My love affair with the Arabic language started roughly in 2002 while I was living in London.Prior to this Arabic was not something that interested me and not a language I wanted to learn how to speak. Living and working in London’s East End, I was surrounded by Arabs from all corners of the world including their food stores and coffee shops.And what helped fuelled my love of Arabic was my group of friends who kept me supplied with Arabic music and all outing ended up with us eating Arab food and smoking some Sheesha.
I was falling in love with the Arab culture and I loved it.My friends also had Arab friends who we socialised with and I loved listening to them speak.To me the sounds of the language though coarse sounded romantic to me.I visited several exhibitions on Arabic Art and Calligraphy.Most weekends I would find myself down Edgeware Road ,just off Oxford Street soaking in the Arab world http://spicegoddess.co.za/a-walk-down-edgeware-road/.
As I had started surrounding my life with the Arab language,I started to pick up bits and pieces of the language.I was able to have little conversations with Arabic friends and I loved it.My food tastes were very Arab inspired and most days of the week you would find me tucked away in a little Algerian coffee shop in Stratford drinking and eating Traditional food while doing some work.But sadly since returning home to South Africa I seem to have forgotten my Arabic as I have no one to practise with.
What I learnt about Arabic ?
1.The letter V does not exist in the alphabet.
2.Each country has their own dialect.
3.Most of the Arabic names have the same meaning regardless of dialect.
4. Is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.
5. There are more than 300 million Arabic speakers in the world.
6.Arabic is the official language of 22 countries around the world.
7. There are eleven words for love and over a hundred for camels.
8.Arabic is written from right to left.
9.It is the fifth most spoken language in the world.
10.The Arabic script is the third most widely script in the world.
As a traveller ,I highly recommend you learn a few basic phrases in the language of the country you are visiting.It makes life easier and the locals are impressed that you have taken an interest in the culture and language.Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit Dubai 48 hours of fun in Dubai.
I used this opportunity to try and speak or recall some of my Arabic learnt many moons ago.I did get the basics like Hello,Thank you,Goodbye but I did wish I could speak more.During my stay in Dubai ,I stayed at A quirky stay at Rove Hotel in Dubai.
This hotel had so many quirky and fun pieces of art and deco with Arab words all over the space.I loved this place instantly.It is not compulsory to be able to speak Arabic in Dubai as English is understood and spoken everywhere but it is a great feeling trying to order food and speak to a local.I found this really useful list of essential Arabic words and phrases to use it Dubai.So next time you find yourself in Dubai do speak some Arabic.
Essential Arabic words and phrases :
Hello, how are you?
Arabic translation: Marhaba! Shlonak [if speaking to a man] / Shlonik [if speaking to a woman].
Phonetic pronunciation: Mar-ha-baa, Shlow-nak / Shlow-nik.
This is a good start to any conversation, no matter if you’re at a hotel, in a taxi, shopping or at a restaurant. You’re sure to be greeted with a smile and traditional Emirati hospitality.
Where is the Burj Khalifa?
Arabic translation: Wein Burj Khalifa?
Phonetic pronunciation: Way-n Boor-jh Kha-lee-fa?
No visit to Dubai is complete without a trip to see the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Whether you choose to visit the skyscraper’s viewing deck during the day, or watch the tower glitter in the background as the majestic Dubai Fountain performs at night, you won’t be disappointed. This phrase can be also used interchangeably with any other location.
How much for the shawarma wrap?
Arabic translation: Kam haq el shawarma?
Phonetic pronunciation: Kahm huck el sha-wur-maa?
The quintessential Dubai experience is incomplete without a shawarma. This classic street-side wrap combines rotisserie-cooked chicken, lamb or beef with pickles, French fries and garlic sauce in a warm pita bread – and can be picked up at smaller establishments for as low as AED 5.
Can I have a cup of Karak chai?
Arabic translation: Kasset karak law samahet?
Phonetic pronunciation: Kahs-set Kuh-rak low Sa-ma-heth
Roughly translated to ‘strong tea’, Karak chai is a blend of black tea, milk, sugar and cardamom. Inspired by the milky South Asian ‘masala chai’, this must-try tea has become a part of Dubai’s culture, and is served at cafeterias across the city.
Where is the nearest metro station?
Arabic translation: Wein mahatat el metro?
Phonetic pronunciation: Way-n ma-ha-taath-il-metro?
The cheapest way to get around town, the Dubai Metro features driverless trains that take you across the city, with stations at most major shopping malls and attractions as well as Dubai International airport.
Excuse me, I want to go to the beach.
Arabic translation: Afwan, Weddy arouh el bahr
Phonetic pronunciation: Af-won, Widd-iy-aa-rooh-el-baa-hur
What better way to relax in Dubai than visiting one of its sandy beaches? Gaze at the clear blue waters of the Arabian Gulf as you top up your tan, try out a water sport, or have a quick bite at one of many beachside dining outlets.
Can you take a picture?
Arabic translation: Momken soura
Phonetic pronunciation: Mum-kehn soo-rah
You haven’t really been on holiday if you don’t have the pictures to prove it – so ditch the selfie sticks and ask some of the locals to help you take that perfect shot of you in Dubai.
Can you give me a lower price?
Arabic translation: Akher se’er?
Phonetic pronunciation: Aa-kher-saa-er?
While this won’t help much when shopping for items with fixed rates in the city’s shopping malls, you can bargain to your heart’s content in the souks of Old Dubai. Whether you’re buying textiles, gold, spices or perfumes, use this phrase to start the conversation and snap up your latest purchase at the best possible rate.
Sorry, I don’t speak Arabic.
Arabic translation: Afwan, ma ahki Arabi
Phonetic pronunciation: Af-won, Maa ah-key Ara-bee
While most locals speak good English, keep this phrase on standby, as it could come in handy.
Here are a few more phrases that are good to know and use while in Dubai:
Shukran [Shook-run] – Thank you
Hayakoum [Hay-yah-koom] – Welcome
Yalla! [Yull-ah] – Let’s go!
Habibi [ha-bee-bee] (for males) / habibti [ha-beeb-ti] (for females) – a term of endearment which literally translates to ‘my beloved’
Inshallah [In-sha-al-lah] – If God wills
Wallah [Wull-lah] – I swear / I promise
After writing this post I am off to listen to some Arabic music and hopefully pick up some Arab words. What language would you like to learn?
Be Inspired !