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How to Say Sorry in Arabic: Keys to the Perfect Apology

Well, you blew it. Perhaps it wasn’t even your fault. Maybe it was a moment of weakness and you definitely won’t do it again.

The point is, you’ve got to apologize for something now. And you’re going to have to do it in Arabic, which is why, when learning Arabic, how to say sorry is so essential.

Trying to navigate the intricacies of politeness in a new language isn’t the easiest thing in the world. It would be a lot easier if you could just communicate in English—easier for you, that is!

Saying sorry in Arabic is something you shouldn’t do until you’re well past the language-learning level of taking phrases from articles like this one. Each situation that calls for an apology is unique and complex.

But everyone has to start somewhere, and when it comes to how to say sorry in Arabic, lessons like this one are a good place to do so. Even learning a simple “sorry” in Arabic language can have massive benefits. Start with a bonus, and download your FREE cheat sheet - How to Improve Your Arabic Skills! (Logged-In Member Only)

  1. What is an Apology?
  2. Basic Phrases for Apologizing
  3. Asking for Forgiveness
  4. Four Different Approaches to Apologizing
  5. Saying Sorry When it Really Wasn’t so Bad
  6. Learning to Apologize Like a Native
  7. Conclusion

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1. What is an Apology?

3 Ways to Say Sorry

An apology is when one person has wronged another in some way, through word or deed, and now must bear a certain amount of responsibility to right that wrong. In other words, an apology is a way of transforming what has been seen as offensive into what can be seen as acceptable.

Sometimes that’s as easy as saying a set phrase like “I’m sorry.” After all, life happens and we can’t all be perfect. There are bound to be little mishaps from time to time that simply take a tiny acknowledgment of guilt to fix.

But many times, it’s not so simple.

It often takes specific reflection on the offensive act before the other party is satisfied—particularly in formal or serious situations. This is even more apparent in conservative Arab cultures.

Take just one example: You’re a professor, and a student arrives late to your class. Would you prefer that he mumbles “sorry” as he heads to his seat, or that he gives you a more detailed and “real” apology along the lines of “Sorry I’m late, Professor, there was construction on the road.”

It might not matter to you. But it certainly does to others.

Knowing how to navigate these treacherous cultural waters is one of the most important things you can learn in terms of cross-cultural communication. Far more so than just the language itself! That said, when learning how to say sorry in Arabic, phrases like the ones below make for good building blocks as you work toward more complex apologies, and are great for building your core “sorry” in Arabic vocabulary.

2. Basic Phrases for Apologizing

Say Sorry

So, what does saying sorry in Arabic words look like? The simplest way of how to say sorry in spoken Arabic is with the word “sorry.”

  • آسِف

Infinitesimally more complicated is “I’m sorry,” which naturally requires the pronoun.

  • أنا اسفة / أنا آسِف
    ana ʾāsif / ana ʾāsifa

In Arabic and in English, there’s also a verb form: I apologize.

  • أنا أعتذر
    ʾanā ʾaʿtaḏir
    I apologize.

This is more formal and slightly heavier in tone. As you can probably guess, something as simple as your choice of words can have a big effect on how the other party perceives your message.

And yet, taking the time to learn “sorry” in Arabic may simply not be enough. Let’s dive a little deeper, and learn how to say “forgive me” in Arabic.

3. Asking for Forgiveness

Asking for Forgiveness

If you ask someone to forgive you, it’s possible that it might actually make them angrier than if you waited for things to blow over naturally.

After all, forgiveness takes a certain amount of sacrifice. And when you’ve been wronged by someone, sacrifice is the very last thing you want to do.

On the other hand, if someone is already past being emotional, but still harbors a little bit of a grudge, asking for forgiveness puts the ball in their court to give up their enmity and move on. It can be a wake-up call, like “I guess it’s time to let this go.”

  • أرجوك سامحني، أتوسّل إليك
    ʾarǧūk sāmiḥnī, ʾatawassalu ʾilayk
    Please forgive me, I beg you.

Let’s take a closer look at that verb: سامِحْنِي‎ (sāmiḥnī).

The triliteral root is س م ح, s-m-ḥ, which is related to permission and magnanimity. For instance, there’s سَمَحَ (samaḥa) which means “to allow; to permit” as well as سَمُحَ (samuḥa) which means “to be generous.”

The verb sāmiḥnī itself translates most directly to the English phrase “forgive me.” If a woman is speaking, it would be sāmiḥinī instead.

And it’s a pretty serious word! You absolutely wouldn’t use it for simple annoyances or misunderstandings that resolve themselves quickly.

The more you pull apart these words and phrases, the more impossible the whole task seems. And yet, tons of second-language Arabic speakers have figured it out. How, then, can you come up with a foolproof way to apologize in Arabic?

4. Four Different Approaches to Apologizing

Woman Covering Her Mouth

There are as many different ways to get an apology across as there are bends in a river. In general, the most effective and heartfelt apologies are a combination of multiple approaches.

Saying sorry isn’t enough on its own, but check out these different strategies and think about how you might express these feelings in Arabic.

1- Trying to Right the Wrong

With this strategy, you implicitly accept guilt and want to show with your actions that you regret what happened.

Righting the wrong could be as simple as paying for something that you accidentally broke, buying someone a meal, or even something as complex as making a thoughtful gift from scratch to show that you care.

The important thing is that you’re expending time, effort, or money on behalf of the other person because they were inconvenienced by you. Here are three different ways to let someone know you’re immediately prepared to make amends.

  • سأحاول إصلاح ذلك
    saʾuḥāwilu ʾiṣlāḥa ḏalik
    I’ll try to fix it.
  • سأشتري لكِ واحدة جديدة
    saʾaštarī lak waḥidah ǧadīdah
    I’ll buy you a new one.
  • يمكنك أن تأخذ طعامي
    yumkinuka ʾan taʾḫuḏa ṭaʿāmī
    You can have my food instead.

What do these phrases have in common? They refer to something in particular, such as “food” in the last example.

2- Accepting Responsibility

Here, you’re explicitly accepting guilt and admitting that it was, in fact, your fault. This is a very valuable trait to have. No matter how much people enjoy making excuses, nobody likes to hear them.

  • أنا المسؤول.
    ʾanā al-masʾuūl.
    I am responsible (for it).
  • لقد كانت غلطتي.
    laqad kānat ġalṭatī.
    It was my mistake.
  • إنها غلطتي
    ʾinnahā ġalṭatī
    It’s all my fault.

As you can see from these two examples, the word غَلَط‎ (ghalata) here means “error” or “mistake.” Idiomatically, in English we can say “it’s my fault,” but in Arabic it’s better to stick with phrasing in the style of “it’s my mistake” or “the error was mine.”

3- Not Doing it Again

As long as you can keep your promise, you’ll definitely want to reassure the other person that you won’t make the same mistake again.

Are you trustworthy? Hopefully you’re not a خائن (ḫāʾin) or a traitor, a snake, or a backstabber. If somebody calls you that, you might want to skip straight to the later part of this article where you learn how to beg for forgiveness. Either that or start a fight.

Assuming that nobody is brawling over an attack on their honor, here are two phrases you can use to try and convince the other person that you’ve turned over a new leaf.

  • .أعِدُك أنني لن أفعَلَ ذلك مرة أخرى
    ʾaʿiduka ʾannanī lan ʾafʿala ḏalika marraẗan ʾuḫrā.
    I promise I won’t do it again.

Of course, with most people, you’re lucky to even get this chance. Your actions have to speak louder than your words here.

4- Explaining Your Actions

Who doesn’t like to stick up for themselves? Although we mentioned earlier that you should try to avoid excuses and stay honorable, it’s not a black-and-white situation.

If the thing that happened really wasn’t that serious, then explaining the circumstances can let the other person step into your shoes for a moment, and understand that you really didn’t mean any harm.

  • لقد كان الطريق مزدحماً
    laqad kān al-ṭarīqu muzdaḥiman
    There was a lot of traffic.
  • الحقيقة أنها ليست لي
    al-ḥaqīqaẗu ʾannahā laysat lī.
    The truth is, it wasn’t mine.
  • لقد كان سوء تفاهم
    laqad kāna sūʾa tafāhum
    It was a misunderstanding.
  • أعتذر بشدة. لم أتمكن من الرد على هاتفي
    ʾaʿtaḏir bišiddah. lam ʾatamakkan min al-rad ʿalā hātifī
    I’m sorry, I couldn’t pick up my phone.

Who knows when you might need phrases like these? As alluded to previously, however, doing this too much is a recipe for being brushed off in the future. If you’re always the one to come up with an excuse, well, congratulations on reaching such an impressive level in Arabic!

But whichever of your friends that are still sticking around might be having second thoughts.

5. Saying Sorry When it Really Wasn’t so Bad

Woman Apologizing for Bumping Someone

Time for something a little lighter: how to apologize in Arabic language for smaller things.

In English, we say the word “sorry” to apologize, but we also use it as a kind of filler word when the tiniest inconvenience has taken place. It doesn’t even matter if it was your fault.

You might say “sorry” when you mishear someone, for instance; but wasn’t it their fault in the first place for speaking so quietly? And how many times have you automatically mumbled an apology when someone bumped into you in a crowded place?

Well, from Morocco to Iraq, people are bumping into each other and mumbling apologies just the same as people do in English-speaking countries. It’s a good idea to learn these two phrases for “excuse me'’ and “sorry” in Arabic.

  • عفوا
    Excuse me! (to squeeze past somebody in an elevator)
  • المعذرة
    Sorry… (to get someone’s attention)

If you want to be specific about mishearing someone, you can say آسِف (aasif) and then add this simple phrase:

  • ماذا قلت؟
    māḏā qult?
    What did you say?

Lastly, the word عفوا (ʿafwan) means “excuse me,” like the kind of thing you’d say after coughing or sneezing. It’s neutral and formal, so you can easily use it in any situation where you don’t really know your audience.

On the whole, most people find Arabs extremely polite and well-mannered. They might not take unnecessary apologies as far as some British people do, but this is one aspect of Western culture that you can import wholesale into the Middle East.

6. Learning to Apologize Like a Native

Woman Gesturing

You can learn a lot about apologizing in Arabic by watching TV and reading books meant for native speakers.

TV is a bit of a double-edged sword in this case. Soap operas have people apologizing and begging forgiveness at least once an episode, but there aren’t any ordinary daily-life soaps in MSA. Arabic TV shows dealing with everyday situations are all in colloquial Arabic.

The MSA shows you’ll tend to find are the kind of sweeping historical epics that come out around Ramadan. Either that, or Sesame Street.

So for really expressing yourself naturally in Modern Standard Arabic, you’ll have to do a lot of reading. Fiction in translation that you’re already familiar with is an excellent starter. It won’t teach you the cultural norms, but it will give you a great first boost for being comfortable reading the language.

After that, you can move into original articles (because they’re short), literature, and even poetry. Authentic depictions of actual Arab cultures written in Arabic are the ideal way to pick up on real norms of how feelings get expressed—certainly not limited to apologies.

7. Conclusion

All in all, feelings rely heavily on language. Sure, you can shout, scream, and break things, but at the end of the day you’ve got to be clear about what you mean.

