Dhikrullah’s Guide to Egypt

All Praise is due to Allah [aza wajal] and may the peace and blessing of Allah [aza wajal] be upon his final messenger, Mohammed [salAllahu alayhi wa salam]

Asalaamuala a3la man itba3a al huda, peace be upon those who seek guidance.You’re probably here cos you’re either looking to go Egypt to study the deen of Allah, you came across this site randomly or you have nothing better to do. Many Muslims decide to travel to Egypt in order to pursue studying the deen and in particular learning the language of Islam ; Arabic. Everyone’s always got a bunch of questions etc. so we thought we would make it easier for the Muslimeen by compliling an guide to Egypt by brothers who have as they say..been there done that *smiles*

فَلَمَّا دَخَلُواْ عَلَى يُوسُفَ آوَى إِلَيْهِ أَبَوَيْهِ وَقَالَ ادْخُلُواْ مِصْرَ إِن شَاء اللّهُ آمِنِينَ

Then when they entered the presence of Joseph, he provided a home for his parents with himself, and said: “Enter Egypt (all) in safety if it please Allah.”

p.s please note this guide is not complete and is being worked on over the next week, so should be done by the end of the week inshaAllah but wanted to release it cos there was no dhikr reminder due to being busy making this thing. barakAllahu feekum

The Trials of Cairo Traffic

There are certain things that I’ll simply never get used to no matter how long I stay in Egypt: the inefficiency; the poor customer service; and, especially, the [anything that has to do with four wheels and a motor].

When I was in college, some of my Southern friends would occasionally comment on how crazy the drivers in New York City are (me included, I assumed). “Silly country boys with your ‘hospitality’ and dirt roads,” I would think to myself, “learn to drive in a real city!” It wasn’t long after moving to Egypt that my urban arrogance came back to bite me.

“Did he just do that?!?”

Driving in Egypt is not “safe.”  The modus operandi on the road, so far as I can tell, is to try and out-crazy the drivers on either side of you. It’s as if the whole nation learned how to drive from New York cabbies (I know what you’re thinking, and shame on you – stop perpetuating the stereotype, people).

As dangerous as the regular drivers are, there’s a special level of obscenity reserved for the taxis and dollar cabs (minibuses) here. Since each of these vehicles is seemingly equipped to run on only two speeds – fast and ridiculous – you can imagine the maneuvers that take place…oohhh the maneuvers.

It’s not uncommon to see my man in the far right lane cutting across three cars to make a left turn. Nor is it surprising when el hajj going the wrong way down a one-way street makes a u-turn to go the wrong way up the other side. 3aadi ya3ni.

Were that these indiscretions left only the drivers at risk.

Look both ways (and make tawba) before crossing the street

Walking in Egypt is not “safe.” The perils of Egyptian driving, unfortunately, touch pedestrians as well – often, literally. Between the tight roadways and virtually non-existent walkways (sidewalks are for sissy Americans), it’s best to, as my high school football coach advised, always keep your head on a swivel. You never know when a car, minibus, big bus, linebacker, or donkey is going to blindside you.

As much as possible, too, one should just pick a side of the street and stay on it. It’s either that or engage in a high stakes game of live action Frogger. Here, the notion of pedestrian “right of way” is replaced with “(get) right (the heck out) of (my) way (you #&@!%).”

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Living in Egypt – Apartments

Typical Apartment Prices

The following are typical rent prices that students in Cairo pay.  The prices vary based on the location, size, and quality of the apartment.

Prices are higher for short-term contracts, and are 1.5 to 2 times as much in the summer months.  The prices listed below are for a one year contract.

Nasr City

Most western students live in Nasr City due to its proximity to Arabic language institutes as well as the new Al-Azhar men’s campus and the women’s campus.  The rents in Nasr City tend to be higher than most other areas in Cairo due to the large amount of foreigners and the reputation of the area as being higher class.

The larger and more well-known Arabic institutes are in the 7th and 8th districts of Nasr City.

A nice, clean 2 bedroom furnished apartment with one or two ACs in the 7th or 8th district starts from around 2000 LE and goes up to 3000 LE for a very nice apartment.  A lower quality apartment can be had for 1500 LE or less.  A similar nice apartment in the 10th district can be rented for around 1500 LE or less.

