Living in the UAE, you’ll quickly become familiar with key Arabic words. While the friendly phrases, such as Salam Allekum are essential, here are the five I’ve found most useful living in the UAE (and they’re just fun to throw into everyday conversation).
If someone is shouting this at you, move your ass!
It means hurry up, go! Let’s go. Faster, anything that indicates more movement than you are currently outputting.
If you want someone to move, but don’t want to sound too rude, add ‘habibi’ on the end of it.
You’ll hear it: Screaming out your car window at another driver
No. Just no.
Add a ‘shukran’ on to say ‘no thank you’ – often required for persistent shop assistants.
You’ll hear it: To overly zealous salesmen in the souks, or naughty children.
Often heard in retail outlets, and restaurants, ‘maafi’ means none, finished, done – you’re out. Not to be confused with khalas, which means finished but in a softer way. Maafi means zip, zero, zilch, nothing of the kind!
Say Maafi mushkala to indicate ‘no problem’, similar to Hakuna matatta.
You’ll hear it: In restaurants when they’ve ‘run out’ of local water
A slightly less common, but equally enjoyable phrase, ‘walla’ means ‘I swear’ or for sure. Use this as a ‘seriously’ if you need to try and convince someone of something.
You’ll hear it: When you ask someone if that’s the ‘best price’, the reply will be ‘walla, it’s the best price’.
There’s no word in English to quite explain the meaning of ‘inshallah’. Literally translated it means ‘in God’s will’…but in day-to-day life, it’s used in many different ways. It’s the most culturally significant word for a lot, because it’s quite a magical word you can throw into any circumstance.
I’ve had builders tell me they’ll fix my leaking tap ‘inshallah’, (or ‘when I’m good and ready thank you very much crazy Australian lady’),
I’ve had friends say let’s catch up, ‘inshallah’ (‘sometime, but I don’t know when’)
We’ll meet again ‘inshallah’ (not bloody likely)
It’s a time-frame, it’s a prayer, it’s a fob-off, it’s a well wish.
Best used: When you have no definitive time frame. IE: tell your boss, you’ll be into work, inshallah, because the traffic is so bad.
What’s your favourite Arabic word?