We didn’t cover the myriad ways that people might demand or accept apologies in Arabic because there’s simply no end to the depth this topic could reach.

Learning how to say sorry in Arabic is a valuable skill for communication across the Arab world. Even better than that, though, is a thoroughly open mind and a readiness to be extremely flexible when it comes to cultural misunderstandings.

Most people will afford you this luxury as a visiting foreigner. Will you be prepared to offer them the same?

If you want to take your Arabic up a notch, don’t hesitate to grab ArabicPod101’s free trial to get access to over 1060 video and audio lessons.

Before you go, let us know in the comments how confident you feel now about offering an apology in Arabic. Much more confident, or do you still need some time to study and practice? We look forward to hearing from you!

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Author: Yassir Sahnoun is a HubSpot certified content strategist, copywriter and polyglot who works with language learning companies. He helps companies attract sales using content strategy, copywriting, blogging, email marketing & more.

Egypt Holidays: Egyptian Armed Forces Day

Egypt takes pride for its military seriously, and rightly so. On Armed Forces Day, Egypt commemorates one of its most successful and ambitious feats: regaining occupation of Sinai from the Israeli army. Naturally, this celebration extends to a holiday of recognition and appreciation for the country’s military as a whole.

In learning about Armed Forces Day, or any other major holidays in Egypt, you’re gaining practical knowledge about Egypt’s history and, by extension, its modern culture. As any successful language-learner can tell you, this is a vital step in mastering any language.

At, we hope to make every aspect of your language-learning journey both fun and informative!

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1. What is Armed Forces Day?

Armed Forces Day commemorates the date in 1973 when the Egyptian army succeeded in restoring the dignity of all Egyptians and defeated the Israeli army which occupied Sinai.

This event is often referred to as the October War, though some call it the Yom Kippur War or the Crossing War. It got its latter name because the Egyptians managed to cross the Suez Canal and destroy the Israeli Bar Lev Line, which was a very high earthen berm. The Israeli army described it as the strongest defensive line in history.

Do you know how Egyptians destroyed it? Just by using high pressure water hoses!

This October War took place during the month of Ramadan, meaning that the Muslim soldiers of the Israeli army were fasting. The Egyptians used this to their advantage, and began an attack that the other side wasn’t expecting.

2. When is Armed Forces Day in Egypt?

Armed Forces Day is October 6

Each year, Egyptians commemorate Armed Forces Day and the October War on October 6.

3. Celebrations & Traditions for Armed Forces Day

An Army Marching

For Armed Forces Day in Egypt, celebrations vary but are largely patriotic and joyful.

To celebrate Armed Forces Day, Egyptians gather together in public squares to sing patriotic songs, such as O Egypt, My Beloved and Here are the Egyptians. Oftentimes, this takes place in the form of a musical concert, complete with famous bands.

If you happen to be in Egypt on Armed Forces Day, you’ll also see magnificent air shows performed by the Egypitan Air Force. Their planes create symbolic shapes in the sky, including the Egyptian flag and the victory sign. There may also be an Armed Forces Day parade in some regions.

2014 was a particularly exciting year for Armed Forces Day. Participants were surprised as Egyptican Army helicopters showered them with gifts from the sky. Because the people were so pleased with their gifts, the army decided to do this every year!

4. The Oil War

Why do you think the 1973 October War is called “the oil war” in some countries?

This is because oil-exporting Arab countries decided to stop its oil exports to the world during the war, to support the Egyptian army.

5. Essential Vocabulary for Armed Forces Day in Egypt

Silhouette of Army Men

Here’s the essential vocabulary you should know for the Armed Forces Day Egyptian celebrations!

  • إسرائيل (ʾisrāʾīl) — Israel
  • أكتوبر (ʾuktūbar) — October
  • السوْيس (al-swīs) — Suez
  • عيد القوات المسلحة (ʿīdu al-quwwāt al-musallaḥah) — Armed Forces Day
  • السادس (al-sādis) — sixth
  • قناة (qanāh) — canal
  • حرب (ḥarb) — war
  • انتصار (intiṣaār) — victory
  • جيش (ǧayš) — army
  • الف و تسعمئة و ثلاثة و سبعون (ʾalf wa tisʿumiʾah wa ṯalāṯah wa sabʿūn) — 1973
  • أمر (ʾamr) — order

To hear each of these vocabulary words pronounced, alongside relevant images, check out our Armed Forces Day vocabulary list!

How ArabicPod101 Can Help You Master Arabic

We hope you enjoyed learning about Armed Forces Day in Egypt with us! What are your thoughts on this holiday? What kinds of celebrations does your country have for its army or military? Let us know in the comments; we always love hearing from you!

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We know that learning Arabic can be an overwhelming experience at times, so it’s our goal to make the process as fun and painless as possible. Know that your hard work will pay off, and you’ll be speaking, writing, and reading Arabic like a native before you know it. And ArabicPod101 will be here every step of the way with constant support!

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UAE Etiquette: Body Language in Arab Culture


If you tie up an Arab’s hands while he’s speaking, you might as well have tied up his tongue.

So goes an old saying about the importance of body language in Arab cultures. And there’s a lot of truth to it, which is why we’re going over UAE etiquette in today’s article.

It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve repeated after your teacher or your textbook to nail the perfect Arabic accent. If you aren’t aware of how your body language impacts your communication, you’ll stick out as a foreigner at best—and actually impede your meaning at worst.

Of course, there are many different “Arab cultures” out there, and each one is going to have slight differences in what’s considered normal in terms of gestures when speaking.

But there are several key things to keep in mind, both in terms of what you should do and what you should try to avoid. These rules for body gestures in Arabic cultures tend to be applicable no matter where you go.

In this guide, you’ll get a glimpse at some of these subtle nuances in body language and gestures in Arabic cultures, and by taking them to heart, you’ll be all set to enjoy truly seamless communication in the Arab world! Start with a bonus, and download your FREE cheat sheet - How to Improve Your Arabic Skills! (Logged-In Member Only)

Table of Contents

  1. Interesting and Indispensable Gestures and Body Language in Arab Culture
  2. Things You Shouldn’t Do
  3. Conclusion

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1. Interesting and Indispensable Gestures and Body Language in Arab Culture

1- The Right-Hand Rule

No, you’re not back in calculus class. In fact, this is a cultural rule in tons of places all over the world, not just Arab cultures.

The idea is that your right hand (or both hands) should be used for everything, whenever you have a choice.

Why’s that? Some kind of obscure discrimination against the left-handed among us?

Not exactly. It’s just that the left hand is associated with using the toilet. Traditionally, in a lot of cultures, you save the left hand for that less-than-clean purpose.

So that’s where everyone’s mind goes when you stick out your left hand to do anything, from giving a high five to accepting a contract.

If you happen to be left-handed, make an effort to use your right hand for giving and receiving things as much as possible. That’s the bare minimum of respect-the-right-hand that you should try to achieve.

2- Smiling

Woman Smiling

Who doesn’t love a big ol’ smile to ease the mood?

Actually, in different places around the world, smiling can mean very different things. Americans tend to wear a smile, practically as their default expression, whereas in East Asia, a smile can show that you’re uncomfortable and want to change the subject.

Big grins are an important part of creating a friendly personal relationship in the West. In Arab countries, though, it’s likely to come across as insincere.

People also tend not to smile or wave at strangers on the street.

This doesn’t mean that you have to give up your smiling habit entirely. Just be aware that the “standard” for smiling is a bit higher in other places, and it might not be returned with the same enthusiasm.

3- Handshakes

Two People Shaking Hands

Let’s dive a little deeper into what you can do with your hands, specifically in terms of Arabic greeting hand gestures.

In the West, handshakes are for introductions and greetings (though lots of people nowadays hug each other, which we’ll get to shortly). If you see someone several times a day, it would be quite strange to shake their hand every time, right?

In Arab culture, you not only shake hands every time you see someone, you do it every time you leave, too!

It’s important to note here that many Muslim women are uncomfortable with being touched by men. And if you’re a woman visiting an Arab country, being forward with handshakes might be taken the wrong way.

To stay on the safe side, you can touch your right palm to your heart in lieu of a handshake, or simply wave hello.

This palm-to-the-heart gesture is actually done by default after the handshake.

4- Man Hugs & Holding Hands

Two Men Hugging

Nobody ever called Arab men distant or unaffectionate.

It’s perfectly common in Arab culture for two men to walk down the street hand-in-hand, or to give each other a friendly hug upon meeting. Childhood, teenagerhood, adulthood—even hardened military men will do this.

Arab expressions of masculinity simply don’t restrict touching other men. Try that in the West, though, and a lot of men will look at you funny or even become quite offended.

So what does it mean if an Arab man doesn’t touch you (assuming you’re a Western man)?

One of two things, really. He either doesn’t like you, or he respects your culture enough to know that you probably don’t like to be touched.

And the signal you’re sending by not touching them—pulling away from a handshake early, for instance, or not putting your hand on their shoulder when telling a good joke—is the same in reverse.

You’re subtly implying that they’re not your good friends and that you may, in fact, be made uncomfortable by their presence.

All of this goes right out the window, of course, when we talk about contact between members of the opposite sex. This same-sex touching isn’t affection, it’s friendship.

Affection is culturally regulated much, much more. Public displays of affection are strongly frowned upon, and anything that could be mistaken for an advance probably will be.

Beware that holding hands is only appropriate in actual Arabic countries (Persian Gulf countries). In North African or Levantine countries with Arabic political systems, it’s not appropriate for men to hold hands as it is in countries like the UAE.

5- Kissing on the Cheek

Two People Giving Air Kisses

So we’ve covered hugging and handshakes—two very important parts of the first impression.

And yet there’s still one more body language element to Arab greetings that can really be a sticking point for some people: the cheek kiss.

It’s not actually a smack on the cheek. All you do is kiss the air right next to someone’s cheek. Men do this to men, and women do this to women, for the most part.

But the main question is, how many times? And where do you start, right or left?

Unfortunately, some people have grown up starting with the left cheek, but there’s just no way of knowing who these poor souls are.

It’s best to clearly telegraph your intentions and always, always head for the right cheek first, because that’s what most people do. Fingers crossed, you won’t run into any embarrassing mishaps.

6- Measuring Things with Your Arm

Finally, an example that won’t communicate bad intentions or start any international incidents.

In the West, we tend to hold our hands a certain distance apart to say how large certain things are. “The spider was thiiiis big!”

In some Arab countries, people do exactly the same gesture, but in a unique way. They measure things on their left arm instead, marking off the distance from their right hand to their left via the forearm.

Interestingly, different people may mean slightly different things when using the same gesture. Are you measuring from your right palm to your left palm, or to your left fingertips? Ask your friends!

2. Things You Shouldn’t Do

So we’ve covered how certain things might be interpreted differently between Western culture and Arab culture.

But while that kind of anthropology is interesting, it’s probably not exactly why you’re here.

You want to know what might get you in trouble. You want to know about body gestures considered rude in Arabic cultures.

For that reason, the following examples are things you ought to make an effort to avoid as best you can.

