From the land of pyramids, pharaohs, and papyrus, we bring you a look at Egyptian culture past and present. Grab a cup of mint tea, fire up the hookah, crack open a novel by Naguib Mahfouz, play some songs by Abdel Halim Hafez, or put on a movie starring Omar Sharif and join us while we share recipes, music, jokes, videos, and current events from Egypt.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Thursday Thirteen: Egyptian Proverbs

Header from Samulli.
To learn more about Thursday Thirteen, to play along, or to see other entries, click here.

Today's Scribe:

1. 'Elle 3ala rasoh batha ye-hasses 3aleha
Literal translation: A person with a wound on his head keeps touching it.
Hidden meaning: A person is likely to point to his/her own weaknesses.
Applicability: When somebody's acts expose what he/she is trying to hide.

2. 3ala kad lehafak med regleak
Literal translation: Stretch your legs as far as your quilt (blanket) goes.
Hidden meaning: Live within your means, or make do with what you have.
Applicability: When extravagancy is unaffordable.

3. 'Elle fat kadimoh tah
Literal translation: Lost is the person who forgets his/her past.
Hidden meaning: Remember what you were before bragging about what you became.
Applicability: Criticizing those who want to be disassociated from their roots.

4. Labbes 'el bousa tebka 3arousa
Literal translation: Dress-up a stick and you get a doll.
Hidden meaning: Make up (cosmetics) can make the ugly quite pretty.
Applicability: Don't be fooled by appearances.

5. Kalil el-bakht yelaki el-3adm fi el-fatta
Literal translation: The unlucky finds bones in his/her "fatta" (a dish made with rice, bread, meat, and tomato sauce)
Hidden meaning: A person with a little luck expects anything to happen to him. Bad luck sticks!
Applicability: Complain about one's bad luck.

6. 'En kan habibak 3asal ma-telhasoush kolloh
Literal translation: If your friend is like honey, then don't lick all of it!
Hidden meaning: Do not take advantage of the sweetness of a dear friend!
Applicability: Criticizing a person who abuses the generosity of a friend.

7. Makedroush 3al Homar kedrom 3al barda3a
Literal transalation: They couldn't beat the donkey so they beat the saddle.
Hidden meaning: Be fair. Blame the source of the problem.
Applicability: Inability to see the real problem and the real evil.

8. Malekyoush fi 'elward 3eib kalom ya 'aHmar el-khaddein
Literal translation: They found no wrong with the roses, so they complained that they were red!
Hidden meaning: People will disagree with you no matter how perfect you are.
Applicability: When people criticize just for the sake of criticizing.

9. El kalb elle beddak tegorroh 3al-said, la feeh wa la f'saidoh
Literal translation: If you have to drag a dog to the hunt, neither he nor his hunting is any good.
Hidden meaning: Someone who unwillingly does what he should will never do it well.
Applicability: Criticizing someone who has to be forced to do what he's supposed to do.

10. Gebna el-aqra3 la'y wannesna, kachaf qar3etoh w'khawwafna
Translation: We invited the bald man to keep us company; he uncovered his baldness and scared us.
Hidden meaning: Criticizing those who act in a manner opposite to what had been expected.
Applicability: When someone behaves in such a way as to provoke a negative reaction where a positive one had been expected.

11. Khonfesa shafet weladha 3al Hait 'alet da 3okD mesalsel
Literal translation: A beetle saw her children on the wall, she said they look like a string of pearls Meaning: To the biased eye, the ugliest can look beautiful.
Usage: To criticize people with clearly biased opinions.

12. Ya me'amen el regaal ya me'amen el mayya fel ghorbal
Literal translation: Trusting men is trusting the water in a sieve
Hidden meaning: A feminist proverb that makes the analogy of trusting men to water being kept in a sieve
Applicability: To wives betrayed or cheated by their husbands (mainly)

13. TabbaKH el-sim dawa'uh
Literal translation: A cook tastes his own cooking, even if it's poison.
Hidden meaning: One gets the results of one's own actions
Applicability: To comment on somebody who suffers from his/her wrong acts


  1. Ah, this is great. I used to live in Cairo and I miss it. Happy TT! =-X

  2. An interesting list, it is fun to learn about different cultures from my own.

    Recent blog:=- Thursday Thirteen #7 – Photo Variations

  3. #2 is one of those that we have truly had to adopt in the last few years. Surprisingly, or perhaps not, the longer you do it the easier it gets.

    Recent blog:=- Thursday 13 From The Pink Palace

  4. These are pretty interesting. #8 is so true. so, so true....

  5. So many are so very truth. Thought provoking indeed!

  6. Wow, I love these. Great list! I think #7 is my favorite because it's applicable to my life right now. Happy TT!


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