Studying Arabic in Cairo — دراسة اللغة العربية في القاهرة

Cairo is a completely magical (albeit chaotic and occasionally maddening) city, and it’s a great place to study Arabic. A friend recently asked me to recommend a good program to study Arabic in Cairo this summer, and I thought the resulting list might be a useful resource for some of you as well. What follows is a list (in no way comprehensive, in no particular order) of a number of summer and year-round Arabic programs in Cairo that friends and I recommend:

1. International Language Institute (ILI)

ILI has a reputation for being very professional and hosting great teachers. Many of my friends attended ILI and were impressed with the programs offered and the quality of instruction. They have classes in both Fusha and 3meya or a combined program with several hours of each 5 days a week. The school is $550 for a four week course with 15 classroom hours per week, but worth the cost according to those who attended their programs (I did not personally). It’s just off the far end of Ahmed Orabi street in Mohandiseen, so walkable from Zamalek and there are buses/microbuses from Zamalek and Kubri al-Dokki that will take you most of the way there.

For more information:

2. Al Diwaan Arabic Center

Al Diwaan is in Garden City, next to the Canadian Embassy, just across the bridge from Zamalek. They offer group study (if you can form a group with equal language levels) or solo classes, and you can arrange a course schedule that caters to your needs. The teachers are all certified and have degrees in education or Arabic. Classes are generally conducted in Arabic but the teachers speak functional English. You can focus on what you want to learn, and classes can be created to focus on particular topics of interest like literature or media. The management can be ditzy, but but after registration you can deal just with your teacher. Prices are high to mid-range; it’s around $900 for a one month summer intensive program with 90 classroom hours and 10 hours of activities. The facilities are nice.

For more information:

3. Arabic Language Institute, American University in Cairo

ALI is located about an hour from downtown Cairo in a suburb called Tegamo El Khameis on the beautiful AUC New Campus. There is a bus service provided by AUC (with air conditioning and wi-fi!) that goes out to the campus and back from all areas of Cairo. It is perhaps the most expensive and farthest away program, but also the most well-reputed internationally. The quality of teaching is impressive, and joining the ALI program gives you access to the other resources available at the university (printing, library, professional contacts, bus transportation, gym, swimming pool, etc.) AUC offers both intensive and regular classes, usually between 2 and 5 days per week for 2 to 4 hours.

For more information:

4. Arabeya Arabic School

Arabeya is located in Mohandeseen just across the Nile from Zamalek on a side street off of Ahmed Orabi. They specialize in one-on-one classes, but they also have summer programs and small group classes. They are super flexible with scheduling; you can take classes as intensively as you’d like (up to 4 hours a day 6 days a week) anytime between 8am and 4pm. They have about 8 teachers there and if you happen to not jive with 1 teacher, you can switch to another one. One-to-one classes are about $240 for an intensive 20 classroom hour week, and prices get cheaper if you stay longer or join a small group.

For more information:

5. Private Lessons

Many people who study Arabic in Cairo choose to take private lessons, since prices are so reasonable, and they give considerably more flexibility in terms of content, pacing, location, and level.

My private instructor for the last two years, Nermine Sayed, is phenomenal, and I recommend her without reservation. She has been teaching Arabic for many years and structures helpful lessons based on what you want to learn. She can teach Fusha or 3meya, and is flexible about where and when you meet. She speaks great English, but classes are conducted in Arabic unless explaining a complicated grammatical concept. Classes are casual and friendly, but she does assign homework and take your language development seriously. Generally, she charges 75 LE (roughly $10) per hour, although rates may vary depending on how often you want to meet. You can contact her at: or +20 (0) 1009300887.

A friend of mine has also recommended his private Arabic instructor, Wael Wafa. Wael graduated from Al-Azhar University with a degree in Arabic Language Teaching, and he has worked for the past 10 years teaching Arabic, both Fusha and 3meya. He charges 50 LE (roughly $7) per hour. You can contact him at: or +20 (0) 1001516022.

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About Jade

Jade Lansing is a graduate student in Middle East Studies at the American University in Cairo. She currently lives in Beirut, Lebanon, where she conducts research on civics education and works for the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. Jade is a recent graduate of Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon, where she majored in International Affairs and studied Arabic at Portland State University. She has made multiple trips to North Africa—conducting research, volunteering, and studying Arabic. She is especially interested in Middle East politics, intercultural communication, civil society development, and foreign language education. Contact the author at:

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