Ancient Cairo, the "Mother of the World"

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We’d like you to meet them by having them share their best insider tips about their respective locations so that you’ll be inspired. You may even benefit from the information if you plan to visit the destination.

Destination: Cairo, Egypt
Language: Arabic
Name: Sameh Ragab

Cairo Panorama
Image by Tim Kelley

Meet Arabic translator Sameh and get insider tips on the ancient city of Cairo.

A city of contrasts.

Cairo, also known as the “Mother of the World”, is the capital of Egypt. The city itself has more than 10 million inhabitants, which means you’ll be welcomed by a huge number of different impressions. Modern urban life meets ancient history in a charming chaos of people, noises, scents—and lots of dust!

Cairo street
Image by Darrell Arnone

I love the mix of contrasts and the fact that people greet you with a smile on their faces and genuine friendliness. We love to be helpful! On top of this Egyptians have a well-developed sense of humour and can enjoy the comical aspects of almost any situation. We like to laugh! I believe that all of this taken together will ensure that you feel very welcome when you visit the city.

What areas of Cairo do you recommend visiting?

Image by Andrew A. Shenouda

Old Cairo
An area full of historic buildings. If you visit this part of Cairo, I recommend that you visit the Ben Ezra Synagogue, The Coptic Church and Coptic Museum and finally the Babylon Fortress.

Cairo morning
Image by Andrew A. Shenouda

Islamic area of Cairo
A very wonderful, spiritual place, with a wealth of Islamic architecture and art surrounding you everywhere. Here you’ll find the Khan el Khalili bazaar district. Read more about this under the topic "Must do's".

Zamalek – if you’re looking for upscale
A more western area and island that is located in the Nile River between downtown Cairo and Giza. It’s well known for its upscale hotels, restaurants and pleasant gardens. It’s also the location of the Cairo Opera House and the El Sawy Culture Wheel – an outdoor concert area.

The "must see" things in the city

The Egyptian Museum of Antiquities:
A very famous museum that has the largest collection of ancient Egyptian artefacts.

The “Mosque and Madrasa of Sultan Hassan” and the “Al Azhar Mosque”.

Cairo mosque sultan Hasa
Image by Frank Schulenburg

Khalil Museum
A modern art museum in a beautiful old villa.

The Pyramids and the Great Sphinx in Giza
In Giza you can take an exciting tour of ancient Egyptian history by visiting the great pyramids, famous temples and museums. The Sound and Light Show at the Giza Pyramids is an especially beautiful experience.

Al Azhar Park
The park is an oasis in the city with a large lake, palm trees and fountains and a beautiful view of the Citadel as a bonus.

Must do's

Cairo night
Image by Dennis Jarvis

Dinner Cruise on the Nile:
Go on a relaxing lunch cruise with fine food, live music and spectacular views of Cairo! Dinner is a lovely way to see the lights of Cairo in the evening. You simply do not want to miss this experience.

Evening shopping at the Khan el Khalili Bazaar
Khan el Khalili is a souk in the Islamic district of Cairo. In this enormous, outdoor bazaar you’ll encounter a mix of cultural experiences as well as a shopping paradise. Here you can haggle over prices for everything, from belly dancer costumes, lamps or jewellery to antiques, spices and Egyptian cotton fabrics. For an even more memorable experience, visit the open-air Khan el Khalili market at night. Unforgettable!

Cairo market
Image by Anne Marie Angelo

Where to eat?

Egyptian food is delicious! I’d recommend you make sure to try "molokhya", "mahshi" and "shish kabab".

Studio Masr:
Very tasty, authentic classic cuisine with good quality ingredients.

Sabaya Restaurant:
A nice, comfortable establishment with friendly staff and delicious food.

Osmanly Restaurant:
Ottoman dishes that delight the senses and take Cairo diners on a new taste bud experience. The restaurant is located in the exclusive Kempinski Nile Hotel.

Birdcage Restaurant:
In this fancy and formal restaurant, you’ll find the best Thai food in Cairo.

Other tips

Egypt offers a great combination of wonderful locations and great weather.

At the Red Sea, you can enjoy some serious diving! Or try renting a glass bottom boat, which will give you underwater views of all the different types of sea creatures and fish in the area. There’s also a lot of angling and big game fishing in the Red Sea. I like to fish myself… check out me and my catch.

Sameh Ragab
Arabic translator Sameh on a fishing trip

I hope you will be able to use my tips some day in the future, as I’m sure you will enjoy a visit to Cairo!

What to be aware of in regards to cultural differences?

Greetings are based on both the class and religion of the person. If you greet a Muslim, you always say ‘Salamu Alaikum’. But if greeting a non-Muslim, ‘good morning’ or ‘good evening’ is fine.

It is best to follow the lead of the Egyptian you are meeting
Meaning: If, for example, you’re meeting a religious person, try to avoid wearing clothes that expose too much of the body in order show respect for his/her cultural and religious beliefs. However, if you’re meeting a non-conservative person, then it is OK to be a bit more easy-going. Generally speaking, you should always be aware that Egypt is a conservative society and very few places allow someone to drink alcohol, wear swimming outfits, etc. While these things are acceptable at hotels and tourist destinations, they are not acceptable in the rest of the country.

Handshakes are the customary greeting among individuals of the same sex. Handshakes are typically not very firm but they are prolonged, and are always given with a hearty smile and direct eye contact. Women in general do not shake hands in Egypt, or at least those who are religious. To avoid embarrassment, if the woman starts extending her hand when she meets someone, then it is OK to shake hands; but if she does not, then the man just bows his head slightly as a form of greeting. This means he got the message that she does not shake hands.

In any greeting between men and women
The woman must extend her hand first. If she does not, a man should bow his head as a greeting.

Cheek kissing
Once a relationship has developed, it is common to kiss on one cheek and then the other while shaking hands, men with men and women with women.

Dress code
In Egypt we have both women with headscarves and women whose hair is uncovered. Both are acceptable. In general women visiting Egypt should take care to wear clothes that do not expose too much of their bodies and skin. This is to avoid the possibility of harassment by people who find such dress objectionable.

Sameh and the Arabic language

How many years’ experience do you have as a translator?

What to keep in mind when working with Arabic as a target language?
The Arabic language is written from right to left. This is very important to keep in mind, especially for Desktop Publishing projects that involve a lot of flipping and adjusting of both RTL and LTR issues. Also the way numbers are displayed is different compared to Western languages.

What is the best thing about working as a translator?
Every translator must be a writer with a ‘taste and feel’ for the language. Arabic is very beautiful and linguistically rich, so it takes a talented person to become an excellent translator. This is one of the most appealing aspects of my professional work as a translator.

What motivates you?
Achieving excellence even in very small jobs. If you want to stay at the forefront of your field, you have to strive for excellence and perfection in every single word you write.

What do you as a translator experience as challenges?
I’ve mastered most of the CAT and localization tools, and almost all the other tools related to the translation industry. So I’m actually a reference/support source for other people when they face challenges. However, transcreation projects are a nice challenge every time, as you always want to produce a successful creative adaptation for your clients, something that they can really be proud of.