2.6 Culture: visiting and hospitality in Egyptian Arabic

In this section

  • You will read a dialogue in Egyptian Arabic and practice guest/host conversations.
  • You will learn about the culture of hospitality, offer and refusal in Egyptian Culture.

Address forms and hospitality in Arabic culture

Read and listen to the following dialogue after studying the new vocabulary.

English Arabic
please come in اتفضّل/اتفضّلي/اتفضّلوا
you must drink something لازم تِشرب / تِشربي حاجة
it does not work مايِنفعش
something cold حاجة ساقْعة
nothing at all ولا حاجة
or ولّا
ok/fine ماشي

two people having tea together

Culture notes

In Arabic culture, specially with older people in the family or close community, people are named as “father of…” and “mother of…” their elder sons or daughters أبو محمد – أم خالد. If the eldest child is a girl and they have a younger boy, they will still be called as “father of…” and “mother of…” that son. 

In Arabic culture, some kinship terms can be used as address forms for non-relatives like parents’ friends or acquaintances who are elder in age. The following expressions are from Egyptian Arabic address forms:

It is used for addressing uncle or for an elder male friend of the family.  عمّو/أنكِل
It is used for addressing maternal uncle/aunt or an elder friend of the family.  خالو/خالتو
It is used for addressing grandfather or an elder relative. جِدّو
It is used for addressing grandmother. تيتة

Visiting and hosting in Arabic culture

As you notice in the dialogue, there was a brief back and forth interchange between the host and guest regarding offering a drink. The guest politely refused a couple of times before accepting to drink tea. This can be termed as pseudo refusal which is done socially among people on a daily basis. It is not only confined to guest/host scenario but could occur in other situations that involve offers like giving a ride or taking leave. Pseudo refusal can be highly recommended with elders or people in higher position. It becomes less likely to happen between very close friends.

Activity (19): Choose the appropriate expression you can use in each of the following situations.

Watch the song تشرب إيه. What do you think is the deep meaning behind it?

Key Takeaways

  • Address forms differ according to social distance in Arabic culture.
  • Politeness is expected in conversation turns in the context of visiting and offering food and drink.


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Elementary Arabic II Copyright © 2021 by Ayman Mohamed and Sadam Issa is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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