Trying to communicate in the shami dialect in Egypt makes for some serious comedy. First, swearing; now, the struggle of trying to buy food.
Us weird shamis prancing around with our weird ‘j’s and ‘sarsoor’s instead of ‘sersaar’s (because we apparently love giving disgusting insects endearing names) can only mean one thing in Egypt: one heck of a constant loss in translation that we must admit is quite hilarious, to say the least. We can spend hours talking about the different names that are comically colliding in this clash of dialects, but given the superiority of food above all else, this piece is dedicated to some of our favourite confused foods. It's also a tribute to the many times shamis get a blank stare when we try to buy tomatoes, and that time a poor shami got mockingly laughed at by a friend after realising that ‘lsaan 3asfour’ was just a type of pasta and not an actual bird’s tongue after asking how factories can get their hands on so many bird tongues… Yes, laugh at our misery.
That is – by far – the most confusing of them all. Khoukh, which means plum for shamis, means peach for Egyptians. Plum for you Egyptians has a very cool and weird name: bar2oo2. Bar2oo2…really Egypt? Now even though it’s difficult to figure out which of the two cultures called shotgun for the name, some of us just avoid buying the fruit or ordering peach (or plum)–flavoured shisha. Besides, bar2oo2, just like ‘ozza’ and ‘oota’ could be a guy’s nickname, so excuse us for not knowing.
For shamis, fosdo2 refers to peanuts. So you can imagine our disappointment when an Egyptian says they have fosdo2 and we turn around and find pistachios. You can imagine the chaotic conversation that ensues every single time...
“Are you kidding? Then what the hell do you call pistachios?”
“Fosdo2 7alabi? Duh.”
Every time the word bandoura comes up, we get the classic reply of “howa eih el bandoura da?” given that the conversation would usually be about salads. Egyptians, rest assured that this is not some curse word uttered by all women; it's just what shamis call tomatoes! Sure, many shamis try to remember to say tamatem, but the word must bring to mind one of our favourite childhood cartoons starring Tamtam.
How is it that the word kharshouf doesn’t sounds like a sexy Russian name – perhaps of a Russian novelist? So you can understand why we might find it too literary of a name for artichokes. The name of artichokes that shamis have is an Arabic mutation of the English word but is Turkish-sounding: ardishouki, which feels cool to pronounce.
Even if Egyptian textbooks said that pears are called ‘komethra’, the fos7a word for it is 'ijaas', which has been morphed into the Arabic mutation of it ‘injaas’ for shamis. But it still means that the ‘j’-obsessed Arabs have derived the name from the original fos7a roots, because we sure as hell don’t know where the word komethra ever came from.
All right, here’s the surprise, we actually don’t have 7arankash. Yes, shamis are a 7arankash-deprived people. Most of us probably thought that the alien fruit was some really weird kind of grape that's actually is shockingly good and tastes like a carnival. Even though 7arankash might also sound like an Egyptian guy’s nickname, this fruit surely deserves the title of most delicious of them all.
2ershalleh & Ka3k
We don’t have a name for 7arankash, but we definitely have one for Egyptian baskuit shai, and that’s 2ershalleh. You know, the one that you dip in tea and pull out just in time before it completely crumbles into your teacup. 2ershalleh is a branch of ka3ek, which is our word for ka7k by the way, which some of us might assume is an old version of ‘ka7a’, but we're not sure.
So it seems that the Egyptian and shami cultures weren’t really paying attention that one time they all sat at a table and decided to name the fruits, or give normal human food alien names. But we do fully admit that some of the best-tasting fruits on the planet are Egyptian weirdly-named fruits, and this is why our eyes get a little bit bigger and our stomachs expand little more at the sight of the badass juice kiosks that fill this city.
Photo by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions.
Photography by Osama Selim.