Many Egyptians speak more than one language, but nearly all of them are fluent in the language of humour. Jokes are a cultural staple in Egyptian society, providing an easy entry into conversation and even an outlet in times of crisis. Egyptian film, television, and theatre has been known to accurately reflect this aspect of Egyptian identity for all of living memory.
Yet, out of the millions upon millions of jokes and one-liners in Egyptian media, some have transcended the context they were first spoken in and have become an integral part of the colloquial Egyptian vernacular.
To millennials, for example, the 2000 film El-Nazer (The Headmaster) starring the late comedian Alaa Waley Eldin along with now comedy icons Ahmed Helmy and Mohamed Saad, represents the motherlode of afashat aflam (movie one-liners). But decades before, Egyptians were already quoting Madraset El-Moshaghebeen (The School of Mischief), Eshaaet Hobb (A Rumour of Love) and more.
Here are a few of our audience’s favourite afashat aflam, both old and new – though, fair warning, some of the humour might not really translate.
‘Enti beteshrabi cappuccino?’
‘You drink cappuccino?’ From the 2006 film Zarf Tarek (Tarek’s Situation), starring Ahmed Helmy and Nour.
‘Bamoot ya Fakhri!’
“I’m dying, Fakhri! From the 2001 film Ga’ana Al-Bayan Al-Tali (We Have the Following News), starring Mohamed Henedy and Hanan Tork.
‘Allah? Wana mali ya Lembi?’
“What’s it got to do with me, Lembi?” From the 2000 film El-Nazer (The Headmaster), starring Alaa Waley Eldin, Ahmed Helmy, Mohamed Saad, and more.
‘Howa kollo darb, mafeesh sheteema?’
“Is it going to be all punches, no insults?” From the 2000 film El-Nazer (The Headmaster), starring Alaa Waley Eldin, Ahmed Helmy, Mohamed Saad, and more.
“She’s always accustomed…” From the 1976 play Shahed Mashafsh Haga (The Witness Who Saw Nothing), starring Adel Imam.
‘Engeleezi da ya Morsi?’
“Is this English, Morsi?” From the 1973 play Madraset El-Moshaghebeen (School of Mischief) starring Adel Imam, Said Saleh, Hassan Mostafa, Ahmed Zaki, Soheir El-Bably, Younes Shalaby, and Hady El-Gayyar.
‘El qanoon mafehsh Zeinab!’
“There is no Zeinab in law!” From the 1964 play Ana we Howa we Heya (Me and Him and Her), starring Fouad Al-Mohandes, Shweekar, and Tawfeek El-Decken.
‘La, baladi di awi ya Hussein!’
“No, that is so tacky, Hussein!” From the 1960 film Esha’et Hobb (A Rumour of Love) starring Soad Hosni, Omar El-Sherif, Youssef Wahbi, Hend Rostom, and Abdel Moneim Ibrahim.
‘Bas arooh at’hazzem we agilek’
“Let me put on my belly dancing outfit and get back to you.” From the 1958 film Sayedat Al-Qasr (Lady of the Palace), starring Faten Hamama, Omar El-Sherif, and Stephan Rosti.
‘Nashent ya faleh!’
“Bullseye, smart guy!” From the 1958 film Habibi el Asmar (My Tanned Lover) starring Shoukry Sarhan, Mahmoud El Meleegy, Samia Gamal, and Stephan Rosti.
‘Khalas, hatenzel el marra di.’
“Fine, I’ll let it fall this time.” From the 1957 film Ibn Hamido, starring Ismail Yassin, Hend Rostom, Ahmed Ramzi, Zeinat Sedky, Abdel Fattah Al Kasri, and Tawfeek El-Decken.
‘Zay ma enta dalee3 fel gargeer wa osoul el baqdounes…’
“Just as you are well-versed in rocca and the origins of parsley…” From the 1949 film Ghazal El Banat (The Flirtation of Girls) starring Naguib Al Rihani, Laila Mourad, and Anwar Wagdi.