Please don’t:

1- Give a Thumbs-Up

Thumbs Up

Actually, this is really tricky to say. Widespread exportation of Western culture has diluted the meaning of many body gestures that used to be limited to specific contexts.

So no matter what different sources tell you, there will always be people that take things one way and people that take things another.

With the thumbs-up sign, though, the consequences of “getting it wrong” can be more serious than you bargained for.

Believe it or not, more traditional or conservative Arabs won’t take this well at all. To them, it’s something like saying “Up yours!”

Now, as with the other “don’ts” in this article, the fact that you’re a foreigner is probably going to give you charisma points when speaking with others. Using the thumbs-up is, as I mentioned, quite common in international media these days.

Just don’t be offended if someone quietly takes you aside and mentions that you shouldn’t do it around Grandpa.

2- Point at Someone with the Index Finger

People Pointing at Other People

Pointing is rude! Even more so if you’re face-to-face with someone and you start jabbing your finger in their face.

Perhaps this one is rude for you as well, so you wouldn’t be caught doing it in the first place. What about when you want to refer to someone, say “that guy over there?”

Simply gesture with your whole hand instead, as if you were showing someone the way to somewhere.

Using the whole hand (the right hand, naturally) removes any suspicion that you’re talking negatively about the other party. It’s almost like a gesture of welcome to join the conversation.

3- Slap Your Fist into Your Hand

This sounds obvious when it’s written out like that. It makes me think of some goon in a trenchcoat lurking in a back alley.

However, I’ve personally seen quite a few Westerners do this gesture when impatiently waiting for something.

Staring off into the distance, they’ll swing their arms back and forth, and usually wind up clapping one fist into the other hand.

It might be a baseball thing—as I said, it’s mostly just Americans who do this.

In North Africa and Morocco specifically, this gesture refers to sexual intercourse.

In any case, no matter how much the Arabs nearby are into baseball, seeing someone punch their own palm tends to make people uneasy. If you’ve got to fidget in some way while waiting, try twiddling your thumbs or adjusting your shirt.

4- Check Your Watch While Talking to Someone

Man Checking His Watch

As you can imagine, checking your watch while in the middle of a conversation sends a strong signal that you’re bored and can’t wait to get out of there.

Interestingly, in business meetings, a similar gesture is not uncommon. Checking one’s phone in a meeting and shooting off a quick text isn’t seen as particularly rude in many Arab countries.

Why the difference? The meeting is often a more casual event in Arab society. Using your phone is something that you’d likely have to do regularly during the work day anyway, so taking a few moments to quickly send a message isn’t seen as interrupting any kind of pattern.

On the other hand, looking at your watch is only about knowing how much time is left until something else happens. It certainly happens from time to time, and in a lively conversation with someone you know it will probably be overlooked, but it’s better to avoid this one if you can.

5- Bite Your Finger

You may not have been inclined to bite your finger in the first place. Have you even washed your hands today?

But it’s good to recognize what it means if you ever see it done.

When you take your right index finger and lightly bite down on it (horizontal in your mouth) it’s showing that you can’t stand the situation a minute longer.

Imagine gritting your teeth, but way, way more intense. It’s like you’ve got to bite down on a piece of leather to stop from screaming, and your finger is the first thing that comes to mind.

Your temper is about to burst, so woe betide those who stand in your way.

6- Put Your Palm Up with All Your Fingertips Touching

Man Making Fingertips Gesture

What was that? It’s a stereotypical Italian hand gesture, or perhaps that of someone commenting on a fine wine.

In the Arab world, this is a sign of…well, not quite anger, not quite frustration, but more the implication that you’d better listen to me

Something like that. People pull it out when scolding their kids, when describing someone who really grinds their gears, and even when in the middle of particularly heated phone conversations.

Since it might not be natural to you, try to avoid picking it up unless you’ve really been immersed in the culture for a long time. Otherwise, it might come off as strange or even a little mocking.


Are you worried about how your body language might come across when you hang out with Arabs?

To be honest, you really shouldn’t be.

Middle Easterners are not only famous for their hospitality, they’re also extremely warm toward people who’ve made the effort to get to know the local culture and/or language.

It doesn’t matter if you end up making little mistakes. Simply reading an article like this and keeping an open mind goes a long, long way toward having a fantastic cultural exchange. Start with a bonus, and download your FREE cheat sheet - How to Improve Your Arabic Skills! (Logged-In Member Only)

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When is Eid Al-Adha in Egypt? - Islamic Holiday Guide

What holiday is Eid Al-Adha?

Each year in Egypt, Muslims celebrate Eid Al-Adha in remembrance of Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son at Allah’s request, and Allah’s provision of a ram to sacrifice instead. This is one of the most significant Islamic holidays.

In this article, we’ll be going over the Eid Al-Adha meaning as well as Eid Al-Adha observances and traditions. At, we hope to make this learning journey both fun and informative!

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1. What is Eid Al-Adha in Egypt?

Eid Al-Adha (sometimes called Eid Ul-Adha or the Feast of the Sacrifice) is the second-most-important holiday in the Islamic nation, and here we’ll give you some Eid Al-Adha background so you can better appreciate this holiday.

The day of Eid and the three days after are called the days of sacrifice or slaughtering. The Eid begins with the Eid prayer in the early morning, followed by sacrifice of animals. The reason is that Muslims believe this is the day when Allah commanded, as a test, that the prophet Ibrahim should sacrifice his son Ismail. But, Allah sent him a ram as a ransom.

For this reason, on the anniversary of that day, Muslims slaughter rams and other cattle and distribute parts of the meat amongst the poor.

2. When is Eid Al-Adha?

10th in Pink Text

The tenth day of the Dhu al-Hijjah marks Eid Al-Adha. For your convenience, we’ve provided a list of this holiday’s date (beginning on the eve before) on the Gregorian calendar for the next ten years.

  • 2019: August 11
  • 2020: July 30
  • 2021: July 19
  • 2022: July 9
  • 2023: June 29
  • 2024: June 17
  • 2025: June 6
  • 2026: May 26
  • 2027: May 16
  • 2028: May 4

3. Eid Al-Adha Observances & Traditions

Family Gathered Together

The Eid begins with the Eid prayer, which is performed in the open air in large yards or parks attached to mosques. Afterwards, immolation of animals begins in a method in accordance with Islamic law, which guarantees that the ram will not suffer and that all the blood will be drained out of the body in order to enjoy the healthy and delicious meat. Typically, people hire butchers to carry out the sacrifice as the slaughtering process is difficult and requires experience.

After the butchers finish slaughtering, the ram meat is cut and divided into three equal parts: One-third for the owner of the sacrificed animal, another for relatives, and the last third for the poor and needy. The poor and needy wait for this day to have the chance to eat meat that is too expensive for them to buy during most of the year.

Did you know? People always seize this opportunity of a long holiday, which sometimes lasts five days, to travel to some nice places, such as the North Coast or Ain Sokhna, to spend the days of Eid there. Because the owners of the resorts know about this, they always arrange concerts at that time.

You may also hear Eid Al-Adha greetings exchanged in Egypt on this day.

4. Names for Eid al-Adha

Do you know how many names Eid al-Adha has in Egypt?

There are three names for Eid al-Adha. In addition to the name “Festival of the Sacrifice” (Eid el-Adha), there are two others; “The Greater Eid” (Eid al-Kebiir) and “The Festival of Meat” (Eid el-Lahma). The reason for the name “The Festival of Meat,” is that the majority of people eat meat on this day.

5. Useful Vocabulary for Eid Al-Adha

Giving to the Poor

Here’s some vocabulary you should know for Eid Al-Adha!

  • بقرة (baqarah) — cow
  • خروف (ḫarūf) — sheep
  • عيد الأضحى (ʿīd al-ʾaḍḥā) — Eid ul-Adha
  • العاشر (al-ʿāšir) — tenth
  • فتة (fattah) — Fatteh
  • أضحية (ʾuḍḥiyah) — sacrifice
  • اجتماع عائلي (iǧtimāʿ ʿāʾilī) — family gathering
  • صلاة العيد (ṣalāẗu al-ʿiīd) — Eid prayer
  • ذو الحجة (ḏūl-ḥiǧǧah) — Dhu al-Hijjah
  • صدقة (ṣadaqah) — charity
  • كبد (kibdah) — liver

To hear each of these Eid al-Adha vocabulary words pronounced, check out our relevant vocabulary list.

Conclusion: How ArabicPod101 Can Help You Master Arabic

We hope you enjoyed learning about Eid Al-Adha with us! What are your thoughts on this Islamic holiday? Let us know in the comments! We look forward to hearing from you.

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Egyptian Revolution Day July 23: The Egypt National Day

Egypt’s national day, Egyptian Revolution Day, is considered one of the most important holidays in the country and for good reason. It marks the end of monarchy in Egypt as the result of a coup against then-King Farouk, who lost the throne as a result.

Learn more about the Egyptian Revolution and Egypt’s Revolution Day with!

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1. Why Should You Know About Egyptian Revolution Day?

Egyptian Revolution Day is the single most important holiday in Egypt, commemorating the end of Egypt’s monarchy in 1952 and the events leading up to it. To fully grasp Egypt’s culture—and therefore its language—one must first understand the country’s origins and history, for these things also reveal the heart of Egypt and its people.

In this article, we’ll cover information about the Egyptian Revolution of 1952 as well as the holiday that centers on it. Learn about the coup of this 1952 Revolution, and the celebrations that take place on Egypt Revolution Day, July 23—and learn some valuable Arabic vocabulary while you’re at it to help you celebrate the Egypt Revolution Day holiday!

2. What is the Egyptian Revolution?

The Egyptian Revolution of 1952 marks a time in Egypt’s history that will forever hold great significance to its people. This Revolution ultimately ended Egypt’s monarchy, removing its then-King Farouk from power. This allowed the country to become an independent country, setting it on the path to becoming what it is today.

The 1952 Revolution was largely the result of the combined effort of Muhammad Naguib, Gamal Abdel Nasser, and the Free Officers Movement they took charge of. This powerful and effective coup caused King Farouk to lose power, giving Egypt the freedom to become independent.

This success had quite a domino effect in the political atmosphere of Egypt. On top of ending the country’s monarchy, it eventually managed to rid it of British occupation and began the Nasser Era.

The Egyptian Revolution of 1952, therefore, deserves its title as national day of Egypt and its widespread celebration. Read on for more information on the Revolution Day Egypt holds so dear.

3. When is Arabic Revolution Day?

January 23 is Revolution Day

The Egyptian Revolution is celebrated each year on July 23, and is considered the national day of Egypt.

4. How is the Egyptian Revolution Celebrated?

Egyptian Flag is Flown

Egyptian Revolution Day is, of course, a public holiday in Egypt; this means that most schools close and the majority of people don’t have to work.

In Egypt, the 1952 Revolution is widely celebrated. Even before the holiday officially begins, those of high status prepare and give speeches commemorating and honoring this great day in Egypt’s history. Further, there are often street celebrations taking place well before the actual holiday begins.

