Egyptian ArabicEgyptian Arabic

Linguistic Diversity in Egypt: From Egyptian Arabic to the Domari Dialect

Egyptian Arabic is the main dialect spoken by almost 70% of the population. Egypt and its culture -along with its language – have developed a strong influence on the media, cinema, and music industry throughout the Arabic-speaking world. Therefore it is used as a second language in other Middle East nations such as Israel, Jordan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates.

Other minority languages include Sa’idi Arabic, Bedouin Arabic, Nobiin, Siwi, and Domari Language.

Sa’idi Arabic is mostly spoken in the South but has also spread to the northern regions, thanks to Southern migrants who have now adapted to Egyptian Arabic. Second- and third-generation Sa’idi migrants are now monolingual in Egyptian Arabic.

Sa’idi Arabic has several varieties which differ from town to town and shares linguistic features with both Egyptian and Sudanese Arabic, but also Classical Arabic. However, Speakers of Egyptian Arabic do not always understand more conservative varieties of Sa’idi Arabic.

Bedouin Arabic is one more variety of the Arabic language and is also known as Bedawi, Levantine Bedawi Arabic, or Eastern Egyptian Bedawi Arabic. It is mostly spoken in the Sinai Peninsula by a Bedouin minority but has also spread to the Eastern region of Egypt, and other neighboring countries such as Syria, Jordan, West Bank, Israel, Gaza Strip, and Saudi Arabia.

Nobiin is a language spoken along the shores of River Nile in southern Egypt and in the northern region of Sudan by approximately 500,000 Nubians. All Nobiin speakers are bilingual in Sudanese Arabic or Sai’di Egyptian Arabic.

The Siwi language is a Berber dialect of Egypt spoken by about 20,000 natives in the areas near the border of Libya. This language has had a lot of influence from Egyptian and Bedouin Arabic. 

However, this language is not recognized by the Egyptian government, and therefore it is not taught at schools nor used in the media, which causes most Siwis to shift to Egyptian to Arabic as their main dialect.

The Domari language is an Indo-Aryan dialect spoken by people in North Africa and the Middle East but was originally spoken by nomadic immigrants from India known as the Dom people, or “the Middle East Gipsies”. It has been affected by the influence of both Persian and Arabic and has now spread to Azerbaijan, central Sudan, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Palestine, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Syria, and Lebanon. 

However, it is mostly spoken by the elders, which is only a small percentage of the population. The younger generations are more influenced by Arabic. Moreover, Domari does not have a standard written variety so it is usually written using the Arabic script. It is an endangered language.