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Egyptian Traits - Part I: Inshallah (God Willing)
Monday, March 15 (Issue 5)
by Raymon Kondos

CAIRO ( - The impression that foreigners get when they start dealing with Egyptians is that they are so kind, hospitable and helpful.

This is indeed a general fact, yet there are many details to elaborate on this, and to learn more about those wonderful people.

Egyptians walk past McDonalds
Ancient Egyptians relied on the Nile for living,
and plead gods to keep this blessing

Egyptians are religious people in general. They believe in God, His will and His fate.

For Egyptians everything is linked to God's mercy and will, to the level of total reliance and dependence, and the belief that whatever happens, it is fatalism.

Such thing is implicitly and verbally expressed by the Egyptian people in the lavishly used word inshallah, the Arabic term for God Willing.
The word accompanies any talk about future intention and frequently replaces the word yes in conversations.


Are you traveling to Luxor tomorrow?

- Inshallah

This means: Yes, I decided so, but I don't know what does God desire? If God approved it, I can go. If not, certainly something would come up.

Another form of the word is also used, but this time to express probability, shifting the final decision to the preordination of God. The word is Iza sha' Allah or Iza sha' rabbena, literally meaning “If God wills.”

- Are you accompanying me next time?
- Iza sha' rabbena.

This means: If things worked fine with my plans, God will allow me time and opportunity to do it. Still I am not sure yet.

Sometimes if someone spoke about future intention or action but forgot to say inshallah, he may fine someone reminding him back “say inshallah!”

Example 1:
- When will you give me back my books?
- Next week.
- Say inshallah!

In that example, the first speaker wanted to the drive the attention of the second one that he can't return the book if God's will was otherwise. After all no one knows what is predestined.

There is that very famous story about Goha who went to the livestock market to buy a cow. On his way there, he met some friends that asked him:


Where are you going Goha?


To the market to buy a cow.


Say inshallah.

- Why should I? The money is in my pocket and the cow in the market.

At the market, Goha's money was stolen by some pickpocket. Goha returned back home in sadness. On his way back he was encountered by his very same friends.

They asked:
- Where is that cow that you bought Goha?
- Inshallah inshallah the money was stolen inshallah inshallah.

The story tells how much Goha had learnt the lesson to the degree that he fervently decided to use the word even when mentioning an established fact. Goha is a quick-witted but sometimes stupid folk character whose stories are narrated to teach social lessons.

The story teaches that one should not only believe in God's will but also has to verbally express that as a gratitude to the Almighty.

Though the word is interwoven with Islam, the religion of the majority in Egypt , some sociologists believe Egypt 's history had its own hand in such trait in the Egyptian character.

Ancient Egyptians settled around the Nile Valley since prehistory. Their daily lives were dependable on the Nile waters. The fate of their lives depended on the goddess of inundation, SatisWho is this deity?, which they plead to bestow the worshippers with abundance of water.

Successive divine religions did reinforce such conviction of the people.

If you want to approach Egyptians faster, use many inshallahs umpteen times. That would leave a good impression and gets you closer to the Egyptian people.

. Food Habits in Egyptian Key Events (issue 1)
. Egyptian Matrimony: Man Got to Do it All (issue 2)
. The Egyptian Identity: Pharoahs, Moslems, Arabs, Africans, Middle Easterners or Mediterranean People? (issue 3)
. Egypt … Glimpse over its Society, Language and Religion (issue 4)

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