Travels of Adam? Travels of a الومبت حيوان‎ (“al-Wmbt Ḩywān”). “al-Wmbt Ḩywān” Wednesday follows Mr. “al-Wmbt Ḩywān” on his travels around the world.

Learning Arabic, Al Azhar Park, Cairo

One of the exciting parts of traveling in a totally foreign place is hearing & seeing a new language. I’ve always been interested in linguistics, and though I’d love to be fluent in a foreign language I’ve yet to dedicate time or effort to that goal.

Arabic is a language unlike any other I’ve experienced to date. My ABC’s are useless here.

But that doesn’t mean I shy away from understanding a new alphabet or a new language. (Admittedly, I wasn’t the best at it, but I was going to pick up at least a few key phrases.)

Sunset at Al Azhar Park, Cairo

In Cairo one evening, my friends and I headed to Al Azhar Park (on a Twitter recommendation). Watching the sunset, we met some local Cairoenes who taught us a few choice Arabic letters and numbers. It was all together random & unexpected, and fun & interesting.

You can have any number of experiences while traveling. This is one of the most memorable ones. And now I’ve got a bunch of Arabic words & numbers scribbled into my notebook. Better than most souvenirs.

**Quick disclaimer: I’m not entirely sure that the Arabic in the title & intro are accurate. I’ve received multiple different translations and have just decided to go with Google’s translation for “wombat.”

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22 comments

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  1. Pingback: She's In Love With The World » Giving a Face to the Egyptian Protests

  2. Yep! How are your Arabic numbers coming along? :P

  3. lovewiththeworld

    Hey! That's me in that picture. :)

  4. Hahah… don't think too highly of me. I only learned a handful of words and the numbers. And even that was piss-poor. But something is better than nothing!

  5. Can't wait for you to get to Cairo, either, Guilia. Good luck!

  6. Thanks Corinne. You're right – even just learning a handful of words is better than nothing.

  7. Good luck with the Thai, Mark! I only learned just enough Arabic that I didn't feel completely lost all the time. Didn't even learn the alphabet – just numbers & some key words.

  8. Arabic, you sir are ambitious. I have English, French some Spanish and even less Vietnamese. Good luck!

  9. Hehe, can't wait to be there! I'll be fully recovered by the end of the month and Cairo is waiting… can't wait! Then I'll need your advice for Israel coz I definitely want to go there, as well as in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon:) I'm happy I “met” you!!!:)

  10. I agree that learning at least parts of a new language really adds to the adventure of being in a new and exciting country, like Egypt. One thing I do, to the vast annoyance of my travel partners is read as many signs as I can. This usually helps with pronunciation; I'm not so sure about vocab. Keep practicing. The locals will love you for it.

  11. I agree that languages are awesome to hear and sometimes study when you travel to a new place. I'm starting to learn Thai and about to begin learning the alphabet so I can read!

  12. Giulia,
    Thanks so much!!! Your Cairo suggestions and all this Arabic feedback is awesome. YOU ROCK. Can't wait to hear more about your experiences in Egypt.

  13. @Brendan – hah! Those are the basic words and I didn't pick up much more than that. It's nice that you still remember them, though. My memory is terrible but fingers crossed!

  14. Shukran Megan!
    You're definitely right that speaking Arabic in the Middle East gets you more respect.

  15. Earl, it's so true! Learning the language is something I hadn't really been doing before this trip. It's a great way to learn a bit more about the culture, too. Plus you can then talk to people even if it's just a single word. You're less likely to be silent if you speak something in the language.

  16. Oh thanks Jeremy! Arabic is so so difficult! The letters were too difficult for me to decipher since they're usually in a script. Numbers was enough for me.

  17. Exactly – wombat is just transliterated without a real translation.
    I looked for a translation but it seems like a word for wombat doesn't exist in Arabic and it's translated as “Australian marsupial named wombat” : حيوان الوميت الأسترالي
    So I think in the end الومبت is fine:)
    I've been studying Egyptian Arabic in Cairo, in a school named “ILI”, which I totally recommend! They are great and you meet tons of ppl from all over the world.
    When I go back to Egypt I'll be attending lessons at another school named Arabeya عربيـــه ‏
    Maybe I'll write an article comparing the two schools so that everyone can have an idea and choose the perfect one!

  18. ahahaha sharmuta:D
    swear words are always the first one we all learn!!!

  19. Great Article… I love learning new languages too. I actually learned a little bit of Arabic when I was in Egypt as well… unfortunately now all I remember other than please thank you and hello, is sharmuta… yikes

  20. I've really enjoyed trying to speak a little bit of Arabic here in the Middle East – I think it definitely gets you a warmer reception, and as I woman, I also feel like it garners me a little bit more respect.

    I'll never forget the gigantic smile that broke across an old pharmacist's face in Damascus when I spoke a sentence to him in Arabic. A little 'shukran' goes a long way here!

  21. Earl

    Making a small effort to learn the language is more than most travelers attempt. And the rewards for that small effort are infinite as it tends to remove many of the obstacles that allow for a deeper interaction with local people. My Arabic is non-existent but my upcoming adventure to the Middle East will hopefully change that!

  22. My basic understanding of arabic says that your wombat translation literally is the letters w-m-b-t in arabic (or wombat). Whether or not there is a different word for wombat, is a different story, however.

    I have found that using Arabic in conversation in Egypt, especially with touts, is the best way to get a deal and a good conversation other than “Yay American, I love Obama!” It is surprisingly easy to read and communicate in once you get the characters down. The rest is just learning all the words.. which I am horrible at, haha.

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