Unfurnished apartments in the 7th or 8th district start from around 1200 LE for a basic 2 bedroom apartment to as high as 1700 LE or more for a nice apartment.  The difference in rent between a furnished and an unfurnished apartment is not very large in these areas,  and unfurnished apartments are difficult to find in these areas.

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Which Institute?

Many times, people ask “What is the best Institute in Cairo for learning Arabic?” and I always respond, “Well, it depends on you! What are you looking for?!”

Every institute and centre has something unique to offer. It may surpass others in a particular field for example,
- In finance (dead cheap!)
- In structure (excellent programs)
- In content covered (grammar specialisation or conversational?)
- In location (right in the centre of town! Or perhaps in your backyard..)
- Or simply in reputation (hey, everyone is talking about it so it must be good!)

If we look at how things were about 10-15 years ago, there was hardly a single centre in Cairo where students from abroad can attend and study Arabic well, then it all bloomed. In fact, Al-Fajr Institute which was established around about 1995 had only a handful of students, it now caters for 2000+ every year from 77 different countries. This is the same story for a lot of other places too and personally I believe it’s due to nothing more than the blessed revival happening around the world resulting in people flocking to the Deen of Allah and returning to studying and properly seeking knowledge (which begins with learning Arabic!)

Due to this, there are now about 7 or 8 institutes in Nasr City, Cairo alone with 3 or 4 them being big names (i.e. popular with students from the west). We have the likes of al-Fajr Center, al-Ibanah, al-Dewan Center and the newly established Cairo Institute to name a few.

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The Importance of Arabic

If Arabic is a sea, then the Qur’an is the most precious treasures, jewels, pearls and gems that can be found in the sea. But reaching these treasures requires a diver skilled in deep thought and contemplation. One of the prerequisites for a diver to reach this level of skill, is a knowledge and understanding of Arabic and its sciences.

In this regard, Ibn Taymiyyaah (rahimahu Allaah) commented,

“Before one can interpret and understand the Qur’an and the Hadith, he must know the denotations and connotations intended by the words of Allaah and His Messenger (sallaa Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam). How can their words be understood? Knowledge of the Arabic language in which we were addressed will help us to understand what Allaah and His Messenger (sallaa Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) intended through their words, as will understanding the semantics behind the words and phrases. Truly, most of the misguidances of the Innovators occured due to this reason – they began to misinterpret the words of Allaah and His Messenger (sallaa Allaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam) claiming that they meant one thing, when really they meant another.”

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Back home

bla bla bla

Before you leave..

The Messenger of Allah [salAllahu alyhi wa salam] said: Put your trust in Allah and then tie your camel [tirmidhi]

Before you begin your journey into the depths of Egypt in your pursuit of the arabic language, heres a short checklist of the things you might want to take with you:

  • Purify your intention fo the sake of Allah [first and foremost most important thing]
  • Have a set list of what you want to achieve i.e how much Quran you want to memorise and what level of arabic you hope to be at [even if you dont achieve it, at least you go with a mission rather than hey lemme just move my arms about and hope I become an aalim]
  • Mushaf [for the travelling and also when you're there, make sure you have on you are comfrtable with]
  • Fortress of the Muslim [eventually you will inshaAllah get to a point where you know enough arabic to just "say" the duas]
  • Staionary, books [they have that there but they all seem kinda gay with teddy bears and ting on the front cover]
  • a good pair of sandals, no one wears shoes. ok people do but it so isnt in fashion
  • a backpack [for those trips you will take to mountains and other such dangerous places such as the local zoo]
  • clothes, lots of it [not your best clothes though because whatever you wear is guaranteed to get dusty]
  • MP3 player [preferably iPod cos theyre the best. fact]
  • A laptop of some sort [theres plenty of internet cafes but it just isnt the same]
  • A load of patience [trust me you're gonna need it]

This is obviously not including the obvious such as leaving your family in good health and correcting their affairs [assuming you are not going with your family] oh yea and money, you’re gonna need some of that.

