Everybody is aware of the several opportunities that can be found in the Middle East, especially the GCC region. This explains why we see a lot of people moving here in search of greener pastures. There have been unbelievable changes in the Gulf region over the past decade. The United Arab Emirates has been spearheading the change while others have been following closely. These developments have been world-class and some have even set world records that are yet to be beaten. The Burj Khalifa in Dubai has been the world’s tallest building for over a decade and there have been other phenomenal developments in the Gulf region that people can’t quite take their eyes off. The world’s most popular football tournament is set to hold in Qatar in 2022; there’s a whole lot of development going on in the region.
Only in the UAE in 2018, expatriates made up over 80% of the country’s total population and that is to show how much people are trooping into the Arabian Peninsular to make a living for themselves. Although English language is widely spoken, Arabic remains the primary language in the UAE and the GCC in general, and being able to speak and understand some basic words and phrases in Arabic will do you a lot of good as an expat.
You don’t have to speak all the Arabic in the world. Saying some basic words like ‘Thank you’, ‘Goodbye’, and other simple phrases in Arabic will strengthen your relationship with the locals. It could also get you out of trouble in some situations where you need to communicate in Arabic to be properly understood. We’ve seen instances where foreigners get in trouble due to not being able to speak the local languages of the countries they are in. To avoid scenarios like that, you need to be able to speak and understand some Arabic words and phrases.
We’ve prepared these 40 common Arabic words and phrases every UAE and GCC expat should know.
1. Assalam Alaikum
Ask any English-speaking Arab man one of their most frequently spoken Arabic phrases and they’ll tell you it’s Assalam Alaikum. This means ‘Peace be upon you’ and it’s one of the many things you can say to an Arab person to quickly win them over. It’s a friendly greeting phrase that can win you a lot of Arab friends if you’re going to be in a Middle Eastern country for a while.
2. Walaikum Assalam
Walaikum Assalam is the response to the first Arabic phrase we discussed earlier and it means ‘Peace be upon you too’. You might happen to be on the receiving end of the first greeting (Assalam Alaikum) and when you do, the perfect response you can give is to wish whoever is greeting you peace as well.
The good thing about Middle Easterners is that they’re very hospitable and one of the things you can do to maintain a healthy relationship with them is to always show appreciation. Shukran means ‘Thank you.’ You can say it to always show your appreciation every time someone offers to help. Also, if you’re turning down help from locals and you want to sound as polite as possible, just add ‘La’ before Shukran so you’ll have ‘La Shukran.’ This means ‘No, thank you!’
4. Laa Aref
LaaAref is also an important Arabic word you should be able to speak in any Arab country. It simply means ‘I don’t know’; albeit, in a very respectful way.
This is an Arabic phrase that will be very useful when you’re transacting with the locals. It means ‘How much?’
This means ‘Hello.’ It’s one of the many polite Arabic words you can say anywhere to greet people. Short but it will help you make good friends.
7. Sabah al-Khair
This is also a common Arabic phrase and it means ‘Good morning.’
If you’re in the public sector, then you’ll be dealing with different people daily. This is a good way to say ‘Greetings’ in Arabic.
If you’re new to the region, you’ll get asked for your name more often than you think. This makes this word a very important one to learn. It means ‘My name is…’
10. Min Fadlak
Polite people are likely to be treated ten times better than those who are not. If you want to make a request without making it come off as rude, kindly say ‘Min Fadlak; it means ‘Please.’
11. Masaa al-Khair
If Sabah al-Khair means ‘Good morning’, then you’re likely to know what this means. Let’s not temporarily hold back; it means ‘Good evening.’
12. Ma iSmaK
Ma iSmaK means ‘What is your name’ but here’s the kicker. To sound just as polite as you can possibly be, make sure you add ‘please’ to this phrase just so people don’t pick offences; especially women.
13. Ahlan wa sahlan
If anybody ever tells you shukran which means ‘Thank you!’ in Arabic, this should be your reply. Ahlan wa sahlan means ‘You’re welcome!’
MaAzera is a polite Arabic word that means ‘Excuse me.’ You can use it to excuse yourself from events whenever you need some time to yourself.