5. Three Attempts at New Government

Did you know that from January 27, 1952 to July 20, 1952, King Farouk attempted to revive governmental systems through three different politicians? These politicians were Ali Maher, Ahmed Naguib El-Hilali, and Hussein Sirri.

Each of their governments ultimately failed within a very short amount of time.

6. Must-know Vocab for Egyptian Revolution Day

King Farouk (al-malik fārūq)

There’s some vocabulary you should know to celebrate Egyptian Revolution Day:

  • يوليو (yūlyū) — July
  • عيد ثورة 23 من يوليو (ʿīd ṯawrat al-ṯaliṯ wal ʿišrīn min yūlyū) — Revolution Day
  • الثالث و العشرين (al-ṯāliṯ wa al-ʿišrīn) — Twenty-third
  • ثورة (ṯawrah) — Revolution
  • جمهورية (ǧumhūriyyah) — Republic
  • محمد نجيب (muḥammad naǧīb) — Mohamed Naguib
  • مملكة (mamlakah) — Kingdom
  • الملك فاروق (al-malik fārūq) — King Farouk
  • جمال عبد الناصر (ǧamal- ʿabd al-nāṣir) — Gamal Abdel Naser
  • حركة الضباط الأحرار (ḥarakah al-ḍubbāṭ al-ʾḥrār) — Free Officers Movement
  • إنقلاب (ʾinqilāb) — Coup d’état

If you want to practice your pronunciation, be sure to visit our Revolution Day vocabulary list, where you can listen to audio files alongside each word.


Now you know a little more about the Egyptian Revolution Day; what do you think about this holiday? We hope you found this article helpful and relevant, and learned some new vocabulary words along the way.

If you want to learn even more Arabic, be sure to visit us at We have insightful and fun blog posts and vocabulary lists on just about any topic! You can also download our MyTeacher app for a one-on-one learning experience, and chat with other Arabic language-learners in our online community!

We’re here to make your Arabic-learning journey an exciting one, filled with support. We wish you well as you continue deciphering Arabic and learning about its culture!

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14 Unique and Untranslatable Arabic Words and Expressions

There’s no way this is the first article about untranslatable words you’ve ever seen (maybe you’ve even seen articles about untranslatable Arabic words already).

You may even be thinking: “How can you write an article about untranslatable words without explaining, and then just translating, each word?”

You’ve got me there.

But to ease your doubt about untranslatable words in Arabic, keep in mind that there’s a progression to how this works. There’s also a progression involved in realizing what it means for a word to be “untranslatable,” which I’ll try to outline below:

First, you’re amazed at the world of languages out there, and you love the idea of certain words that have no equivalents in expressing meaning.

Then, you get a little jaded and think that no matter what the concept is, there’s always going to be some way to explain it to others.

But then, you get more involved with other cultures and really start to use a very different language in a natural way, and eventually realize—there really are some things that are extremely difficult to describe in other words.

It’s that diversity and that spark of awe for the human race that should keep you coming back to articles like these, and learning new things.

That said, here’s our list of untranslatable Arabic words! Here, you’ll find beautiful untranslatable Arabic words in Arabic language to color your conversation like a native. I’ll also be roughly converting untranslatable Arabic words to English words, so you can have an excellent grasp of how to use them.

Let’s learn some untranslatable words in Arabic vocabulary!

Table of Contents

  1. Sweet Nothings
  2. Insults and Put-Downs
  3. Describing Others
  4. Feelings and Expressing Them
  5. Conclusion

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1. Sweet Nothings


Every language and every culture has beautiful words to express love and affection, and this is no different when it comes to Arabic phrases with no English equivalent.

But love is a feeling so uniquely shaped by one’s own culture that it’s next to impossible to truly express your love in another language.

For that reason, even the trendiest English speakers in Arab countries (and there are many) will pretty much always prefer to use their native languages to talk about love.

You just can’t quite get the words out in another way.

Here are some beautiful Arabic untranslatable words that Arabic speakers use when they can’t think of anything in another language that really captures how they feel. Hopefully, these untranslatable words in Arabic grammar also show you what the concept of love looks like in Arabic culture!

1- شو ناعمة (šū nāʿmih) - Lebanese

Kittens, warm towels, fuzzy sweaters—soft things are nice things, generally speaking.

But we don’t tend to just up and say so in English. We certainly don’t just tell people they’re soft. Worst-case scenario, people might assume you’re telling them to lose weight if you make a remark on their softness.

In Lebanon, though, it’s a high compliment. This is the sort of thing you’d hear from a wife to her husband, and back again.

2- ʿعشق (išq) - Many dialects

What about when the word “love” itself isn’t enough to show what you’re feeling?

That’s where the word ʿišq comes in. ʿišq refers to love in its purest form. The strong bond between two people that have spent a lifetime together, or the unconditional affection someone has for their sweetheart.

You wouldn’t just up and say that you haveʿišq for somebody. Instead, you’d probably read this word in a novel or hear it in the narration of a film.

3- تقبرني (teʾburnī) [you bury me] - Lebanese

Does that sound a little dark to you? It shouldn’t. In Lebanon, it’s used in a cheerful and upbeat way!

The meaning expressed by this phrase is that you hope you die before the other person, because the alternative is too sad to bear. You love them too much.

You would much rather pass away before them than bear the pain of life without them. That’s the feeling mothers have for children and husbands have for wives—and that’s something that can barely be expressed in words.

2. Insults and Put-Downs

Just as words can express love, other words may be even better for expressing hatred.

All languages can be extremely, perhaps outright disturbingly, creative with insults. And virtually all of them sound completely ridiculous when brought into another language and cultural context.

A true master translator doesn’t even try to find equivalent words—they just come up with their own crazy insults in the other language that might match.

Let’s start with what I think is one of the overall minorly insulting Arabic words with no English translation.

1- روح بلط البحر‬‎ (rūḥ balleṭ el-baḥr‬‎) - Lebanese

Literally, this is an invitation for someone to go and tile the ocean. What would possibly drive someone to say this? Let’s look at the example untranslatable words in Arabic sentences below:

A: “I’m really going to buckle down this weekend and do all my homework in two days.”
B: “Oh yeah? Go tile the ocean while you’re at it.”

In other words, suuuuuuure you are.

It’s not obscene in any way and, to be honest, isn’t particularly insulting. It’s more like casual teasing or brushing off. Someone has made some grandiose claim about what they can do, and you’re not buying it for a second.

2- خايِن (ḫāyen) - Many dialects

It’s a grave insult in many places to be called a betrayer. Even if you’re joking, it might sour the mood of the conversation pretty quick while you rush to explain yourself.

When you look in an English-Arabic dictionary for “snake,” it’s possible that ḫāyen will make an appearance. When you look it up the other way, you’re likely to find words like “traitor,” “scoundrel,” or “turncoat.”

For that reason, calling someone a ḫāyen is something that isn’t going to go over lightly. You’re talking about someone who’s got no morals at all, who would just as soon sell out his own mother to save his own skin in a lie.
Snake in the grass? Backstabber? ḫāyen!

3- طاح حظك (ṭāḥ ḥaẓẓak) - Iraqi Arabic

May luck abandon you!

This is what you say when you’re pretty annoyed at someone and you just want to be a little petty. It’s the kind of thing old men might say when they’re losing at chess in the park.

And this one is the perfect example of something that just isn’t said at all in English. As far as I’m aware, there are virtually no luck-based insults in the English language in common use today.

3. Describing Others

Man with Face Hidden

Next on our list of untranslatable Arabic words in Arabic language are those for describing people.

There are so many people in the world today, and even if we limit ourselves to the Arab world, we see people from every imaginable walk of life and every conceivable background.

It’s only natural that you would grasp for words when trying to talk about somebody else whose past experiences, or present character, are simply special in some way.

Here are some Arabic words that are untranslatable, but are perfect for describing people in certain situations!

1- نعيماً (naʿīman) - Egypt

Did your friend suddenly show up with a new haircut? Does it look pretty good?

Simply give them a smile, a nod, and a naʿīman.

It captures the feeling of “Not bad!” and “Looking sharp!” at the same time, without necessarily being an inappropriate compliment for someone you’re not close to.

It also has the connotation of cleanliness. In Islam, hygiene is very important, and therefore looking clean and fresh is something to be admired.

2- بقرة (baʾarah) - Many dialects

Okay, “cow” isn’t particularly hard to translate.

But when you call someone a cow in English, you’re almost always commenting on their physical appearance or stature.

In Arabic, what you’re really talking about is their clumsiness, particularly when they break things or give you some kind of bump or bruise. Even little kids aren’t exempt from this kind of criticism.

It’s pretty hard to get that feeling across in English. “You have a certain…bovine finesse about you.” Doesn’t quite seem right, does it?

3- مدعوك (madʿūk) - Many dialects

Somebody who’s been through the wringer, someone who’s learned from the school of hard knocks—that person is madʿūk.

This single word captures the unique, and sometimes contradictory, concepts of “world-weary” and “street-smart.” It literally means “rubbed soft” and it’s not too hard to see the imagery there. If you’ve spent your life a wanderer, you’ve been rubbed and pummeled and beaten down before.

At the same time, though, a person who’s madʿūk knows their way around. They’d better—otherwise they might not have made it this far. Therefore, the word also captures the meaning of “street smart,” for better or for worse.

4. Feelings and Expressing Them

Jumping Girl

Perhaps in this section more than any other, cultural background is paramount.

In many cultures, for instance, there’s no word for “bless you” after a sneeze. That’s something in the West that we’ve gotten used to using, while in other places there are completely different traditions for speaking about what goes on in daily life.

1- حشومة (ḥšūmah) - Morocco

You could try translating this as “shame” or “taboo” but that misses the subtle connotations by a long shot. To really understand ḥšūmah, you’ve got to be part of a society which is way less okay with losing face in public than a lot of Western cultures are.

In Morocco, it’s very important to fit in culturally with everything around you. Not doing so is, well, taboo.

You can say that a particular act is ḥšūmah when it makes you feel a little guilty, because you know doing it was wrong religiously or culturally. For instance, it’s ḥšūmah to walk on people’s carpets with your shoes. That’s their house, that’s where they pray, and that’s where they need it to be clean.

2- بتموني (betmūnī) - Many dialects

Betmūnī is a phrase that takes the concept of “don’t worry about it” and elevates it to new heights.

It’s kind of like a way to instantly show that you’re okay with whatever someone is asking you to do.

But be careful. With that kind of influence, you’re also open to manipulation. It’s possible that you do so many favors that they may be taken for granted.

3- يعطيك العافية (yeʿṭīk el-ʿāfyeh) - Lebanon

You see a cleaner, a builder, and a ditch digger hard at work. Or you see a good friend or family member come home tired after a long, long day. What can you say to them to show your respect for their labor?

In English, not much; maybe something like “Really nice work,” or “Wow, that’s impressive!” But in Lebanese Arabic, yeʿṭīk el-ʿāfyeh is the perfect fit. It’s something respectful and gracious that lets others know that you appreciate the effort they’re putting in.

It means: “May God give you power.”

