Sunday, January 26, 2020

Living and studying in Egypt

Some guidance found on facebook from brother Salah Sharief

I've been asked so many times about the cost of living and studying in Egypt that its probably worth summarising it in a status. If you've studied in Egypt longer than me than please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments:
(The following statements are based on living in Madinat Nasr/Nasr City in Cairo)

The short answer is that it varies, greatly. You can spend 1/10th of your friend, depending on where you live, what you eat, and how you study.

The main costs are: rent, study, and food.

You could spend anywhere between £30-£300 a month, depending on how you want to live. You can get a 2 bedroom apartment with AC for around £200 or less. And if you find a roommate, you split that in two.
If you don't mind not having AC, then you can get it for much cheaper. I know some guys who got a 2 bedroom apartment (no AC) for £120/month, and shared it between 4 people; 2 in each room. They paid £30 a month each. Difficult, but doable.
1 bed apartments are extremely rare, but you could get a 2 bed to yourself, AC in each room, good quality, for about £3-400 a month. By UK standards, very cheap. By Egyptian standards, living in luxury.

Private one to one study is £2 an hour. If you wanted to study in an institute (markaz) and in a class, then its much cheaper.
This is the bulk of the cost if you're doing private studies, many hours a day. It adds up, but its worth it.
(side note: IMO, private is exponentially better than institutes, but each to their own)

If you eat Egyptian food, then its so cheap that its not worth mentioning. You could easily live off £1 a day and have change. Kushary is 30p-50p a meal and fool & ta'miyya is 30-50p too)
If you wanted American fast food (Hardees, Burger King, McDonalds, etc.) then its the same cost as in the UK/US, i.e. £4-5 a meal.

If you want to be Egyptian and take the bus then its around 5p a journey. If you want to take an Uber or taxi every day, then it will be 50p-£1 depending on your journey.

As you can see the life is generally really cheap. But if you pay a lot for rent, have lots of private lessons, and eat takeaways a lot, then it adds up. But even then, its still cheap compared to the UK.

The take home message here is that if you wanted to stay for a while but didn't have much money, its still doable. I know some people who spent only £3k in the whole year, and they studied a lot.

PS: If you wish to stay for a few years and run out of money, then my personal advice is *not* to get a job while abroad. You went for study, so focus on studies. People who go there and work get distracted from their studies. It is much more effective to come back to the UK for 2-3 months, work full time (even if it is minimum wage) and save 2-3k and go back for the rest of the year. 3 months work and 9 months study is much better than 12 months doing both.

In a previous post I outlined the costs of studying Arabic in Egypt. I’ll copy the link at the bottom.
This post will mainly be about studies in Egypt and other miscellaneous topics such as visa.

Due to the plethora of teachers, you can study almost any book you want, at any level.

That said, most students who go are starting from either level 0 or level 1. As a result, there are a few books that are widespread and are most commonly taught.

Many students go for a year, and so most of the institutions devised a 12-month programme split into 12 levels. During those 12 months, they would usually teach the three (now four) books in the series Al-Arabiyya Bayna Yadayk (commonly referred to as Bayna Yadayk).
Bayna Yadayk is a series of books that focuses primarily on speaking. There is some grammar dotted around, but not enough to amount to much (in my opinion). Apparently in the new revised edition they’ve added some more grammar.
If you study privately, your teacher would probably recommend the same thing.

The crux of the matter is that the book you study depends on your ultimate goal. If you want to learn how to speak fluently, then Bayna Yadayk (or an equivalent) is a must. If you want to understand the Quran, then you should focus on grammar, but I still advise bayna yadayk or an equivalent. Many brothers end up knowing the grammatical forms of every word, yet can’t string a few sentences together. This isn’t right; Arabic is holistic, organic religion. Grammar is one single component of language; it is a means, not an end.

A good option is then to study Bayna yadayk (whenever I mention Bayna Yadayk, just read “or equivalent”) and a grammar book side by side. If you are doing BY at an institute, then i’d advise getting a private tutor to teach you grammar 1 hour a day in the evenings. If you are doing private, then split the lessons between BY and grammar.

As for grammar, Ajrumiyya is the most popular book. Personally, I think it is excellent. However…and pay attention here carefully…Ajrumiyya was originally written for ARAB children. Yes, it was originally written for children (que our unison hanging of the head in shame), but the main point is that it was written for Arab children, who understand how to speak Arabic, but do not understand grammatical terms. The reason why i mention this is because if you understand no Arabic, or at least do not understand basic grammatical terms, then the book is too advanced for you. In other words, how can you understand that something is mansoob via hathf of the noon if you don’t know what mansoob means and you don’t know what hathf means? In such a case, you should let your teacher teach you basic grammar terms alongside BY, until you are ready for AJ or equivalent.

As for Sarf and Balagha, well if you are at the stage of studying these sub-sciences, then you don’t really need this advice in the first place.
Top tip (and I wish I implemented this from the beginning, but alas): you will only make progress if you implement your grammar. As a theoretical science, it isn’t of much use to you. 1) Read a lot so the implementation of the grammar permeates. I became advanced at English by reading many academic books and subconsciously learning. 2) For every grammar rule you learn, use them in dozens of examples until you fully understand what is meant.

Is it still worth going for 1-2 months? Absolutely. I’ve gone a few times but the longest I’ve gone to date is 3 months. You can learn a lot. At the end of the day, it is about the student. I met some out-of-this-world awliyaa’ of Allah, and I also met some good-for-nothing useless wastes of space. Being in Egypt as opposed to the UK or US doesn’t make you any less of waste of space. The progress you make is not down to how long you go for, its down to you as a person and how much you study and how much time you waste.

The more you learn before you go, the more you learn when abroad. If you had a chance to go tomorrow, then go, even if you are on 0, but if you’ve set a date to go next summer, for example, then study as much as you can before you go. It is very easy to study level 0, 1 or 2 in the UK. Once you go there, you can utilise being immersed in an Arab society as you have already begun your studies.
PS: many people study hard there, and learn a lot, then fail to continue at all when back. Eventually they forget 70% of what they learnt. A big shame. If you continue on Skype when back (even if a couple hours a week), you’ll be surprised at how much you learn. I’ve actually learnt more Arabic grammar on Skype then in Egypt. Go figure.

Finally, most students are obsessed about finishing books (I was guilty of this too). It *honestly* doesn’t matter how long it takes you to finish a book, or what book you are even studying. It matters what you understand. You could literally take 10x longer to finish the same book as your friend, but after you finish, you understand more, because he did the same book 10x in the meantime, and still doesn’t quite get it because he rushed it. He can brag about finishing Qatr an-Nada while you are still on AJ, but he still can’t understand the Quran.

It is advised to get visas for tourism, not study. Go to the Egyptian Embassy in the UK and get a 90-day multiple entry visa for tourism. This allows you to come in and out for 90 days. If you wish to stay longer, you can extend it while you’re there. By then, you should know the Ins and outs of the situation.

As for Al-Azhar, then his post isn’t about that, but the degree is 4 years. There are different faculties (Sharia, Dawah, Deen, etc.) but before you start that they put you in the high school. If you do well on the entrance exam, you only have to do the final year of the high school before entering the uni. The attendance is mandatory for the high school but not for the uni itself.

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