Asef means ‘sorry’. This is what you say when you want to apologize to a local or Arabic-only speaking person for doing something bad, or in any situation where you’re expected to say sorry.
This simply means ‘Yes.’ You can also add Min Fadlak which means ‘please’ to sound more polite.
La means ‘No’. You can also add Min Fadlak which means ‘please’ to sound more polite.
If you ever find yourself in an unfamiliar environment and you need to know where you are, kindly say this phrase to a native Arabic speaker. It means ‘Where is…?’
19. Annee mafqood
This is another useful Arabic phrase you should be able to say comfortable. It means ‘I think I’m lost.’ You might be saving yourself a lot of stress by saying this phrase to a native Arabic speaker.
We hope you never get to use this word but in case you get into trouble of any kind, it is an urgent call for help. It means ‘Help!’
21. La afham
There’s a high chance that you’ll bump into someone who only speaks Arabic. La afham means ‘I don’t understand.’ You can say it to someone when you don’t seem to understand what they’re saying.
22. Titakkellem ingleezi
This is another useful Arabic phrase and it means ‘Do you speak English?’ It is another way to explain you don’t speak or understand Arabic.
23. Ayna aqrab Saraf aalee
Do you remember Ayna means ‘Where is?’ This phrase simply means ‘Where is the nearest ATM?’ You can run out of cash anytime and you’ll need all the help you can get to avoid getting stranded.
24. Ayna al-mustashfaa
This Arabic phrase is one you will find very helpful in your early period in any Middle Eastern country. It means ‘Where is the hospital?’
25. Ayna aqrab Karaj
If you’re trying to locate the nearest garage where you can temporarily park your car or rent a car, this is the right phrase to express that. Its literal meaning is ‘What is the nearest garage?’
This simply means ‘Stop.’ However, to sound more polite, you should add the Arabic word “min Fadlak’ which means ‘Please’ to this word.
27. Mafi Mushkil
You’ll be needing a lot of help when you move to a new Middle Eastern country and one of the ways to know if someone has agreed to help you with something is when they say Mafi Mushkil. It means ‘No problem.’
If you visit a native Arabic speaker and it’s time to leave, this is one of the best departing Arabic phrases to say. It means ‘Goodbye.’
Curious when something is said to you and you want to get to the bottom of it? Lemaza means ‘Why’ and that’s your word right there. It’ll get whoever you’re having the conversation with to explain more.
30. Ana La ataKalam Al Aarabya
When a local man is trying to have a conversation with you in Arabic, one of the best ways to let the person know you don’t speak Arabic by saying this phrase. The literal meaning is ‘I don’t speak Arabic.’
This word is regarded as an informal way to say hello but if you have a couple of local friends, it’s a way to start up a friendly conversation.
This is a popular phrase in all Middle Eastern countries. It simply means ‘God willing’ and it is said to affirm that God is the one in control of everything.
If your local friend shares their good news with you, it’s always nice to have a word to match the event. Mabrook in English means ‘Congratulations!’
34. Kaeef Halak
Saying this Arabic phrase shows how polite you can be even with questions. The English interpretation of this word is ‘How are you?’.
35. Hal howa aamen
This is another Arabic phrase and it simply means ‘Is it safe?’ It will come in handy when you’re trying to find out if something is safe or not.
36. Sayaratee TaAtalat
One thing you have to get used to in the Middle East is having your car break down on the highway. You can ask for help by saying ‘Sayaratee TaAtalat’ which means ‘My car has broken down.’ Middle Eastern people are hospitable people; you’ll surely get help.
You might find yourself in a hotel where you’re trying to pass the night or spend a couple of days. Saying the world Hajz means you’re asking for your reservation.
38. Kam Alsaa
Let’s say you found your self in a situation where you have no wrist watch or phone on you to tell the time. Kam Alsaa is what you say to a local or an Arabic-only speaking person to say ‘What is the time?’
When you’re curious about something in particular, this is what you say. Shuhada means ‘what is this?’
40. Sadeeqee Mareed
This is what you say when you’re trying to get help for your sick friend or if he/she has been involved in an accident. Sadeeqee Mareed means ‘my friend is hurt/sick.’