Egypt [Misr]

Well…Egypt eh. Known as the land of the Quran and also known to be the home of Musa [alayhi salam] and the firawn. Once you get here, first tihng you’ll probably notice is the dust. The flight is only a few hours from anywhere in the West and the actual airport is about 30 mins from the main Cairo city and most likely your apartment.

The most popular place for the westerners students to stay is the Masjid Bilal area and the most popular insititute to learn arabic is the Fajr centre which is only 20 mins or so from masjid Bilal. Most students go to learn the arabic language but be careful as the arabic you should be learning [fusha -Qurani Arabic] is not the same as the arabic spoken by the general Egyptian public [amayaan]

Soon as you land at the airport unless you know someone, most likely thing is you will be ambushed by a group of people all trying to get you into their taxi. Golden rule of taxi riding is, dont accept the first price as they will rip you off. In fact, not even just taxi riding a general rule in Egypt is dont accept the first price. They  enjoy haggling so make sure you enjoy it too.

Hopefully you will have sorted out a place to stay before you got there and not just expected to land there and hope for the best..because you would get anything but the best. Best thing for a freshy student of knowledge to do is live with other brothers. This will not only help you settle in as the brothers will accept you and aid you but this will also help you to improve and learn arabic. Take a few days to check out the area, take in the smell and settle in as you dont wanna jump straight into learning.

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Bayna Yadayk

If you go to the fajr centre or even do private, In Egypt most likely you will be learning from “al lugha al arabiyah bayna yadayk”..arabic between your hands. jazahumAllahu khayr to kalamullah.

Al-Arabiyatu Bayna Yadayk

This series is designed for the non-Arab speaking, senior level student. With a collection of audiotapes and MP3 CD it helps the student learn Arabic through listening and conversation along with reading and writing. The series stresses communication and also offers glimpses into the Arabic culture, both Islamic and national. Divided into 3 grades, it contains textbooks and workbooks combined in one book. The entire series can be taught intensively in 300 classes (averaging 45 minutes one class,) 100 classes for each grade. If the program is not intensive, it can be taught within a three-year period.

Yawmul Jumu3ah

The Jumuah salah in an arab country is nothing like the ones in the western country. Well ok obviously theyre the same in temrs of following the sunnah of the messenger of Allah [salAllahu alyhi wa salam] in the fiqh issues but the feeling just isnt the same.

Over in the west some khutbahs give you emaan rush and touch you but since majority of the time its done in english, it doesnt have the same affect even if you dont understand it all. In Egypt, obviously all the khutbahs are in arabic and this is the perfect time to test out your arabic that you learnt on a weekly basis. Even if you pick up a few words here and there. You can always just remember words and ask your teacher what such and such means during next lesson.

You’ll notice that in Egypt, before the jumuah salah, they play the Quran loud via the loudspeakers in the masjid. And they recite slowly abdul basit style, like in preperation for jumuah. Allahu a3lam if this is from the sunnah of the Messenger of Allah [salaAllahu alayhi wa salam] because I wouldnt see this happen in either Yemen or Arabia but one thing it does do is wake you up.

Usually there is one main masjid in the area which most people go to and near this masjid the roads are closed and it spills outside so you might be out in the sun, a little like makkah. The main thing you will notice is the khateeb gives the khutbah in fusha [quranic arabic, the arabic you are learning] which is different to the everyday amayan you will be hearing on the street. Why everyone doesnt just leanr fusha and speak it, Im not sure but oh well, not in an ideal world are we. Point is, make use of the jumuah khutbahs to practice your arabic aswell as obviously take the lessons from the khutbah and reminder..

Allah swt says in Surah Jumua, verse 9:

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا إِذَا نُودِي لِلصَّلَاةِ مِن يَوْمِ الْجُمُعَةِ فَاسْعَوْا إِلَى

ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ وَذَرُوا الْبَيْعَ ذَلِكُمْ خَيْرٌ لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ

O you who believe ! When the call is proclaimed for the Salat on the day of friday (Jumuah prayer), come to the remembrance of Allah  and Salah  and leave off business , that is better for you if you did but know!