In every isolated environment, a unique language develops. Here is some prison terminology known to anyone who has ever served time behind bars in Egypt.
Prison is a world with special, unbreakable laws that apply to new and old prisoners alike. Both are ruled by the strongest: often a senior prisoner who knows everything behind the prison’s walls and one with an iron fist and ability to fulfill all prisoners’ demands but only according to his rule and satisfaction.
Each prisoner must also learn and master special jargon starting with the first night in the cell.
Here are common words and terms used in prison, taken from interviews with prisoners who have served various sentences.
Nabtashi or commanda: Usually the earliest prisoner and the most criminal and dangerous. He controls the cell and prisoners, and has a strong personality. All prisoners must obey him or they will be punished. He forces new prisoners to submit to him and to prison life.
Nabtashia: A royalty paid by prisoners to the nabtashi to protect them from criminal prisoners and safeguard their personal belongings. Nabtashia is paid weekly or monthly.
Tashrifa: Each new prisoner gets beaten by prison officers as soon as he arrives in order to make him obey orders. Once he arrives at his cell, he gets another tashrifa (beating) by the nabtashi and his assistants to make the new prisoner obey them and pay them the nabtashia.
Kahoul: The blue uniform that prisoners must wear throughout imprisonment.
Irad: A cell for new prisoners or those transferred from other prisons.
Karfasa (squat): A method used by prison officers to make sure that new prisoners are not hiding any narcotics or sharp instrument in their anuses. Prisoners must stand in a row and take a squat posture to defecate.
Tabdeer (powdering): Sprinkling new prisoners with insecticide and anti-microbial powder.
Nimra and maslab: Nimra is the spot next to the cell wall, and maslab is a larger spot for the nabtashi and his assistants.
Naddara (eyeglasses): A niche in the cell iron door. It is the outlet through which prisoners can communicate with those outside the cell.
Taiyara: Ropes tied across the cell to put blankets on and be used as a bed.
Anbouka: A cell with no WC.
Takfisa: The hall where prisoners receive their visitors.
Hirz: A dumb prisoner who easily gets in trouble.
Adm (bones): All types of narcotic pills.
Oblong: Beans, which is a common dish in prison.
Lifting: Hiding drugs by swallowing them to avoid being detected.
Allocation: The daily share of food allocated to each prisoner.
Barnika: A trashcan inside the cell.
Packeta: A rich and conceited prisoner who refrains from dealing with other prisoners.
Taraiyud: An area where prisoners are allowed to stroll and smoke.
Ta’deeb (discipline): A one-by-one-meter cell for prisoners who violate prison rules and instructions.