Dubai is a melting pot. Step outside and you’ll hear people speaking in English, French, Russian, Hindi, Urdu, Swahili and a dozen other languages from all over the world. However, the true language of the Emirati people is Arabic. If you want to get around in Dubai, it’s helpful to know a few basic Arabic phrases. Here is our guide to Top Ten Arabic Words to help you in the UAE.
The formal way to greet someone in Arabic is Assalam Alaikum, which means “Peace be with you.” It’s the phrase you would use when greeting a business colleague, a teacher, an elderly person or anyone else you would like to be particularly respectful of. The response to this phrase is Walaikum Assalam, which means “and to you peace.” If you would prefer a more casual greeting, there are many words in Arabic for hello. The most common words are Marhaba and Ahlan, which can be used as hello or welcome interchangeably. A tourist newly arrived in Dubai will likely hear those words used as they enter the country and encounter the famous Arabian hospitality. Definitely the first of the Top Ten Arabic words to help you in the UAE.
You can also use greetings based on the time of day. In English, people who hear these sorts of greetings usually just repeat them back – so someone who hears
“Good morning” responds by saying “Good morning” back. In Arabic, the response is a continuation of the original greeting. Sabah Al Khayr is “good morning” and the response to that is Sabah Al Noor, which means “a morning of light.”
How are you?
In Arabic, you sometimes need to alter your speech based on whether you are addressing a man or a woman. When asking ‘how are you?’ there is a slight difference in pronunciation depending on whom you are addressing. When asking a man, you say Kayf Halak and when addressing a woman, you say Kayf Halik. The response to this is usually Zayn, Al Hamdu Lillah, which means “Fine, praise be to God.”
What is your name?
The people of Dubai are very friendly, especially to tourists. You’ll likely be meeting many new people and introducing yourself to them throughout your journey. To ask someone his or her name, say Ma Ismakh. You can reciprocate by saying Ismii…, which means “My name is….”
Yes and No
These simple words are a great way for you to participate in an Arabic conversation even if you don’t have much to say. Yes is Na’am and No is La.
You’ll often hear the phrase Insha’Allah peppered into conversations in Dubai, even in conversations taking place in English. The phrase simply means ‘God willing’ or ‘by the grace of God.’ It is a way of acknowledging that we do not have full control over our own fate. For example, someone might say, “I’ll have it ready by tomorrow, insha’allah,” in order to speak about their own plans while still acknowledging that unforeseen circumstances could arise.
I don’t understand
For a tourist in a new country, it’s important to be able to admit to your limitations. If you’re struggling to comprehend what someone is speaking, try saying La Afham, which simply means, “I don’t understand.”
I am lost
This is definitely another useful phrase for a tourist. Ada'tu tareeqi means “I am lost.” If you do get lost when in Dubai, don’t be overtly worried. You’ll find the people here are extremely friendly and they will usually be happy to help a tourist get their bearings.
Please and Thank you
Mind your manners! Please in Arabic is MinFadlak and thank you is Shukran. Why not try using these words the next time you are ordering a meal at a restaurant or purchasing something from a store? It’s sure to make your transaction go smoother.
Dubai is a city that celebrates shopping, whether it’s in a glitzy mall or in a crowded souk. By saying Kam Ath-Thaman you can inquire about the cost of an item, to help you as you bargain.
Knowing a little bit of the local language can help you a lot when visiting a new country. We hope you’ve found this guide to Top Ten Arabic words to help you in the UAE helpful. Give the language a try and soon you’ll be signing up to learn even more!