4- ٱلْحَمْدُ للهِ (Al-hamdulillah) & إن شاء الله‎ (Inshallah)

Yeah, these get their own special section. If you read an English book with Arabic speakers in it, the authors are likely to sprinkle their dialogue with these words about every other line or so.

But if the author didn’t clearly understand what these mean, it’s blindingly obvious in the text.

Inshallah is a Romanized contraction of in sha allah, which literally means “if God wills” or “God willing.”

You’d use it to express the sense of “hopefully (something will happen).” Oftentimes, it’s tagged on to the end of a sentence to sort of temper the strength of a desire or wish, as the speaker reminds themselves that nothing is guaranteed in life.

And it has another sense, too. You know when young kids ask their parents for things and the parent replies, “We’ll see,” instead of outright saying “no?” Same thing with Arabic-speaking parents and inshallah.

You may already be using this phrase without knowing it. In Spanish and Portuguese, the words ojalá and oxalá, respectively, both come directly from Arabic and are used all the time to say “I hope.”

Alhamdulillah is another religious expression that has entered the Arabic speech of virtually everyone. When you give good news, you add al-hamdullilah to give your thanks to God for the blessing.

Literally, it means something like: “Thanks/praise to the God.” By using the definite article, it’s implied in the very grammar of the expression that there’s just one God. Therefore, alongside inshallah, al-hamdulillah is used by all adherents to monotheistic religions—Muslims, Jews, and Christians alike—all over the Arabic-speaking world.

These two words, then, turn out to be pretty understandable in English. What’s not quite as translatable about them is the frequency with which they’re used.

Religion enters speech significantly more in Arabic than in many other languages, and if you simply translate the words without paying attention to when people tend to use them, it’ll come off as clumsy and stilted.

5. Conclusion

Just because there are lots of Arabic words that don’t translate well into English doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty that go the other way.

For instance, the word “access” in English is difficult to get across in Arabic—the best equivalent is وصول (wusul), meaning “arrival.”

Languages are funny like that.

Human experiences all over the world just don’t line up quite right. Neither do the words that we use to describe them.

Before you go, drop us a comment and let us know which of these Arabic untranslatable words is your favorite! Were our untranslatable words in Arabic phrases helpful to you? Start with a bonus, and download the Must-Know Beginner Vocabulary PDF for FREE! (Logged-In Member Only)

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Author: Yassir Sahnoun is a HubSpot certified content strategist, copywriter and polyglot who works with language learning companies. He helps companies attract sales using content strategy, copywriting, blogging, email marketing, & more. You can learn more about Yassir at his website

Nailing the Arabic Introduction: “Hi” in Arabic and More

Why are you learning Arabic in the first place?

To talk with people, right?

The thing is, people want to get to know the people they meet. It’s only natural, really.

Interestingly enough, if you spend enough time introducing yourself to new people, you’ll realize that you’re answering the same questions over and over.

Whether you’ve just started learning Arabic or you’ve already got the basics down, it never hurts to go over a list of common situations to make sure you’re linguistically prepared for what’s coming.

So, let’s learn “hi” in Arabic, and go over how to introduce yourself in Arabic language, as well as how to write self introduction in Arabic.

Table of Contents

  1. It Started with Hello
  2. Name
  3. Where are You From?
  4. Why are You Learning Arabic?
  5. Are You Here on Vacation?
  6. What Do You Do?
  7. What Do You Like to Do?
  8. How is Your Family?
  9. Conclusion


1. It Started with Hello

When you’re making an introduction in Arabic, you’ve got to start with the very basics of how to introduce yourself in correct Arabic grammar. Slipping up here on the simplest of words isn’t the end of the world, but it’s certainly a tough crash to come back from.

When introducing yourself in Arabic language, there are two great ways to say hello to somebody else, and a third way to say hello to a group of people. Let’s dive in.

  • أهلا وسهلا
    ‘ahlan wa-sahlan
    Welcome / How do you do?
  • مرحبا

There are several different ways to say hello, depending on where you are, how formal the conversation is, and other factors. These two will get the job done every time, though, when making a self-introduction in Arabic.

  • السلام عليكم
    as-salāmu ʿalaykum
    Peace be upon you!

Assalam alaykum is a particularly formal greeting, and it’s often used to greet a whole group of people at the same time. Imagine a student giving a speech—he’ll definitely start with as-salāmu ʿalaykum.

When you hear this, the proper (and, in fact, obligatory) response is to say:

  • وعليكم السلام
    waʿalaykum as-salām
    And peace be upon you.

2. Name

Why not exchange names right here at the beginning of the conversation? Talking about your name in Arabic, or any language, is an important step in forming a relationship.

Getting someone’s name correct makes an excellent impression. One excellent way to remember names is to make an excuse to use it again almost immediately after hearing it.

That could be during a lull in the conversation, for instance. Your attention is drawn away for a moment, and then coming back, you say “So, Fu’ad, I heard they’re building a new…”

So how do you exchange names in Arabic?

As you should know already, Arabic strongly differentiates between masculine and feminine in its grammar.

Therefore, there are two ways to say most of the questions in this article. In order to save on space, we’ll just stick to the masculine form in the future, as it’s what you’re likely to encounter in other learning materials and even dictionaries. Here’s how to introduce yourself in Egyptian Arabic:

  • ما اِسْمُك؟
    mā ismuk?
    What’s your name? [To a man]
  • ما اِسْمُكِ؟
    ma ismuki?
    What’s your name? [To a woman]

And now to answer:

  • اِسمي
    My name is…

Note that the word “name” is simply ism, and the different suffixes add the meanings of “my/your/his/hers.”

3. Where are You From?

When you introduce yourself in Arabic phrases, definitely expect to hear this question.

Did you know that around ninety percent of Dubai residents are expats? When you think “expat,” you might think of Westerners moving abroad. But actually, the majority of foreigners living in Dubai are from other nearby Arab countries.

The same is true for most other Arabic-speaking countries. Most people not from there are from somewhere nearby. That means that in cosmopolitan areas, you’ll frequently ask and hear the question: “Where are you from?”

  • من أي بلد أنت؟
    min ayyi baladin ‘ant?
    Where are you from?

Here’s a sample answer.

  • أنا من كندا
    ‘ana min kanada.
    I’m from Canada.

In English, most countries aren’t written or said with the definite article. A few examples off the top of my head are: “The Netherlands,” “The Ivory Coast,” and “The Philippines.”

In Arabic, though, close to half of all countries get the definite article: اليابان (al-yābān) meaning “The Japan,” اليونان (al-yūnān) meaning “The Greece,” and so on.

  • منذ متى وأنت تعيش هنا؟
    munḏu matā wa ʾanta taʿīšu hunā?
    How long have you been living here?

There’s a useful little phrase hidden here; منذ متى (munḏu matā) means “since when” and it’s a great building block to drop onto other related questions.

You’ll probably get this question if you happen to speak Arabic particularly well. People are always curious about the motivations of others learning different languages.

  • عشت هنا لمدة أربع سنوات
    ʿištu hunā limuddaẗi ʾarbaʿi sanawat
    I’ve lived here for four years.

No matter how long you say you’ve lived in an Arabic-speaking country, prepare for a compliment on your language skills!

4. Why are You Learning Arabic?

Woman Writing Notes

This is a common question that language learners get asked, particularly those learning Arabic—a language that many people consider to be impossible. If you’re wondering, “How do I talk about myself in Arabic words?” answering this question is a good place to start.

What would possess you to learn it?

You might hear this question phrased literally, like so:

  • ما سبب دراستك للغة العربية؟
    mā sababu dirāsatika lilluġaẗi al-ʿarabiyyah?
    What is your reason for learning the Arabic language?

The word سبب (sabab) means “reason.” Asking “what is your reason for ___” is a typical way to ask why someone is doing something. Here’s an example answer you can give:

  • أتعلم العربية لكي أتكلم بها مع أولاد عمي
    ʾataʿallam al-ʿarabiyyah likay ʾatakallama bihā maʿ ʾawlād ʿammī
    I’m learning Arabic so I can speak it with my cousins.

Sometimes, though, people will want more of a personal answer. This question especially gets asked in overseas Arab communities:

  • من يعلمك العربية؟
    man yuʿallimuka al-ʿarabiyyah?
    Who teaches you Arabic?

Perhaps they know your tutor? Perhaps they can do a better job? There are a few different answers, of course.

  • أتعلم العربية مع أمين
    ʾataʿallamu al-ʿarabiyyah maʿ ʾamīn
    I’m learning Arabic with Amin.
  • أتعلم العربية من المنزل
    ʾataʿallam al-ʿarabiyyah min al-manzil
    I learn Arabic from home.

That’ll catch them off guard! All around the world, even though more and more people are learning other languages, very few have the nerve to teach themselves. Someone who has taught themselves well enough that they can have a conversation with a native speaker is rare, indeed.

  • هل اللغة العربية صعبة؟
    hal al-luġaẗu al-ʿarabiyyaẗu ṣaʿbah?
    Is Arabic difficult?

That question is up to you to answer! If you’re in a place like Algeria or Morocco where French is widely spoken, you can reply this way for a guaranteed laugh:

  • العربية أسهل من الفرنسية
    al-ʿarabiyyaẗu ʾashal min al-firinsiyyah
    Arabic is easier than French!

You can see here that the words for different languages, like the words for different countries, all take the definite article as well. Thus, اليونانية (al-yūnāniyyah) means “the Greek language,” and الصينية (as-ṣīniyyah) means “the Chinese language.”

5. Are You Here on Vacation?

Tourism is absolutely huge in many Arabic-speaking countries, and in others, it’s still a respectable portion of the economy.

A foreign face in an area without too many expats is still something of a curiosity in many parts of the Arab world.

For the Arabic learner, that’s an amazing opportunity. Lots of people are friendly and curious, and every interaction or transaction has the potential to become a real conversation—assuming your language level is up to the challenge!

You might get a simple question like this as an opener:

  • ما غرض زيارتك؟
    mā ġaraḍu ziyaratik?
    Why are you visiting?

After which,the conversation may go:

  • أنا سائح
    ʾanā sāʾiḥ
    I’m a tourist.
  • هل هذه زيارتك الأولى لـ … ؟
    hal haḏihi ziyaratuk al-ʾūlā li … ?
    Is this your first visit to…?

Answering in the negative will almost invariably prompt a quick recounting of places that you’ve been. Make sure that you’re familiar with the names in Arabic of whatever places you’ve been to—this is a step that slips past a lot of learners!

6. What Do You Do?

Here’s an interesting thought. If you’re studying or working abroad in an Arabic-speaking country, it’s possible that you may not get this question very much.

Why? Well, a lot of people who move abroad end up not going out to socialize as much with locals as they imagined—their social lives end up revolving around work.

And although Arabs are famously hospitable, there’s an element of conservatism in some places that might present an obstacle to small talk, particularly across gender lines.

But let’s go ahead and assume that these are non-issues. After all, you can speak Arabic with all kinds of different people from all kinds of different backgrounds. The question is: What do you do?

  • ماذا تعمل؟
    māḏā taʿmal?
    What do you do for work?
  • أعمل في مكتبة
    ʾaʿmalu fī maktabah
    I work at a library.

