With plenty of programs to choose from, incredible sights to explore, and a rich history to indulge in, Egypt is one of the most exciting places to study Arabic abroad. Whether you have one week or one year to spend in Egypt, you'll find a program that fits your schedule.
Arabic is a beautiful language to write and to speak. Part of the fun is learning the careful calligraphy of the letters. For beginners, the language and the culture will seem entirely unfamiliar at first, but if you're open to trying new things and willing to practice outside the classroom, you'll find it's possible to catch on.
Practice what you've learned in Cairo's markets, bargaining with taxi drivers, and sharing meals with friends. Take time outside of class to meet people and get to know the culture that surrounds the Arabic language firsthand.
There are Arabic courses to fit all students. Whether you've moved to Egypt for work and need to learn Arabic fast, have a spring break to fill, or something in between, Cairo has a wide range of options. Take private classes from a tutor, take group classes at an Arabic language school part or full time, or enroll in a short-term intensive beginner's course for travelers who want to get the most out of a quick trip. Keep in mind that some programs will be separated into male and female classes.
If you want to take classes at a university, the options are somewhat reduced. Studying abroad at an Egyptian university with a third party provider means staying for at least one semester. However, not many providers offer study abroad programs to Egypt. So if you want to study at a university, you'll probably have better luck enrolling directly to one of Egypt's universities as an international student.
Why Learn Arabic Abroad?
It's certainly possible to take Arabic classes online from home, but you miss out on some of the best parts of learning a new language. Arabic is relatively complex to learn if English is your first language. The alphabet is different, the dialects vary based on region, and you read and write from right to left rather than left to right.
Studying such a language from home, by yourself, can be overwhelming. Having a teacher who's a native speaker, and opportunities to put your new knowledge to the test right away, will help solidify what you learn. Some programs have excursions built into the cost of the class for exactly this purpose.
Classes range from beginner to advanced. So whether you are starting from the alphabet or reading novels, you'll be able to find a comfortable fit. The only qualification you will need to check is age. Some programs don't allow students under the age of 18.
Popular Locations to Learn Arabic in Egypt
You'll find nearly all Arabic language schools are located in Cairo. Cairo is the capital of Egypt and one of the country's main destinations for U.S. visitors. Still a major city, although with a fraction of Cairo's population, Alexandria is also a good option for learning Arabic in Egypt.
The Nile River runs right through Cairo and Alexandria sits by the Mediterranean Sea, so both cities will have beautiful views of the water. If hot and dry weather bothers you, Alexandria might be more comfortable as Cairo can become quite warm in the summer.
Choosing an Arabic Learning Program in Egypt
Because there are only a couple of locations that have a range of Arabic language course offerings, you might only need to choose your program based on length and type of course. You can get better deals for longer courses and spend more time practicing what you learn while immersed in the culture. However, longer stays mean spending more on accommodation. Also, if you go for a shorter period of time, you can probably avoid renting an apartment by staying in an inexpensive hotel.
Most Arabic language schools are relatively inexpensive, so if you will learn better by taking a class one-on-one, then it might be worth it to spend a little extra on the private tutor. However, if your goal is to meet lots of people who you can hang out with outside of class, a group course is probably the better option.
Cultural Immersion in Egypt
You should be able to get by in the most popular tourist destinations of Egypt by speaking English, but Arabic is the primary language in less popular areas. As you learn Arabic, attempt to use new phrases, even in the tourist areas. Be prepared to be seen as a "rich American," which means locals might try to take advantage of you. Be wary, patient, and if needed, leave the encounter sooner rather than later even if it means losing money.
In stores, taxis, and markets, you'll likely experience Egyptian bargaining. This can be a fun and rewarding experience. Stay firm in your price and don't be afraid to walk away. Carry smaller bills (tens and twenties) to make paying for goods and services easier. Lastly, cars don't stop for people in Cairo, so be careful when walking around.
Average Arabic Language School Tuition in Egypt
The cost of studying Arabic in Egypt at a language school can be very inexpensive. It's possible to hire a private tutor for less than $2 per hour and group classes cost as little as $25 per month. However, in cases where the cost seems too good to be true, look out for hidden fees and fine print.
You can find some programs that offer a package deal with tuition and accommodation bundled together. The average cost varies and depends on the duration and level of intensity of the class. For example, two weeks with 50 hours of instruction, and no accommodation, would cost around $500. Four weeks with 120 hours of total class time, with accommodation included, will be closer to $1100.
Studying abroad in Egypt at a university is quite a bit more expensive, but the price will usually include flights, excursions, tuition, accommodations, and sometimes meals.
Scholarships for Learning Arabic in Egypt
There are many general scholarships available to students studying abroad. However, for those who decide to study Arabic abroad, there are Critical Language Scholarships that fund the full amount of the trip.
Cost of Living in Egypt
After you've chosen which school you want to attend you can start looking at where you will stay, and how much it will cost. Unless you're already familiar with the area or plan to stay with friends or family, it's best to get advice from employees at the school about where to live. It's possible that there will be a charge for assistance in finding an apartment, so read the fine print. Some schools will include the price of accommodation in their program cost, meaning this part of the process will be taken care of for you.
The cost of rent can vary based on the district of the city where you plan to live, how long you plan to stay, and what time of year you're there. For example, a short-term lease in the middle of summer would be most expensive. If you live in the 7th or 8th district of Cairo, expect to pay around $500 per month for a nice furnished, apartment. Utilities shouldn't be more than $20 per month. Even in the big cities, food is also quite cheap in comparison to most U.S. restaurants and grocery stores.
Visas & Other Relevant Information
U.S. citizens will need a tourist visa to enter Egypt, even if they'll only be there for a couple of weeks. Obtaining a visa is relatively easy. You can purchase a tourist visa for $15 when you arrive at the airport in Egypt. If you'll be studying longer than one month, you can purchase a visa extension in Cairo.
If you plan to travel outside of Egypt and then return to Egypt before coming home, make sure you have a multiple entry visa. Or, you can purchase a new tourist visa when you re-enter.
Be sure to have a general check-up with your doctor before you leave the U.S., just to prevent any avoidable visits to a doctor in Egypt. It's recommended that you're up-to-date on tetanus and polio shots. Bring insect repellant and over-the-counter stomach-settling medicine, or purchase some when you arrive.
123 is the Egyptian equivalent of 911, but it's recommended that you use taxis rather than ambulances in most cases. Private hospitals and public ones attached to universities will be able to provide the best care.