Greetings are an important part of relating in an Egyptian setting. Good etiquette dictates that adequate greetings are exchanged before the “business” of the conversation is addressed, so you will find that Egyptians will welcome you and ask you how you are several times in a conversation. This is considered polite, especially for a host. Hospitality is an important Arab value and so the repeated use of various greetings is just an Egyptian way of making sure you feel welcome. Check out this free lesson on hello in Arabic!
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Ahlan wa Sahlan literally means “welcome,” but is commonly used as a general greeting just like “hello” in English. This greeting can be shortened to just ahlan (hi) in informal settings. When greeting a number of people, you should say ahlan wa Sahlan bekum or ahlan bekum. Both greetings can be responded to by saying ahlan beek (to a male) or ahlan beeke (to a female).
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اهلا و سهلا
Ahlan wa Sahlan
اهلا و سهلا بيكم!
Ahlan wa Sahlan beekum
Hi to you (male)
Hi to you (female)
As all Arab countries are predominantly Muslim countries, you will very likely hear and be greeted with the universal Islamic greeting issalamu 3alekum! This literally means “peace be upon you” and the appropriate response would be wa 3alekum issalam which means “and peace be upon you.”
El salamo 3alikom
Peace be upon you
As was mentioned before, Egyptians have a number of different ways of asking essentially the same question. The most common greeting after saying "hello," is the Egyptian "how are you":
How are you? (female)
How are you? (male)
Other Arab countries also have different ways to ask “how are you”:
Ey il a7’bar?
What's the news?
What's your news?
How are you doing?
Are you happy?
How are you? (Jordanian/Palestinian greeting)
How is your situation? (traditional Arabic)
Greetings can also be given according to the time of day, as you heard in the audio lesson. Saba7 il 7’eer means good morning and can be used until midday. The appropriate response is Saba7 il noor, although you might also hear Saba7 il ful.
Misa’ il 7’eer means good afternoon, which applies to the rest of the day. The appropriate response is Misa il noor. Tesba7 ala 7’eer means good night, and is used when leaving someone’s house late at night or when going to bed. It is repeated in response.
Saba7 il 7’eer
Saba7 il noor
Good morning (response. Lit. morning of light)
Misa’ il 7’eer
Misa’ il noor
Good afternoon (response, lit. afternoon of light)
تصبح على خير.
Tesba7 3la 7’eer
All of these greetings can be generally answered with the following reply:
كويس/ كويسه، الحمد لله
Kuwayyis/a, il 7amdulillah
I'm good, thank God.
If you want more lessons on Arabic salutations then I recommend that you check out the following:
!مع السلامة (Ma3a essalama!) Goodbye!
Amira Zaki: Rocket Arabic
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