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This Artist Gives Hilarious New Life to Classic Egyptian Idioms

Can y'all stop sleeping in honey please?

Mai El Naga

Egyptians are going about their days, using idioms like ‘eshtery demaghak’ that literally translates to ‘buy your own head’, to express a simple ‘you shouldn’t care too much’ to people. Or telling them to ‘put a watermelon in your tummy’ to reassure someone so that they'd stop worrying and relax. While these sayings are meant to be purely figurative, we still use them and expect them to make sense when literally speaking, they kind of don’t.

Mai El Naga is an Egyptian visual artist who has taken it upon herself to bring these funny and totally logical traditional idioms to life through her illustrations, in a series that she decided to name #ThingsEgyptiansSay.

Currently studying medicine, it was a tough choice to decide between the arts and the sciences, but she made a promise to herself to not give up on her art.

Initially starting with the Inktober Challenge, she was inspired by the daily prompts to use the idioms as inspiration, and thus the project was born.

“Sitting in a cafe once, I overheard a conversation between two people bouncing Egyptian idioms back and forth,” she told us. “That’s where my inspiration came from. I thought if these phrases were translated or taken literally, they’d be odd [and funny].”

One of our favourite idioms is when someone is referred to as ’the one with fans over their heart’, to describe someone who is overly chill, or is slow and inefficient.

The response to her series was beyond the expected - with Egyptian emigrants ordering print-outs of all her illustrations, and TV shows like ‘El Setat Mabya’rafoush Yekdebo’ and ‘Sada El Balad’ hosting her so she could share her story.

El Naga is aiming on a big exhibition with a conversation on idioms we take for granted in Egyptian culture in the near future, and is taking orders for her pieces through her Instagram.

Check out her Instagram to see more of her work and this ongoing project, even if just to familiarize yourself with Egyptian idioms or request a specific illustration of one.

Can you guess the idioms behind the illustrations above? Let us know in the comments below!