Good for you! In addition to giving your job title, it’s also a good idea to mention where you actually work if there’s a chance your interlocutor might know it. You never know when you can make a new connection!

  • …أنا أعمل في
    ana ʾaʿmalu fi…
    I work at…
  • …عملت هناك لـ
    ʿamiltu hunāka li…
    I’ve worked there for…

Both of these sentences are pretty “plug and play.” You simply add the appropriate company name or length of time, and you immediately have a correct—and pretty idiomatic—sentence.

This, incidentally, is how I like to approach language learning. By learning a couple of key sentence patterns to cover the different communicative scenarios I expect to find myself in, I can use whatever new vocabulary comes my way with the knowledge that I’m saying the right thing.

7. What Do You Like to Do?

This is a different question for a lot of people than the one above! Finding someone who answers, “I really wish I spent more time at the office,” is probably not going to happen.

Here, we’re going to chat a tiny bit about different hobbies, and using them to introduce yourself in Arabic words.

If you’ve never visited any of them, the big cities of the Arab world have the same— or, in some cases, much crazier—kinds of things to do as big cities everywhere else.

People go to concerts, read fiction, and scroll past memes in Arabic just like anybody else. Whatever you’re interested in already, you’re almost certain to find groups of enthusiasts in the Arab world, too.

From here, I can’t quite see what you’re interested in, but let’s say you like travel, music, and reading. Those are safe options for pretty much everybody.

  • أنا أسافر كثيرا
    ʾanā ʾusāfiru kaṯīran
    I travel a lot.
  • أنا أحب الغناء
    ʾanā ʾuḥibbu al-ġināʾ
    I like singing.

Don’t just say this without meaning it. Arab music is complex and expressive, and if you haven’t already, take the time to check out some artists who sing in Arabic. You’ll have more to talk about with locals, and you can improve your language skills, too!

  • من مؤلفك المفضل؟
    man muʾuallifuka al-mufaḍḍal?
    Who’s your favorite author?
  • …كتابي المفضل هو
    kitābī al-mufaḍḍal huwa…
    My favorite book is…

8. How is Your Family?

Talking about your family in Arabic can be a good topic for forming deeper connections, but be careful. Asking about family is a phrase with some cultural baggage attached, if there ever was one.

This is what you absolutely want to say instead of something like: “How is your wife?”

Really, that’s only a natural question for many people in the West. You’re hanging out with a friend from work, and you remember that your wife wanted to ask something about his wife.

Unless you’ve practically grown up together, this question is simply considered too forward to ask in Arabic-speaking countries.

That element of social conservatism mentioned earlier absolutely carries through, even if two men or two women are talking privately.

  • كيف حال عائلتك؟
    kayfa ḥalu ʿāʾilatik?
    How is your family?
  • بخير، الحمد لله
    biḫayr, al-ḥamdu lillah
    Very well, thank you.

Family is important in Arab culture. Even businesses make a real effort to become the second families of their employees.

Therefore, when somebody asks this, it’s more than just a polite courtesy. This is your chance to mention anything interesting—particularly something positive—that’s happened recently to your family members.

9. Conclusion

We hope that helped you learn Arabic and introduce yourself in this complex language! To test your knowledge and practice you Arabic skills, why not write an “introduce yourself” essay in Arabic? Just a couple of paragraphs where you tell about yourself in Arabic. We really want to hear from you!

Plenty of people who are experts at learning languages in classrooms rate natural conversation as the most challenging aspect of learning.

The frustrating thing about reading articles like this is that they give you a great snapshot of how to start a conversation, but out of necessity, they simply can’t walk you through the whole thing.

What helps with that, then?

You already know the answer: More Arabic in your life, even if you’re already traveling or living in an Arabic-speaking country.

You simply have to make the choice to watch, read, or listen to Arabic more and more frequently. The more you put it off, the longer it takes for it to become natural, and the harder it is to make that choice every time.

Remember, the more you get around and the more people you chat with, the more you get asked the same questions! Eventually, there will come a time when you can have conversations entirely in Arabic without even noticing—and that’s a feeling truly like no other.

Author: Yassir Sahnoun is a HubSpot certified content strategist, copywriter and polyglot who works with language learning companies. He helps companies attract sales using content strategy, copywriting, blogging, email marketing & more.


Watching Arabic Movies: Learn Arabic through Arab Cinema

When you want to go beyond your textbook and your classroom, you’ve got two basic escape routes.

The first is the written word. You could read blogs, newspapers, or books in Arabic. Not a bad idea—but it still sounds suspiciously like work.

What if you just relaxed your way into Arabic in a way that let you become more fluent with the language, more educated about the culture, and more knowledgeable about art in general?

What if you watched a bunch of Arabic movies?

If you’ve never watched Arabic movies before, well, of course you’re missing out. But you’re probably also misinformed.

Cinema around the world is not, generally speaking, kind to Arabs on screen. It’s not hard to think of examples. That’s why it’s important to open your mind beyond stereotypes and understand what cinema looks like when it’s made by and for Arab people.

Fortunately, in recent years more and more festivals are promoting Arabic-language films. That’s even happening outside Cairo, long considered one of the focal points of Arab cinema.

So in this article you’ll be introduced not only to the classic films that shaped the art form, but you’ll also find some modern favorites that have gained international acclaim. After all, quality learning and fun are what we strive for at Let’s get started with our Arabic movies list!

Note: If you’re wondering where to watch Arabic movies, there’s a chance you’ll find some Arabic movies on Netflix or YouTube. You can also try searching for these Arabic movies online. Here are some tips to improve your pronunciation while watching movies in Arabic.

Ways to improve pronunciation

Table of Contents

  1. The Sin
  2. The Mummy
  3. Kandisha
  4. Solitare
  5. West Beirut
  6. The Worthy
  7. Omar
  8. Blessed Benefit
  9. Far from Men
  10. Theeb
  11. Dubbed Disney Films
  12. Conclusion

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Movie genres

1. The Sin (الحرام‎ Al-Haram) — Modern Standard Arabic, 1965

The sin poster

Maybe you thought all Arabic cinema was happy and upbeat? Nah.

The Sin is a grim and moving portrait of peasant oppression in Egypt. Faten Hamama plays Azizah, a young farmer’s wife, who’s forced to not only bear terrible injustice but also to keep it secret lest it tear apart her family. That’s a simple summary, though the film pulls this narrative thread in a way that makes it clear it wasn’t an isolated incident at that time.

It’s the type of film that makes you stop and think about the world, and it certainly had that effect upon its release. The French newspaper Le Monde described the film as “a reflection of everything around one individual, from people to culture.”

As was common in the middle of the 20th century, the film was released in Modern Standard Arabic. This decision was seen as only natural because of the prestige of Modern Standard Arabic in literature and formal discourse. Later, of course, cinema in vernacular Arabic became the norm, particularly in Egypt.

2. The Mummy (المومياء Al-Mummia) — Modern Standard Arabic, 1969

The mummy poster

No, this isn’t a dub of that action movie with the bad CGI. Instead, it’s a slow-moving and eerie piece about grave robbing in the late 1800s.

The film is about searching for an Egyptian national identity among colonialism, war, and antiquity. The band of grave robbers, an Upper Egyptian tribe, has a dissenter who goes to the police and helps the authorities find the cache of ancient treasure.

It’s considered one of, if not the most, important film(s) in Egypt, though as it’s more methodical and pensive, it’s not most people’s first choice.

But for you as an Arabic learner, this is a great opportunity to hear relatively slow and clear Modern Standard Arabic even in a relatively conversational context. You can even find subtitles in Arabic and English for the whole film!

3. Kandisha (قنديشة Qandisha) — Moroccan Arabic, 2008

Lawyers are considered to be clear and logical thinkers. They’re the last people you would expect to be wrapped up in a supernatural mystery.

Nyla Jade (played by Amira Casar) is a defense attorney for a woman accused of murdering her husband. Her client firmly alleges that her husband was killed by the vengeful spirit Kandisha.

Kandisha is actually a medieval Moroccan legend, and in the film she’s far more than just a myth. Nyla becomes convinced as well, and must work to make everyone in the courtroom, her colleagues, and her own husband believe that Kandisha was responsible for the murder.

The film has dialogue in French, Moroccan Arabic, and English, accurately reflecting the multilingualism present in modern-day Morocco.

4. Solitare (محبس‎ Mahbas) — Lebanese Arabic, Syrian Arabic, 2016

The timeless tale of a mother disappointed in her daughter’s choice of husband is honed to razor perfection in this comedy from Lebanon.

Therese (Julia Kassar) has borne a grudge against Syrians for decades when her daughter Ghada (Serena Chami) turns out to be engaged to Samer (Jabar Jokhadar), a Syrian man. Nobody wants to tell Therese, but the truth comes out when Samer greets her with his Syrian Arabic.

Arab weddings are far more than personal affairs. Whole families are involved in every aspect, and a disapproving parent on one (or both) sides can spell disaster for the couple.

The film shines light on Lebanese-Syrian relations through the mirror of baseless prejudices held by individuals. For the learner of Arabic, the snappy dialogue and fast exchanges between two similar yet distinct varieties of Arabic are a goldmine of authentic experience.

If you’re interested in watching Arabic comedy movies, we highly recommend this one.

5. West Beirut (بيروت الغربية‎ Bayrut Algharbiat ) — Lebanese Arabic, 1998

When a civil war happens in your country, it may not seem real at first. Especially if you’re just beginning to enter the adult world.

That’s how Tarek (Rami Doueiri) and Omar (Mohamed Chamas) find themselves feeling in the year 1975 when Beirut erupts into war. No school! No rules! But it’s not a vacation that ends in September.

It’s a new and uncertain era for them and everyone they know. The film is about how young people can discover for themselves what’s most important in their lives when the system that held them in place for all their lives begins to crumble.

Truly breathtaking cinematography lends the scenes of conflict a gripping realism that will keep you on the edge of your seat. And, of course, the Lebanese Arabic spoken throughout is as authentic as can be, pulled straight from the memories of the director himself.

6. The Worthy ( المختارون Almukhtarun) — Many dialects, 2016

The worthy poster

For some reason, nobody ever thinks of post-apocalyptic dramas in the Middle East. And yet in a region plagued by drought, the question of who should get water as civilization crumbles becomes magnified.

Director Ali F. Mostafa expertly uses his limited budget to build an intense, gripping character drama about mysterious and smooth-talking newcomers to a small band of survivors guarding the only water source for miles around.

As the film goes on, it turns more into horror as the group starts to turn against itself, deciding who should live and who should die. In other words, who counts as “worthy.”

There are twelve main characters, and since borders have collapsed in the world of the film, they come from across the Middle East—Syria, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, and Saudi Arabia. They all speak in their own dialects, which are similar enough to be understood by native speakers or advanced learners.

7. Omar (عمر Umar) — Palestinian Arabic, 2014

They say that war pits brother against brother and friend against friend.

That concept is explored against the backdrop of Israeli-Palestinian conflict—with a love triangle thrown in to boot.

When Omar (Adam Bakri) is captured by Israeli security forces, he’s made to inform against his childhood friends Tarek and Amjad. This is made all the more excruciating by the fact that he and Amjad are both deeply in love with Tarek’s sister Nadeen.

