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Do They Speak English in Egypt?

Do They Speak English in Egypt

Egypt, the land of the pharaohs, has a rich history that spans thousands of years. But when it comes to communication in modern times, is English widely spoken? Here’s what you need to know.

Key Takeaways

Primary Language in EgyptArabic
English ProficiencyCommon, especially in tourist areas & among the educated elite
Reasons for English ProficiencyTourism, business, and education
Communication in Tourist AreasEnglish is widely spoken and understood
Recommendation for TravelersBasic Arabic phrases can be helpful, but English is sufficient

Historical Overview

Egypt’s long history dates back to ancient civilizations. The official language throughout most of its history has been Arabic. The rise of the Islamic Empire saw Arabic spread far and wide, and Egypt was no exception. However, the influence of various colonial powers, including the British, over the years has left an indelible mark on the languages spoken in the country.

Arabic: The Heart of Egypt’s Language Landscape

Egyptian Arabic is the predominant form of Arabic spoken in Egypt. It’s a variant of the Arabic language and has many unique phrases, idioms, and expressions that might not be easily understood by speakers of Modern Standard Arabic (the form of Arabic taught in schools and used in formal communication across the Arab world).

Languages Spoken in Egypt:

  • Egyptian Arabic – Predominant and spoken by the majority.
  • Sahidic and Bohairic Coptic – Used by the Christian community in liturgical contexts.
  • Modern Standard Arabic – Used in official documents, media, and education.
  • Nubian, Bedouin, and Berber languages – Spoken by small communities in certain regions.

English in Egypt

The British Empire occupied Egypt from 1882 to 1952, and during this period, English was introduced as an important second language. While the British occupation ended, the influence of the English language persisted.

Factors Promoting English UsageDescription
TourismWith millions of tourists visiting annually, English became essential for commerce and interaction.
Business & EconomyInternational trade and business relations bolstered the use of English.
EducationMany elite schools and universities in Egypt offer courses in English, promoting proficiency among students.

English Proficiency: The Ground Reality

In major cities like Cairo and Alexandria, as well as in tourist areas such as Luxor and Sharm El Sheikh, English is widely spoken. The staff in hotels, restaurants, and attractions in these regions often have a good command of English. However, as you move to rural areas, the proficiency might decline.

Where to Expect English in Egypt:

  1. Tourist Attractions: The Pyramids, Luxor Temple, Valley of the Kings, and more.
  2. Hotels and Restaurants: Especially those catering to international tourists.
  3. Airports and Transportation: Major airports and transport hubs have English signage and announcements.
  4. Educational Institutions: Universities and elite schools often have courses in English.
  5. Business Districts: International business zones in cities like Cairo have a high degree of English proficiency.

Recommendations for Travelers

While English will serve you well in most situations in Egypt, especially in tourist-centric areas, it’s always beneficial to know a few basic phrases in the local language. This not only helps in communication but also enriches your travel experience.

Basic Arabic Phrases for Travelers:

  • Hello: السلام عليكم (As-salamu alaykum)
  • Thank you: شكرا (Shukran)
  • Yes: نعم (Na’am)
  • No: لا (La)
  • Please: من فضلك (Min fadlik)
  • Goodbye: وداعا (Wada’an)


Egypt is a mesmerizing blend of ancient history and modern vibrancy. While its heart beats in Arabic, the echoes of the English language are evident in its veins, especially in areas frequented by tourists and in the realms of business and education. As a traveler, rest assured that you can get by with English in Egypt, but a sprinkle of Arabic phrases will definitely add some magic to your journey!