Essential Arabic phrases 20150419T051820 20170308T223824:636246095048017013 Heritage & Culture

Dubai language focus: basic Arabic phrases

Dubai is proud to be a multi-lingual destination, counting both English and Arabic as official languages. While English-speaking visitors will find it easy to get by, knowing a few basic Arabic words and phrases will score travellers some extra brownie points with locals and expats, making cross-cultural interactions just that bit smoother. Plus, you will be sure to discover a few fun phrases you'll be happy to introduce into your own language. Ready? Yallah! (Let's go!).

How to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in Arabic:

‘Min fadlak’ (female); ‘min fadlak’ (male) – please
'Shukrun'– thank you

These are first words tourists are likely to pick up, thanks to the exceedingly polite automated messages made over the metro stations' public announcements systems. Practice when making purchases at the souk – this small gesture is always appreciated.

How to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ in Arabic:

'Na’am'  – yes
‘La' – no

The basics that, when paired with a smile, will get any traveller through their day-to-day interactions.

How to greet people in Arabic:

'Marhaba'– hello
‘Maasalaamah' - goodbye or with peace

The most common greetings visitors will come across, these are casual without being too intimate. ‘Ahlan wa sahlan’ ('welcome') is also used in more formal meetings and can be shortened to ‘ahlan’ to suit most scenarios. ‘Wada’an’ is the more casual 'bye'.

Other useful phrases:

'Yallah' - A catch-all phrase meaning 'let's go', 'hurry' or 'go'

Use with ‘jeldi, jeldi’ ('quick, quick') for extra impact. A commanding phrase, this is for when you want your travel partner to pick up their pace, and never to direct restaurant wait staff and other strangers.

'Khalas' – stop, finish, or done

A simple word, but beyond helpful for when getting your taxi driver to stop on the spot, or to indicate you're finished with your plate.

'Affwaan' – sorry, excuse me

Your go-to phrase for moving through crowds, leaving the dinner table temporarily or deterring that slightly too enthusiastic pashmina seller at the souk.

'Mabrook' - congratulations

While this phrase translates directly to 'congratulations', it's used more as a positive affirmation in regular conversation, similar to 'great'.

'Habibi' (male) and 'Habibti' (female) – my darling, my love

The term of endearment that most expats immediately introduce to their lexicon, it's a both friendly add-on and fun to say. Keep your ears open to catch how often it pops up in modern Arabic pop songs (spoiler: a lot).

'In sh'Allah' – if it is Allah’s will

Possibly the most unambiguous phrase in existence. 'In sh'Allah' can be used to respond to any question that the recipient can't or would prefer not to answer. 'Maashallah' ('what Allah wishes') is used in a similar manner. For example; “Will my dry-cleaning be ready tomorrow?” “In sh'Allah.” “Is that a yes or no?” “Maashallah.”


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