I'm a firm believer in learning at least the basics
of a foreign language when you're going to travel.
Americans are pretty spoiled, obviously, since so many people
in the world speak English, but I think it's tremendously
arrogant to assume that everyone will speak English
wherever you go.
Then again, I suppose that people who learn four or
five words and carefully pronounce them whenever possible
come off as dilettantes. At the very least it is
polite to learn "please" and 'thank
you" in the language of wherever you are going
-- and it's just self-preservation to learn to read
the word for MEN and WOMEN on the bathroom door!
Egypt is very cosmopolitan, and nearly everyone we
met spoke English (at some level) enough to get by.
We had an English-speaking guide, and for the most
part we could have managed without a speck
of Arabic. Still, everyone seemed really pleased that
we had made the effort -- and I got a number of impromptu
lessons on pronunciations from helpful vendors and tourist police.
Our few days in Tell el Amarna found us with the constant
attentions of two bodyguards, both name Mohammed.
"Front seat Mohammed" wanted to practice
his English, and taught me to count properly -- but
demurred when we asked for some good curse words,
with the careful explanation "It would not polite to teach a married
woman those words."
In an attempt to learn the basics, I picked up a few
books and book/tape combinations.
I'd definitely recommend In-Flight Arabic as a great
start, but the other kits here are worth the effort:
Teach Yourself Arabic