Ah the joys of learning a new language. One lives in trepidation of saying something that might be rude or offensive in the new tongue just because of the wrong inflection or emphasis. But I found myself experiencing quite the opposite here with one of the first expressions I learned here.

Fee fakkah?

Contrary to expectation this expression has not the slightest connection to its oft-used homonym in the English language. Fakkah simply means loose change. Fee fakkah? = got change? The correct answer to this by the way is “mafeesh fakkah,” which means “I have no change,” which is what a taxi driver always claims in this country. The counter to that, when you are on the the receiving end of that claim, by the way, is “mafeesh faloos,” which means no money. A cab driver, the most likely other participant in a conversation about faloos and fakkah, is usually rattled when faced with the threat of losing a fare altogether or wasting time waiting for you while you go to the corner store to make change. (This a tip from Jack). Meanwhile in all this I get to swear with impunity 😉

Enough on money matters. Sailing on to the next f on the list: felucca. You may have seen pictures of these graceful sailboats.

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For my money, a felluca-ride is one of Egypt’s best tourist attractions. For just 50 LE (Egyptian pounds) you can rent one for an hour – by yourself or with a host of friends, it doesn’t matter. The price is the same. A few second later you are adrift in the Nile, your face fanned by a gentle breeze and the bustle and noise of the honking cars recede into the haze. Sweet bliss.

I’ve known of students who’ve rented them to take naps. One of our welcome dinners at AUC was hosted aboard (several) fellucas. I’ve even graded midterms and assignments aboard a felluca. Its all good. Just make sure you carry some fakkah in your pocket so you can tip the boatman as you disembark.

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