One thing you can’t miss in Egypt, it is the country cafés ilʔahāwi -lbáladi القهاوي البلدي. There is approximately over 100,000 country cafés in Egypt. It is something youth and elders do daily and go hangout in daily. It serves mainly café drinks like tea, coffee, ginger ganzabīl جنْزبيل and anise yansūn يَنْسون.

And only in country cafés, tea can be served in two ways: one we call šāy kúshari شاي كُشري, and it means he puts the tea in the tea pot and boil it, then pour it. Or šāy fátla شاي فتْلة, known as pocket tea.

This is not all yet, as the sugar comes with tea served also in two ways: First one that you tell him how much you want, and it’s either sweet ziyāda زِيادة, medium sweet maʐbūT مظْبوط, or dark tea šāy tiʔīl شاي تِقيل.

There are so many phrases used in country cafés than anyone can imagine, like, for some reason, when the waiter calls the kitchen guys, for example, to tell him what you want to drink, for example, tea; he says wāɧid šāy wi ʂalláɧu واحِد شاي و صلّحو, which if we translated it literally it would be “One tea and fix it!” Funny, ha?

Another thing that you can’t miss in country cafés is the hookah*. Almost every one sits in country café must drink** hookah. It is becoming more a tradition than smoking [cigarettes]. And you either have hookah flavored like apple hookah or orange hookah or you have the “big boss”, which we call mi3ássil ʔaʂʂ مِعسِّل قصّ. It is nearly tastes like cigarettes plus car smoking, but for some reason EVERYONE LIKES IT! And yet ordering hookah is not that simple. You must tell the guy how do you need the coal in it. If you need it small pieces of coal, you have to say samāsim سماسِم. Or if you want bigger pieces you can tell him burning coal faɧmə ɧarʔ فحْم حرْق because with this kind of coal, that size, the hookah will burn faster and you will have to get a new one.

One thing you have to know is that prices in country cafes are almost nothing… and I mean it, nothing! Tea is like 2 LE, which equals quarter of a dollar. Hookah flavored is 7 LE, which equals a single dollar. Prices in country cafés are insane, unlike the fancy coffee shops! You have to try it, guys, if you ever happen to be in Egypt. Thank you!

* called šīša شيشة in Egypt

** Whereas in English we would use the verb “to smoke”, in Arabic you šírib sigāra شِرِب سِجارة “drink” a cigarette or šírib šīša شِرِب شيشة “drink” a hookah.

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