spoken by almost a third of the country’s population, isn’t considered elite or prestigious. It’s mostly used by rural immigrants and it’s rather similar to Standard and Egyptian Arabic.
This isn’t a language that you’d often hear on the streets of Egypt. That is because it’s linked to traditional Islamic texts and is spoken primarily in the context of religion in the modern world.
5. Sudanese Arabic
Because of a neverending civil war in Sudan, many Sudanese people were forced to leave their homes. A lot of them found refuge in Egypt, where there are more Sudanese immigrants than in any other country in Africa. Due to these refugees, Sudanese Arabic is spoken by slightly less than 2% of the population of Egypt.
Domari is a language that’s spoken by Muslim Gypsies who live in Egypt. However, they constitute only 0.3% of the population, so this isn’t a language you really need when you visit the country.
This is a native language of the Nubian people who also live in Egypt, mostly along the Nile River. Interestingly enough, this language is considered threatened because of other common languages spreading more quickly than this one.
8. Bedawi Arabic
Bedawi Arabic is the least commonly spoken language in Egypt, with only 0.15% of the population knowing and speaking it. This is the language of Bedouin people: the Arabs who have historically lived in the north of Africa, in the Levant and Iraq.
Since Egypt has been a British colony, the majority of educated Egyptians speaks English. This language is also taught at schools. So, if you need to do something as simple as asking for directions in the middle of a touristic city, English will get you where you want.
French was taught at schools before English, so don’t be surprised when you hear the older generation of Egyptians speaking it. In addition, there are many French schools in Egypt, so if you know it, you can use your vacation as an opportunity to practice it.