Did you know …?

al-madeena is the standard word for ‘city’. In the Maghreb, i.e. in the countries to the West of Egypt, the word madeena is often used for the old part of town.  On the island of Malta there is a city still called Mdina, which gives you an idea of the huge influence Arabs had on Malta and indeed the whole Mediterranean.

In many Arab cities the public baths (hammaam) can be found in the souq area. Such public baths can be found in Cordoba in Andalucia, reminding us  that the Muslims were in Spain for some 800 years, from the early 8th to the late 15th century.

The Spanish city Murcia still has a Calle de los Nahaseen. This is the Spanish and Arabic for ‘The Street of Coppersmiths.’ This is another indication of the influence of Arabs, who settled in this area in the 8th century AD.

Sometimes visitors to the Arab world expect to find that only men pray in the mosques. In fact, you will see that women do attend mosque prayers, too. However, in most Arab countries there is allocation of the sexes to separate prayer halls.

To learn the entire Quran by heart is a skill which is highly prized. It is indeed quite an achievement since there are 114 chapters and the total length is about three-quarters of the New Testament.
Some of the most popular TV programmes are those in which children compete in reciting the Quran from memory. The word Quran implies ‘recital’ or ‘reading aloud’.

Sahara is the plural form of the word SaHraa’. The Arabic root S – H – r of Sahara implies ‘burning heat which can addle the brain’. This is yet another word which shows how much of the Arabic language has its roots in the nomadic life of the Bedouin.

Sand sports are a very new feature, particularly popular in the Arabian Peninsula. In the GCC countries driving powerful four-wheel drive vehicles up and down sand dunes is a favourite sport for young Arabs and tourists. They call the sport ‘dune-bashing’.

The Arabic word jameela means ‘beautiful’. It is very close to the Arabic word jamal, which means ‘camel’. Both words have the same root in Arabic. This tells you a lot about the history of words in Arabic. It also shows you the importance of the camel in Arabic culture. This valued animal protected the Bedouins in the desert and guaranteed their survival as a means of travel and as a vital supply of food. A well-known Arabic proverb is: aS-Sabr jameel, ‘(the virtue of) Patience is beautiful’.

In many regions of the Arab world you will hear the phrase bukra, which has the same meaning as ghadan (tomorrow). The phrase bukra is widespread and is used to refer to an event ‘in the future’ and not really ‘tomorrow’, as many Europeans would understand it. So if an Arab says he will do something bukra, it may mean he will do it some time in the future, not today.


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