Since childhood, you’ve been told stories of ancient Egyptian pyramids, camels trekking across sandy deserts, and mummies buried deep within stone tombs. There’s something timeless about Egypt; its history is still sharply apparent when walking down a crowded street in Cairo today. Yet, among the minarets and past the tea shops, motorcycles zip by, locals chat loudly on cellphones, and gleaming modern buildings stand tall. Language programs in Egypt will teach you new ways to communicate, while also providing you with insight on modern life in the Middle East (spoiler: there’s much more than pyramids and camels!).
Egypt is 95 percent uninhabited desert, but the life that Egyptians pull from the remaining five percent is immense. Most of the country’s 90 million citizens live near the Nile River, which provides water and arable land as it winds its way across the country. No matter where you choose to attend language school in Egypt, this powerful waterway will never be too far away.
Most of the population lives in a small geographical area, so the locations of language programs in Egypt are limited. The majority of language schools in Egypt are located in and around Cairo, the country’s capital and largest city. While the city’s frenetic pace can seem intimidating at first, Cairo’s charms are found in its neighborhoods, each one showcasing a different aspect of Egyptian life. Wander the ruins of Old Cairo, explore the center of Coptic Christianity, or wind your way through the medieval streets of Islamic Cairo. After language courses in Cairo, finish the day with a stroll in leafy Maadi and a visit to an outdoor café with your classmates.
Just a few miles upriver from Cairo, the sprawling city of Giza lies along the banks of the Nile. While the city has a modern feel to it, adorned with skyscrapers and a subway system, it’s the city’s history that brings in visitors. Both the towering Giza Pyramids and the Great Sphinx are located in Giza, and can easily be visited in between study sessions and language courses. Once you’ve gotten your fix of ancient architecture, you can check out the continent’s oldest zoo or wander through the Orman Botanical Garden.
For a different vibe, head to the coast and discover Alexandria, Egypt’s second-largest city. Often called the “Pearl of the Mediterranean,” this city has a cosmopolitan feel and is filled with beaches, cool breezes, and Roman antiquities. You can learn about the city’s history at the Alexandria National Museum or explore the underworld by descending into the spooky Catacombs of Kom el Shoqafa, where you’ll find statues and burial chambers dating back to the 2nd century.
Language Programs in Egypt
Egypt is home to one of the oldest civilizations on the planet, and as traders from Asia, Europe, and Africa met in the Middle East, the ability to communicate became crucial. Even today, people still come to Egypt to learn new languages and trade ideas. Whether you choose to study Arabic in Egypt or perfect your English, you’ll be part of a long tradition of intercultural exchange.
If you study Arabic in Egypt, you’ll generally have two options: Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (ECA) or Modern Standard Arabic (MSA). ECA is the local Arabic dialect and is the most widely understood version of spoken Arabic today. MSA is the formal, written version of the language; it’s identical in every Arabic-speaking country, and is especially useful for academic and religious study. Most Arabic language schools in Egypt offer courses in one or the other, but if you’re motivated and ready to spend your days in the classroom, you can learn both.
English courses are also popular in Egypt, and language schools provide tailored lessons depending on your level. Whether you’re a business professional wanting to negotiate with international partners, or a student who wants to prepare for a degree abroad, English courses in Egypt are offered by a variety of schools, institutes, and universities.
Language schools in Egypt all tend to follow a similar format. Intensive classes take place two to four hours per day, Sunday through Thursday (in many muslim countries, the weekend falls on Friday and Saturday, due to Friday being a day of worship). New sessions usually start every couple of weeks, but you can stay for as long as you’d like, from two weeks to an entire year. Other language classes in Egypt are offered once or twice a week, and are convenient for those who are already working or studying in the country. In some cases, semester-long or summer programs are also offered by local universities.
Attending a language school in Egypt isn’t all about memorizing past participles. Most language programs in Egypt also offer excursions so students can take full advantage of their surroundings. Get up close and personal with the mysterious Great Sphinx of Giza, visit the world’s “largest open-air museum” in Luxor, or spend a lazy day floating down the Nile on a felucca (sailboat).
Costs & Affordability
Egypt is an affordable country, and deals can be found even in tourist destinations. How much you spend may depend on how well you’re able to negotiate prices, but after a couple weeks of frequenting the neighborhood souk, you’ll be haggling prices like a pro.
While luxurious accommodations and meals are available for those with means, taking language courses in Egypt doesn’t have to expensive. A casual meal at an Egyptian restaurant will cost you around $5, as will a movie ticket to a new release. A soda will only set you back about 40 cents, and sweetened mint tea is served up seemingly everywhere by friends, business contacts, and acquaintances.
Tuition to attend language schools in Egypt is often quite reasonable, but does vary; prices range from about $90 to $200 a week. Accommodation is not included in that price, but many schools also offer inexpensive lodging for an additional fee. Airfare, travel insurance, and meals are almost always separate expenses, so be sure to budget well to ensure there’s no shortage of persimmons or dolma in your shopping basket.
While language learners can live cheaply in Egypt, it will take some savings to cover living costs. In some cases, college students may be able to use financial aid, but many students in Egypt are self-funded. Luckily, it’s easy to save with a goal in mind, and remember: foregoing Starbucks now equals an aseer asab (sugar cane juice) in a Cairo café later!
Accommodation & Visas
Learning a new language can be a mental workout. What’s the difference between present perfect and imperative, again? After all that thinking, having a place to rest your head is a necessity. Fortunately, most language schools in Egypt offer assistance with housing, so you can rest easy upon arrival.
The most common types of lodging for language students are residence halls and shared apartments. Residence halls mostly have single, simple rooms and have shared bathrooms, kitchens, and social spaces. Furnished apartments are available for students who will be staying longer. Apartments usually house several students, and while you’ll have your own bedroom, all other amenities are shared. It’s common for all lodging to be separated by gender.
Most students attending language schools in Egypt will not need to obtain any special visa. Entering on a tourist visa is permitted; however, you may need to request an extension after arrival if you’re staying more than a month. For those participating in a semester or year-long language program at a university, a student visa is needed. This process can be confusing, but the school will assist with filing the necessary paperwork. You can also find out more at the GoAbroad Egyptian Embassy Directory.
Benefits & Challenges
Learning a new language in Egypt is an opportunity to study in a historic location, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Egypt’s cities are big, noisy, and chaotic, and it can be easy to feel lost in such an unfamiliar place. In a country where societal norms are much different from what you may be used to, it can take time and effort to adjust to a new lifestyle. Public displays of affection are frowned on, even between married adults, and alcohol consumption is uncommon. Women may need to pay attention to how they dress and avoid going out on the street alone after dark. Before you go, learn about social customs to avoid making any cultural mistakes.
While culture shock may hit hard, the locals are there to help ease the transition. Egyptians are great believers in hospitality, and you will likely be welcomed everywhere you go with a cup of tea and a smile. Once you become friends with an Egyptian, they will do everything possible to enrich your time in their country, including never letting you go home with an empty stomach. Making friends with locals is a great way to practice your language skills, learn about the local culture, and build a social network that will help you navigate the city safely.
Language programs in Egypt will not only improve your language skills, they will also teach you about how an ancient society continues to evolve in a changing world. Life in this complex country may not always be smooth sailing, but if you keep an open mind, you’ll be on the right path toward appreciating everything Egypt has to offer.