January 3, 2011

Egyptian Café - Shisha

The next biggest thing that one must master is the ordering of the Shisha, or Hookah/Nargileh. In Egypt it is called Shisha, so that is what I will be calling it through out this post. Through my daily experience at the Egyptian Café's smoking shishas, I will provide you with some useful phrases that you wont find in any Arabic phrase book. So let's begin.
Most street café's wont provide a menu, so having the appropriate vocabulary is necessary in ordering anything. But even in the situation where there is a menu, most likely all the shisha flavors will not be available so it would be better to just ask the following:

في شيشة ايه النهارده؟
fii shiisha eh innahaarda?
(what shisha is there today?) 

Don't forget to ask for the mouth piece since everyone uses the pipe, and usually they don't wash them in between uses, although you will find the occasional place that does.

انا عاوز مبسم كمان
ana 3aawiz mabsam kmaan
(I want a mouthpiece as well)

If there is a problem with your shisha, and it is not smoking well, you can ask him to try it, or fix/adjust it.

لو سمحت! ممكن تجرّب الشيشة؟ في مشكلة فيها
law samaHt! mumkin tagarrab ash shiisha? fii muskila fiiha
(excuse me!, can you try the shisha, there's a problem with it)

ممكن تظبّط الشيشة؟
 mumkin taZabbaT ash shiisha?
(can you fix/adjust the shisha?)

Just so everyone knows, the coals in Egypt are free, you can get as many coals as you want. So take advantage of that. If you are at a street café, where the quality of the shisha is not all that great, you can maybe get three or four rounds of coals and then the shisha is charred. But if you are at a nice café, you can go for a long time, I don't know an exact number but go until you can't handle the coal flavor.

لو سمحت! هات وِلعة
law SamaHt! haat wel3a
(excuse me! bring the coals)

ايه يا عم! الوِلعة مطفية, هات وِلعة تاني
eh ya 3am! al wel3a maTfiyya, haat wel3a taani
(what's this guy/man!, the coals are out, bring more coals)


  1. Hi there,

    Great idea for a post concerning EGypt and going out to coffee -shops

    However i see that few things need to be corrected.

    *النهاردة comes from word النهار in MSA means "daytime".

    in EA as far as i know it is النهار+ده=this day which means "today".

    *انا عاوز مبسم كمان
    Here the word كمان can be substitute by "برضه

    انا عاوز مبسم برضه
    ana 3aaez mabsam barDo.

    *لو سمحت! ممكن جرّب الشيشة؟ في مشكلة فيها

    In this sentence the verb "جرًّب" refers to someone ,so the verb tense is incorrect.

    When you talk to a man:

    لو سمحت! ممكن تجرّب الشيشة؟ في مشكلة فيها

    *the same mistake here

    ممكن ظبّط الشيشة؟

    should be

    ممكن تظبّط الشيشة؟

    *لو سمحت! هات ولاعة

    ولاعة(wall3a) is cigarette lighter .

    فحمة=fa7m= a piece of coal

    *ايه يا عم! الولاعة مطفية, هات ولاعة تاني

    Here ولاعة is feminine so I guess it should be تانية.

    Again the correct sentence should be
    ايه يا عم! الفحمة مطفية, هات فحمة تانية


  2. I have no argument with you concerning "النهاردة" are you just telling me to use a "ة" instead of "ا" at the end?

    yes, برضه is an acceptable substitute for كمان , it is true that barDo is more country specific, but is not always used

    concerning the verb tenses of the verbs you mentioned, yes you are correct when writing it down, and trying to create a grammar for Egyptian, you have a point, but in the actual use of it, you can omit the pronunciation of the "t", his attention has already been grabbed and context has taken over,

    additionally, the "mumkin" does make it seem like a question, but it is also using the command form of the verbs, because it is assumed he has to try or fix the shisha in question, he can't refuse if I have a complaint, the point I'm trying to make is, again, you have valid points, and they typically are very flexible in the construction, even though it seems "Haraam" to do it.

    ولاعة means both lighter and coal in Egyptian Arabic, this has been tested by me over 1,000 times I am sure of it :)

    as for "taani" technically yes, but this word has a special place in Egyptian Arabic. I had the exact same concern you have concerning gender matching with this word, and yes, whenever I asked the Egyptian if it should match, he or she would agree, but they say whatever comes to their head first, although I am with you we should shoot for perfection.

  3. To add to the ظبّط conversation, you would however pronounce the "at" in ZabbaTat for the feminine 3rd person past tense usage.

  4. Well that's good to exchange our opinions here ,then we will search more and more and we will benefit from our studies a lot.

    Concerning word النهاردة you skipped (أ) ,it not goes if the ending is ده او دا as far as i know that is not a big deal.

    I spotted during reading your posts that you are dropping most of the "alifes",which i consider is incorrect .When i was in Egypt i was being corrected 1 time as far as I remember when i dropped (long alif) in word
    مجاورة=neighbourhood" during searching place of my living:)

    But here we should ask natives what do they think about this case.

    As you said pronouncation in EA is very fast(i guess it is the fastest and for instance Syrian seems to be very slow ,now for me : ).

    Concerning sentence ممكن جرّب الشيشة؟ في مشكلة فيها and verb tense
    i guess we can't say that as you wrote,but of course we can wait for any native speaker to confirm that .

    ولاعة i have never heard about it.
    I ordered shesha few times and
    everytime i heard sentences like

    فحمة ,لو سمحت او اديلي فحمة لو سحمت

    I was talking with my Syrian friend yesterday and i asked him how do they say in Syria ,he said ولاعة is only word used for :lighter" and comes from verb ولع=wall3a=to set fire,to ignite
    maybe it will sound strange but i found word وِلعة-wil3a for "live coal".But sm needs to confirm that :)

    All the best

  5. Yes the discussion seems to be beneficial, I have to admit, 80% of my Egyptian has been through learned strictly through conversation, so when it comes to the spelling of the words, I appreciate any and all help.

    As for ولاعة I will concede and say you are correct, it only means lighter, if you found a source defining وِلّعة then I thing it is correct, again, I would yell the word "wella3a" loudly across the cafe and the guy would always come directly to give me coals, as well I learned to do this by watching other old men yell it across the cafe.

    this is again only by experience and never seen it spelled, i just assumed he was saying "ولاعة" extremely fast, thus my excuse for using the wrong word.

    Could you tell me the source you found the word for "live coal" ?

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  7. Ok i think i got the point now
    after explaining me what was said in your previous post.

    It is used as امر(order) and I guess the guy yelled
    "Set the fire "!!!! or Ignite (sheesha).

    I am pretty sure he used verb ولَّع=wall3a as a (make it fire again what means bring me coals and let me smoke sheesha again).

    Hope to hear you here on the skype in the evening

    Take care:)