The feeling of being trapped, the feeling of being forced to choose between terrible outcomes—those are everyday feelings in zones of conflict. The film was shot on location: Omar was born in Nazareth and the film was mostly shot there. So what you see on screen is as authentic as it gets.

You may not know that many Israelis speak Palestinian Arabic natively or as a fluent second language. In this film you’ll hear bits of Hebrew, but mainly Palestinian Arabic from the principal characters.

8. Blessed Benefit (انشالله استفدت inshallah istafadet) — Jordanian Arabic, 2016

How about a comedy to lighten things up? A prison film might sound like a recipe for a dark drama full of brutality and terror, but not if the film depicts prison life as saner than life on the outside.

Ahmad (Ahmad Taher) is an unlucky contractor thrown in jail for three months for failing to deliver on a project. The people he meets inside turn out to be from all levels of Jordanian society, and they share with him their own life philosophies.

Gradually, Ahmad comes to ask himself: If all of my needs are taken care of in prison, what good is being free?

The dialogue and editing is fast-paced and quick-witted. Some jokes are international, but others might go over your head if you haven’t spent time in or around Jordan—or in a prison.

9. Far from Men — Algerian Arabic, 2015

Algerian Arabic isn’t the only language in this movie, but it’s a very important one.

Viggo Mortensen plays Daru, a schoolteacher in rural Algeria. Right at the start of the revolution against the French, he’s assigned the duty of escorting a murderer (Reda Kateb) across the desert to his trial.

Their long journey is speckled with thoughtful discussion about the nature of guilt and innocence, and over the course of the film you may not be certain what either character is headed toward.

Viggo Mortensen is a talented language learner, and for this particular role he learned to speak Algerian Arabic, which he uses along with French and Spanish in the film.

He’s the type of person to throw himself into a film role, and therefore he actually went so far as to translate all of his lines into Arabic just in case the director changed his mind about the language that should be used for a particular scene.

10. Theeb (ذيب‎ Theeb) — Bedouin Jordanian Arabic, 2014

This is a beautiful period piece set during the First World War, though that’s only a backdrop to the dramatic events that unfold in the desert between a relatively small cast of characters.

Theeb (Jacir Eid Al-Hweitat) is a young Bedouin boy living in a remote part of what was then the Ottoman Empire. His older brother agrees to lead a British officer across the desert, and Theeb sneaks along for the adventure.

But there’s more danger in the desert than sand and sun. Tribes of bandits lurk in the (stunningly beautiful) canyons, and before long, Theeb and his brother Hussein are living off their wits alone.

The film was purposefully made in the local Bedouin dialect of a particular part of Jordan. In fact, the filmmakers were so dedicated to authenticity that they were forced to write all the women out of the story—local women weren’t willing to act, and professional actresses wouldn’t know the dialect.

11. Dubbed Disney Films — Egyptian Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Movie

The Walt Disney Company has released films drawing inspiration from all over the world. In the interest of sharing the stories as widely as possible (and making money), Disney films have traditionally been dubbed into many languages for international release.

The Disney films of the 1990s were dubbed into Egyptian Arabic. By that time, Egyptian Arabic was already well-established as a widely-understood dialect all around the Arab world. It was amazing to hear Disney characters speak authentic and hilarious slang with voices of some of the best-known Egyptian actors and comedians.

In the early 2010s, however, Disney made the decision to dub films in Modern Standard Arabic for the Arabic market. Some people supported this, but the reaction on social media—in Egypt particularly—was overwhelmingly negative. No matter how hard the translators and voice actors worked to breathe life into the characters, the fact remained that it just felt strange to hear people quipping and joking in Modern Standard Arabic when nobody did that in real life.

They even went so far as to re-release their classic films in Modern Standard Arabic. That is, until the social media pressure and the poor box office performance of some Modern Standard Arabic films finally worked. In 2017, the company began to reverse their decision, and now Egyptian Arabic is back to being the dubbing dialect of choice.

Donald Duck with Thumb Up

12. Conclusion

Taking on a language like Arabic, spoken in so many countries by people from so many backgrounds, can seem like an insurmountable challenge. It may be a good idea to watch Arabic movies with English subtitles if you’re a beginner.

But the way people grow up in those countries is shaped by movies as well. Film is an indispensable part of anyone’s cultural consciousness these days. By seeing how stories play out through the lens of other cultures, you can start to see what they think of as “normal,” “strange,” or “right and wrong.”

And that knowledge will go incredibly far toward making you competent with the language.

So if you’ve never even seen a single Arabic-language film, why not start with these? They’re the perfect start to an incredible world. We hope that ArabicPod101 helped you find just the Arabic movie you need to increase your learning power and have fun in doing so!

If you found this article helpful and want to learn even more about Arabic culture, you can check out our other insightful blog posts, study with our free vocabulary lists, and even upgrade to use our MyTeacher program and learn with your own personal Arabic teacher. We wish you all the best and some uninterrupted Arabic-language movie watching time!

We truly hope you’ll start watching Arabic movies in 2019!

Man in Deep Thought

Author: Yassir Sahnoun is a HubSpot certified content strategist, copywriter and polyglot who works with language learning companies. He helps companies attract sales using content strategy, copywriting, blogging, email marketing & more.

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9 Arabic TV Shows You Won’t be Able to Live Without

One of the most compelling reasons to learn another language is to be able to enjoy entertainment from around the world.

And if you’ve come this far without dipping your toes into the wellspring of Arabic television, prepare to be amazed.

Because the Arab world is enormous.

In addition to several thriving film industries, Arabic-speaking people have enjoyed television programs of every sort for generations.

From sprawling battle scenes to nail-biting game shows to thrilling political dramas, there truly is something for everyone. So let help you find your new favorite Arab show! (And in case you’re wondering where to watch Arabic TV shows, keep in mind that YouTube and Netflix are good places to start.)

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Table of Contents

  1. Ramadan Historical Epics in Modern Standard Arabic
  2. Learn Like a Child with this Pan-Arabic Classic
  3. Watch Stories Unfold in the Language of the Streets
  4. Reality Shows: More Fun than Fiction?
  5. Bonus
  6. Conclusion

1. Ramadan Historical Epics in Modern Standard Arabic

At some point in the past, some genius marketing executive realized that the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, with its thirty days of fasting during daylight, was the perfect market for a thirty-episode evening TV special.

Some of the most popular and big-budgeted Ramadan dramas have been sweeping historical epics retelling passion, betrayal, and intrigue of medieval times.

And in keeping with the grandiose scale, quite a few of these epics have actually been produced entirely in Modern Standard Arabic!

The reaction to that has been amazing. As much as people love hearing their own dialects on screen, it can be a really otherworldly experience to be thrust back in time and hear people speak beautiful fusha (the Arabic language of long ago) as if it was their native tongue.

If you want to start watching a quality, exciting TV show in Arabic, check out these MSA epics and see what you think!

1- أوركيديا (Orkidia)

The English title gets spelled in a number of different ways—I saw it as Orchidea, Orkadea, and Orcadia while researching this article.

However you’d like to spell it, Orkidia was massively hyped in the months leading up to Ramadan in 2017. It’s about the political intrigue, passionate romance, and flashing tempers between leaders of three ancient kingdoms.

Syrian director Hatem Ali spearheaded this project, which reportedly cost five-million US dollars to shoot. Most of the shooting was done in Romania. Southern Europe here stands in for the battlefields of the war between the Kingdoms of Samara, Assyria, and Orkidia, with more than 500 extras used for some epic battle scenes.

If this happens to remind you of a certain Western TV series about thrones and games of intrigue, you’re not alone. Quite a few people have drawn parallels to Game of Thrones, only this Arabic version comes without the gratuitous nudity.

We understand, though, if you want to get a taste of this exciting Arab TV show before immersing yourself in it.

2- عُمَرْ (Omar)


Omar (or The Omar Series) could be considered one of the most ambitious Arabic TV projects ever made, and some even consider it the best Arabic TV show.

It depicts the life of Omar ibn Al-Khattab, a close companion of the Prophet Muhammad and the second caliph of the Islamic Empire.

For this, it received huge criticism from some Muslim leaders who saw it as blasphemous to have an actor play the role of Omar. However, other religious leaders approved of the depiction and felt that this new way of storytelling could be a great help for people who might not read much history anymore.

And the fans? Whether they were drawn in by the gorgeous cinematography, the rich historical detail, or the controversy itself, they loved it.

It’s one of the highest-rated Arabic miniseries ever, and that’s just perfect for you, the learner.

Why? Because like Orkidia, it’s all in beautifully spoken MSA!

And perhaps in anticipation of religious protests against the show, the producers also created two daily educational segments that explore the problems of governing an empire and the moral choices that Omar had to make in life.

2. Learn Like a Child with this Pan-Arabic Classic

1- افتح يا سمسم (Iftah Ya SimSim)

Iftah Ya SimSim

When Sesame Street first premiered in 1969, it was conceived as a perfectly American program. Little did the producers know, its characters and messages had wide-reaching international appeal.

Iftah Ya SimSim was a Kuwaiti production from the late 1970s until the Gulf War in 1990. It was beloved by millions and was massively successful in bringing literacy and basic education to the underserved population.

Sesame Street

This is in no way a translation or copycat of Sesame Street—it was developed by and for Arabs and designed to help young kids all over the Arab world grow into educated and moral adults.

Early on in its development, the decision was even made to produce the entire show in Modern Standard Arabic in order to promote cultural literacy and pan-Arab collaboration.

This was a big gamble, but it paid off. Linguistic purists worried that MSA would either confuse kids or start devolving into a slangier form of itself, but that never happened. Even the young kids invited to take part were able to speak MSA with only a handful of regional colloquialisms.

In 2015, the show was revived with the same educational and language goals, and put on YouTube for all to see. This really is a great TV show to learn Arabic with, especially for beginners due to its simple yet far-reaching nature.

3. Watch Stories Unfold in the Language of the Streets

1- Grand Hotel / Secret of the NIle

As I mentioned above, Ramadan television is so highly anticipated by viewers and networks alike that it’s known as “super-primetime.”

Secret of the Nile was the first Egyptian show on Netflix, released for Ramadan 2016, and it did really well. Really well.

It’s about a man who infiltrates the staff at the Grand Hotel to find out about his missing sister. He ends up learning quite a bit more—about romance, deception, and secrets kept by the highest levels of Egyptian society.

The stunning period cinematography was so gorgeous and the plot so thick with twists, people from all over the world who had never even considered Arabic TV fell in love. It was described as “bingeworthy” by more than one media source.

2- Shankaboot


Have you ever fantasized about gliding on a Vespa through the streets of Milan?

How about being a delivery boy on a rickety scooter on the streets of Beirut? Practically the same thing, right?

This Lebanese series was actually one of the first Arabic-language web series ever created, and certainly the most well-known at the time.

It ran for five seasons with 52 total episodes of around five minutes each. But that’s plenty of time to watch Suleiman the delivery boy meet with strange and surreal slices of life around the streets of Beirut.

