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Egyptian Arabic: A Rough Guide Phrasebook
Lexus Ltd. 1998
by Mary Kay Radnich
Betikkallim arabee? Do you speak Arabic?
For me, one of the most pleasurable aspects of travel abroad is that of learning the language of the resident people. Whether one uses the vestiges of that high school French or German, or learns something new such as Arabic or Swahili, it is, nevertheless, fun to speak the vernacular.
When I was preparing for my trip to Egypt in 99, one of the things I looked for was a good phrasebook. Visiting the local bookseller, I realized that the selection of Arabic phrasebooks was slim to none. I then traveled to the one of the big book retailers, where I found a small but adequate selection of Arabic phrasebooks, tapes, etc. Wanting something compact yet thorough, I discovered Egyptian Arabic: A Rough Guide Phrasebook
Small and compact, truly pocket sized, this phrasebook contains not only the standard English/Arabic & Arabic/English word translations, but also transliterated Arabic (Arabic words in phonetic English) with English, so that those of us who dont yet read the beautiful Arabic script can still learn some words and pronunciations. It also enables you to look up what others say, by using the transliterated section.
There is an extensive section on grammar and the various word formations. One of the big differences between Arabic and English is that where English uses adjectives, adverbs, pronouns and a variety of other descriptive words, Arabic uses prefixes and suffixes to a root word to convey many of these ideas. There are pages of course on numbers, counting, telling time, months of the year, English/metric conversion tables, etc. Some of the most helpful sections are sample dialogues about topics that would be common for travelers. The dialogues are inserted into the English/ Arabic sections, among the words as you would be looking them up. Very helpful for making use of your newly found language in every day circumstances.
Also in the English/ Arabic section are blocks of information about many topics, following the key word. For example, after the word money is a brief but thorough explanation of money ( the LE or Egyptian Pound) and some pertinent information regarding its use.
The Arabic/ English section is divided according to topic, mostly covering signs and notices that the traveler would encounter. This is for the truly adventurous, who want to attempt to read the beautiful Arabic script.
In the year that I have had my phrasebook, I have found it to be very helpful, not only during my trip, but in continuing to learn Arabic and also to communicate with my Arabic speaking friends. reHla saAeeda! Have a good trip!
Knopf Guide EGYPT
1996 Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York
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by Mary Kay Radnich
There are many guidebooks to Egypt, and when I was planning my adventure there in 1999, I consulted with my tour operator about which one to bring with me. I was pointed to the Knopf Guide EGYPT and I was not disappointed! At a compact 9 inches x 4 inches x 1 inch, this text is a portable encyclopedia of Egypt.
Divided into 19 sections, the Knopf Guide Egypt covers almost any topic the traveler to Egypt can imagine, complete with full color illustrations. Interested in the fauna of the archeological sites? (p. 36). Language? (p. 72). Coptic monastic architecture? (p. 106) Falconry? (p. 138). Entire sections are devoted to the major geographic centers of Egypt, such as Alexandria, the Nile Delta, Cairo, the Deserts and Thebes (Luxor) to name but a few. There is even a section devoted to Egypt in the Museums of the World (p. 467).
Each section is as full as Tuts tomb with illustrations, maps and sidebar notes. There are many, many illustrations of the architecture, cut-away drawings of mosques and temples very little space is left blank in this compact journal.
Two of my very favorite sections are Egypt As Seen by Painters and Egypt As Seen by Writers. These sections give you a taste how Egypt has been perceived throughout history in the various mediums. One of my favorite quotes is from E.D. Clarke, writing in 1818 of the effects of the atmosphere of Cairo upon visiting Europeans: "Denon speaks of the pleasurable sensations
daily excited by the delicious temperature of
Cairo, causing Europeans, who arrive with
the intention of spending a few months in the
place, to remain during the rest of their lives,
without ever persuading themselves to leave it. "
E.D. Clarke, Travels in Various Countries of
Europe, Asia and Africa, vol VI,
pub. T. Cadell & W. Davies, 1818
The last section of the book is devoted to "Practical Information," that which every travelers needs to know so that the romantic dreams of an exotic vacation will be fulfilled. Again, this section is complete with all sorts of practical information, beginning with Egypt as represented in the movies, money, finding your way around, adventure trails, hotels, restaurants and lastly, useful addresses.
The best resource for Egypt, of course, is the Tour Egypt website. But this may be a little difficult to access, as you take your camel ride in front of the Great Pyramid, unless you happen to have wireless Internet in your pocket. However, with its plethora of illustrations and encyclopedic information, the Knopf Guide to Egypt is the next best thing.
Lonely Planet: Egypt
Lonely Planet Publications
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By Jimmy Dunn
Lonely Planet, known for their travel guides, produces one of the best travel guides to Egypt, as well as one of the most up to date. The guide is 544 pages, and retails for 19.95 in the US.
The guide has just about everything one might expect in a travel guide to Egypt, and is often more comprehensive then many other guides to Egypt. The main guide is well structured and organized, progressing through the country beginning with Cairo. It covers every popular tourist area, including the desert oasis, the Red Sea coast and Sinai. Most sections begin with a history, followed by sights to see, and ending with various lists, such as hotels, restaurants and entertainment facilities. Along with various maps of the entire country, there are also maps for almost all significant tourist cities, and in some cases such as Cairo, plat maps for various city segments. Major attractions, such as the Egyptian Antiquities Museum, are themselves covered in detail, often providing a virtual tour through the facility, and for monuments, temples and tombs, there are drawings, maps and pictures. In addition, special side bars and topical pages explore specific aspects of various regions. For example, in the sectional guide for the Siwa Oasis which is known for its jewelry, there is a topical page about Siwan Crafts.
In addition to the specific area guides, there is also a complete orientation to Egypt, travel tips and recommendations, a very good history section, an ecology and flora/fauna guide, information on art, language, religion, culture, economy, visas, health, money, shopping, entertainment and drinking, and even special topics. Special topics include women travelers, gay and lesbian travel, getting there, internet and book references and a very nice section pharaonic Egypt, with drawings and sketches with a great section on gods and goddesses.
In the appendixes, there is also a small orientation and phrase book on Arabic and a glossary of terms.
One of the best things about the Lonely Planet Guide is that it represents an entire system. Along with the main guide, Lonely Planet also offers a phrase book, a detailed Cairo guide, Maps of Egypt, and their web site which helps supplement the print guides.