How to greet in Arabic and other common phrases

Arabic Greeting and Customs in Dubai nose rub0

Dubai is a part of the United Arab emirates. As the name of the country denotes, the native language of the UAE is Arabic. So if you are planning to visit Dubai, you might be wondering how you would get around here without knowing Arabic. But that won’t be a problem at all. Dubai is a multicultural place, and you can do just fine with a bit of English.

But it is still good to know the basic greetings in case someone greeted you in Arabic. Especially because welcoming even strangers is the Arab way. So here are some of the most used and important phrases you can have under your belt when you visit Dubai.

How to greet someone in Arabic

There are a few words or types of welcoming phrases in Arabic, depending on the person and situation.

Ahlan wa sahlan (or simply Ahlan) – This is the equivalent of hello in English. This can be used to greet anyone irrespective of the time of the day. Ahlan is a more casual way of saying ahlan va sahlan. 

Marhaba – Means welcome. This one is also used to welcome anyone at anytime.

Sabah al khayr – Same as the good morning in English. This is a very formal way of greeting. 

Misa al khayr – means good evening or a beautiful evening. Just like the English phrase good evening, this one is used in the afternoon.

Tisbah ala khayr – Though the meaning has nothing to do with good night, but this is what Arabs use to greet people instead of goodnight. The meaning of this phrase is roughly ‘wake up to a nice morning’. The wish is for the next day.

Shake Hands and embracing accompanies these verbal greetings in the case of male to male and female to female. Generally, Arab men and women do not shake hands with each other. 

How to reply to Arabic greetings

Different greetings require different replies:

When someone wishes you Sabah Al Khayr or Sabah a noor, you should say ‘Sabah an noor’, which means ‘a morning of light’ or ‘a beautiful morning’.

Reply ‘Misa a noor’ to ‘Misa al khayr’, and ‘wa anta (or anti, depending on the gender of the other person) to reply to Tisbah ala Khayr. ‘Anti’ is used for females, and ‘anta’ is used for males.

How do Muslims greet

All the greetings mentioned above are generic Arabic greetings. The most common greeting Muslims use between them is ‘Assalamu alaikum’ which is a phrase from the Prophetic traditions. Its meaning goes likes ‘may God’s peace be upon you’. Muslims reply to it by saying ‘wa alaikum assalam’, meaning ‘may peace be upon you as well’.

Why do Arabs rub their noses

Rubbing nose is a gesture of welcoming people in the Arab world. Rubbing noses is a sign of respect and pride in the culture. It is, in fact, thousands of years old custom that has been passed down in generations. You can even tell which part of the Arabian peninsula somebody is from just by looking at the way they rub their noses. 

This is the equivalent of an adult person kissing a child’s forehead. When the greeting is between adult Arabs, they rub their noses together. There are other cultures in the world where the nose rub is a custom. The native population of Canada, New Zealand, and Scandinavia has nose rub customs similar to the Arab world. The nose rubs are almost always done between men and men or women and women. Not between people of other cultures or between men and women.

What is Inshallah

This is a very common word in the Arab world and the Islamic world in general, which is often misunderstood. When you ask an Arab to do something or request something, he would say ‘Inshallah’ if he is happy to help you. But it seems that the word has received an unfortunate connotation. Therefore, it is sometimes seen as a sign of a lack of interest by others.

The literal meaning of Inshallah is ‘God willing’ or ‘if God wills so’. It is also considered respectful to say Inshallah instead of OK in the Arab culture. Those who are not accustomed to this phrase take it as ‘never gonna happen’.

What does Khalli Walli mean

Khalli walli is the same as saying ‘leave him be’ or ‘don’t care about him’. It is used when somebody is not interested in someone or something. It’s, in fact, Khalli yewalli, losing the ‘ye’ bit in the speed of the pronunciation.

A: Are you going to meet John today?

B: Khalli Walli! I don’t have time for him!

Learn more about the Emirati heritage

There are many ways to dive into the culture and heritage of the UAE. You can go on a desert safari trip to experience the Bedouin heritage in the camp and experience a whole lot of other things that you can find out in the desert camp.

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