The producers actually purposefully cast actors with little or no experience to save on cost and get more realistic portrayals of everyday people.

They also came up with the neat idea of having fans of the series write in and suggest plot points or lines of dialogue. You can’t get that level of audience interaction anywhere else!

4. Reality Shows: More Fun than Fiction?

Fictionalized series and dramas are wonderful escapes from daily life, but they’re far from the only great genre of TV.

Reality shows can be perfect for language learners because they expose the learner to ordinary people speaking spontaneously—or at least not reading directly from a script.

Watch these Arabic TV shows for an immersive and insightful look at the language.

1- MBC Top Chef

Fifteen contestants from around the Middle East gather together for a grueling thirteen-week competition. Following the Top Chef format that has been tried and tested around the world, at the end of each week one chef is eliminated from the competition.

Every meal is judged based on flavor and presentation by three internationally renowned chefs: Chinese-Egyptian Bobby Chinn, Saudi Mona Mosly, and Lebanese Maroun Chedid.

In the first season, contestants came from pretty much every Arabic-speaking country: Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt, Morocco, and Oman among others.

That means you’ll get a nice mix of dialectal Arabic as well as Modern Standard Arabic in the more formal moments.

And since this is an international show based off of an American format, don’t be surprised to hear quite a bit of English as well.

During each episode, you’ll see the cooking action play out on screen, you’ll hear the contestants explain what they were doing, and you’ll hear the judges’ interpretations of the final dish.

Those are all great opportunities to learn words for food, ingredients, and how to prepare them. And since they’re repeated in different contexts, they’ll really stick in your mind way more than others.

Go ahead and see for yourself what this show is all about!

2- Minute To Win It Egypt

Minute To Win It Egypt

Have you ever idly rolled a coin between your fingers or batted a balloon around in the air?

What if millions of people were watching and a life-changing amount of money was on the line?

That’s the premise behind Minute To Win It, a reality game show where contestants try to accomplish unusual tasks with everyday objects inside of 60 seconds.

The show was created in the United States and became immediately popular worldwide, eventually being broadcast to more than fifty countries.

But why this show for language learners? Simple: the style of language used.

I’m not even talking about MSA vs Egyptian Arabic – I mean what the people are saying.

For every game, the host and the announcer both describe the task that has to be performed, and while the contestant is stacking bottles or balancing toothpicks, the commentary is describing the action.

“Watch it now, it’s about to tip over!” “Hurry now, ten seconds left!”

That’s a whole lot of repetitive, descriptive language that makes it a cinch to follow for learners. If you miss a word or phrase, you’ll probably hear it again in the replay.

In addition, that kind of vocabulary isn’t often seen in language books. But every native speaker knows how to use words like stack up, balance, fall, arrange, find… and if you want to speak Arabic well, you’ll have to learn them too.

If this kind of television seems up your alley, go ahead and check it out on YouTube.

3- Stars of Science

Unlike the two reality shows above which are direct copies of Western show formats, Stars of Science is a homegrown show from Qatar, where engineer-entrepreneurs pitch and create new inventions in front of expert judges.

It makes a lot of sense, too—reach far back into the history of the world, and it’s easy to see that the scientific tradition has its roots in Arab cultures.

More than 7,000 applicants apply for each season, from which sixteen are selected. They need to prove not only that their products—such as a remote power source for pipeline robots or a rapid-action clothes steamer—work well, but that they’ll be cost-effective and profitable for investors.

Contestants speak to each other in dialects when they can understand, and MSA when they can’t. This is a very realistic (it’s reality TV, of course) depiction of how Arabs from different language backgrounds might communicate when working together on a project.

You’ll hear people speak their dialects with added MSA words, speak pure dialect, and “modify” their dialects toward one another to achieve an understandable, if fluid, common ground.

Interested in learning more about this show, its contestants, and the inventions they present? Find out for yourself if this is the show for you.

5. Bonus

1- Jinn (Netflix Original)

Maybe you’ve seen Aladdin? Remember Robin Williams as the Genie?

Well, a Jinn is just about the polar opposite of that.

In Islam, a Jinn is a creature that dwells in a parallel spirit world and has the power to haunt, influence, and even possess people in our world.

There are some pretty spooky videos out there on YouTube that purport to show Jinns caught on camera, and Islamic religious leaders regularly issue warnings about the dangerous influence of the Jinns on modern everyday life.

The upcoming Netflix series has only just started production in Jordan, but it’s received considerable press as the American streaming company’s first Arabic-language original. Netflix has produced Arabic series before, but never from scratch as with this one.

It’s being billed as a “supernatural teenage coming-of-age drama” which is unique in itself, not least because there aren’t too many Arabic-language shows focused on teenagers.

Plot details are sketchy right now, though we do know it’ll revolve around the thrilling relationships between human teenagers, Jinns, and the guardian Jinn who’s tasked with keeping an eye on rogue Jinns.

As of October 2018, the show is being marketed as “Arabic-language” so it’s not clear how much will be in Jordanian Arabic and how much in MSA.

Nevertheless, it’ll be an amazing chance for classical Arabic storytelling to reach millions of viewers around the world with a new face.

This really is an Arabic TV series with promise and potential!

6. Conclusion

One of the best reasons to watch TV programs or series to learn a language is that you get used to the same actors talking about the same types of things across dozens of hours.

Two-hour movies are great for their production value and contained stories, but sometimes a plotline just needs ten or twenty hours to get going.

Thank goodness for TV shows, and may the Arab world never stop making excellent dramas!

We hope that you gained some valuable insight into the world of Arab shows with If so, please feel free to explore our site and learn even more about your target language! Here you’ll find invaluable resources for fun yet effective learning, from vocabulary lists to our MyTeacher app which offers you one-on-one guidance as you learn Arabic.

We wish you well in your language-learning journey, and several hours of enjoyment watching Arab TV shows.

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Author: Yassir Sahnoun is a HubSpot certified content strategist, copywriter and polyglot who works with language learning companies. He helps companies attract sales using content strategy, copywriting, blogging, email marketing & more.

Sinai Liberation Day & The Sinai Peninsula’s Significance

We’re going to talk now about an important day in Egyptian history: Sinai Liberation Day (or just Sinai Day). On this day, Egypt regained the land of Sinai and the last Israeli soldier left it after Camp David agreement. The liberation of Egypt’s Sinai put a large mark of victory on Egypt’s history.

In learning about this holiday, you’re delving into some of Egypt’s most significant history, particularly involving the Sinai Peninsula. This will give you a deeper knowledge of the country’s culture and its people. At, we hope to make this learning adventure both fun and informative. So let’s get started!

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1. What is the Arabic Day of Liberation?

Sinai Liberation Day is the day when all the land of Sinai, except Taba, was liberated from Israeli occupation. This was in 1982 and we regained Taba later in 1988 during the reign of the former president Hosni Mubarak. Sinai was occupied since 1967, but the Egyptian army kept struggling by all means in order to regain it.

The land of Sinai became the symbol of peace because it was regained after a peace treaty. The land of Sinai is distinguished by its beauty, charm, and scenic nature. Sinai is also characterized by its golden sands, great sea, and high mountains. Sinai and Taba are among the most beautiful places frequented by tourists from all over the world where they enjoy many water sports.

2. When is Sinai Liberation Day?

Liberation Day in April

On 25th April, the Day of Liberation in Egypt is observed. For Egypt, Sinai Liberation Day takes place on the day it gained back the land of Sinai after the Camp David agreement.

3. How Does Egypt Celebrate Liberation Day?

Flag of Egypt

This day is a public holiday in Egypt; in other words, all government departments are closed. On Sinai Liberation Day, Egypt doesn’t usually hold elaborate festivities, but it’s still a day of immense significance for its observers.

Egypt uses this day to remember and honor those who sacrificed themselves for Sinai’s liberation. Further, they pause for a while on this holiday to think about Sinai’s lovely nature and its place in the world today. We’ll go more into this below.

4. Additional Information: About the Sinai Peninsula

Want to learn more about the land of Sinai for Egyptian Sinai Liberation Day? Read the Arabic text below for more information (and find the English translation directly below it).

تتميز منطقة سينا بالسياحه العلاجيه ,فهنلاقي كتير من السياح بييجوا من انحاء العالم بغرض الاستشفاء من امراض زي الصدفيه و ده لأنهم اكتشفوا ان مية البحر الاحمر و الشعب المرجانيه اللي فيه بتساعد على الاستشفاء من بعض الامراض الجلديه

سينا ليها اسماء كتيرة زي مثلا أرض الفيروز ودا لأن بحرها بيتمتع بلون فيروزي رائع , سينا برده بيطلق عليها ارض
الزيتون و دا لأن فيها أجود أنواع شجر الزيتون اللي بينتج ألذ انواع الزيتون و زيت الزيتون.

ارض سينا تمتلك موقع استراتيجي ودا لأنها حلقة الوصل بين قارة اسيا وقارة افريقيا ….بين مصر و الشام .. بين المشرق العربي و المغرب العربي

Sinai region is famous for medical tourism. Tourists the world over come to visit it seeking treatment from diseases such as psoriasis because it was discovered that the water and coral reefs of the Red Sea help in treating some skin diseases.

Sinai has many names. It is called the land of turquoise because of the magnificent turquoise color of its sea. Sinai is also called the land of olives because it contains the best quality of olive trees which produce the most delicious olives and olive oil.

The land of Sinai has a strategic location because it is a liaison between the continents of Asia and Africa…between Egypt and the Levant…between the Arab Mashreq and the Arab Maghreb.

5. Must-know Vocab

Birds-Eye View of Land

Here’s some vocabulary you should know for the Day of Liberation in Israel!

  • أبريل (ʾibrīl) — April
  • أرض (ʾarḍ) — land
  • إسرائيل (ʾisrāʾīl) — Israel
  • البحر الأَحمر (al-baḥr al-ʾaḥmar) — Red Sea
  • عيد تحرير سيناء (ʿīd taḥrīr sīnāʾ) — Day of Liberation
  • الخامس و العشرين (al-ḫāmis wa al-ʿišrīn) — twenty-fifth
  • شبه جزيرة سيناء (šebh ǧazīrat sīnāʾ) — Sinai Peninsula
  • قوات (quwwāt) — troop
  • معاهدة (muʿāhadah) — treaty
  • إنسحاب (ʾinsiḥāb) — withdrawal
  • تحرير (taḥrīr) — liberation

To hear each word pronounced, check out our Day of Liberation vocabulary list. Here, you’ll find each word accompanied by an audio of its pronunciation.


We hope you enjoyed learning about Sinai’s Day of Liberation with us! Is there a similar holiday in your own country? How do you celebrate it? Let us know in the comments!

For more information on Egyptian culture and the Arabic language, visit us at We offer an array of insightful blog posts, free vocabulary lists, and an online community where you can discuss lessons with fellow students. By creating a Premium Plus account, you can also take advantage of our MyTeacher program and learn Arabic with your own personal teacher!

Learning a language can be a difficult journey, but know that all of your hard work and determination will pay off! Soon you’ll be speaking Arabic like a native, and will be here every step of your journey there with effective lesson materials and tons of support!

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