Arabic Study in Cairo
How to Select the Best School for You
After 9/11, thousands of students, professionals, and retirees have decided to enlighten themselves and risk worrying their friends and parents by taking a study trip to the Middle East. Several decent Arabic language
schools are located throughout the region, but there is no better place to start than Cairo—a city of nearly 20 million souls, where everything seems to happen. You either hate it or love it, although most seem to love it and don’t
It is the city of ultimate contrasts: women in full Islamic dress covering can be seen riding the metro next to trendy young women wearing a short skirt and T-shirt; donkey-driven carts still cruise the main streets
of downtown amid the deadlock of traffic jams; the rich inhabit enormous castles while some of the poorest live in shacks in cemeteries. From the European feeling of downtown Cairo to the narrow dirt alleys of the old city, Cairo offers
something for everyone.
Most of the private universities, institutes, and centers offer courses in Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) and Egyptian Colloquial Arabic (ECA) as well as a range of specialized courses, electives, and private tutorials.
Many offer intense summer courses and also provide extra support for incoming students to make life easier in such a chaotic city: service from the airport, booking a hotel for the first few nights, finding accommodations, organizing trips,
arranging private tutors, etc.
Prices vary: some schools offer scholarships and discounts as incentives for new students; smaller schools base their prices on the number of students enrolled. In the cheaper, Egyptian-run schools you will find an
incredibly diverse group of students, from countries as varied as Malaysia, Albania, Niger, The Netherlands, Uzbekistan, Brazil, Turkey, and China.
Choosing a School
When choosing a school, always ask the following questions:
1) How much do you want to pay?
2) What level of teaching do you require?
3) Do you want to focus on MSA or ECA?
4) Do you want a non-religious or an Islamic environment?
5) What kind of neighborhood do you want to live and study in?
The following Arabic language schools in Cairo have decent reputations and are well-established:
The American University in Cairo (AUC) (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.aucegypt.edu) is the best but the most expensive
option in Cairo. All teachers hold an MA in TAFL and use the latest methodologies and teaching strategies, and learning equipment. And because AUC is a world-class private university, it offers cultural and recreational activities not
available at other Arabic schools, including a large university library, a computer lab, weekly concerts and lectures, plus access to loads of services on campus and a great location downtown. .
Kalimat Language & Cultural Centre (email@example.com, www.kalimategypt.com), known to be the
best private institute, with reasonable prices and excellent teaching, is located in a pleasant suburb only a 10-minute ride to downtown.
The Arabic Language Institute, affiliated with the International House Worldwide Organization of Language Schools (firstname.lastname@example.org, www.arabicegypt.com),
one of the oldest Arabic schools in Cairo is located in a quiet suburb, a 15-minute taxi ride from downtown. Because it’s foreign run, it is well organized, but this is reflected in the prices: from $240 for a 32-hour course in
ECA to $675 for a 90-hour course combining MSA and ECA.
Al-Fajr Center (www.fajr.com), located in an isolated suburb, one hour from downtown by public transportation, is best for those learning Arabic for religious
reasons. The environment is conservative and most women wear headscarves. Only Classical Arabic is spoken—important for religious scholars, but not very useful for every-day communication. It’s one of the best deals in town.
Al-Diwan Centre (www.aldiwancentre.com), located in the same neighborhood as the Al-Fajr center, is another Arabic school with a conservative
Islamic environment. Students who have studied there give it good recommendations.
Ain Shams University (email@example.com, net.shams.edu.eg), one of the top public universities
in Egypt, offers a diploma in Arabic for non-native speakers. The school is said to provide excellent teaching, in an environment where students mingle with the Egyptian student population. Tuition is higher than the small Arabic schools,
but this is a great opportunity for those wanting a real Egyptian experience, including Egyptian bureaucracy. If you don’t succeed in emailing them and you really want to go there, it’s best to wait until you’re in