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Our Language Guide for the Middle East | The best local language crash course

18 Apr 2019

Hello… or should we say salaam alaikum! Whether you’re traveling to the Middle East for business or pleasure, these two short words will go a long way. Although Arabic is the main language spoken in the region, English is widely used here. But, while you can easily order a meal, catch a taxi or book a hotel without uttering a word of Arabic, there are plenty of reasons why you should at least attempt to learn the local lingo.

Here are some useful phrases and common words to learn before boarding that flight to the Middle East, which can be used in various greetings and exchanges.

Common Arabic Phrases And Words


It means “God willing”, but it is more widely used to mean “maybe” or “I’m not sure”. You can use this word in a variety of scenarios where you may not have the answer to the question.  For example, will you arrive on time? How long will the meeting last?


One of the most common Arabic words used, yallah means “let’s go” or “come on” and is frequently used by all nationalities in the Middle East to mean that you want something to happen or want things to keep moving along.


Quite simply, this means “thank you”. The other person should reply by saying afwan, which means “you’re welcome”.


A casual and friendly greeting, this is a less formal way of saying hello to friends and well-known colleagues.


When you want to congratulate someone for anything, simply say mabrook to put a smile on their face.

Salaam Alaikum/Wa Alaikum Salaam

This is the most traditional and a more formal Arabic greeting. You’ll need to learn both parts of the greeting; the first person says salaam alaikum and then the other person replies with wa alaikum salaam. It’s literally translated in English as “peace be upon you!” and “and on you be peace'”.


An informal way of greeting a friend is to call them habibi (when addressing a man) or habibti (when addressing a woman). You can combine this with Yallah to say Yallah habibi, meaning “hello my friend”.

The Basics

Ay-wa/naam: Yes

La’: No

La shu-kran: No, thanks

Min fadlak (when talking to a male); Min fadliki (when talking to a female): Please

Aasif (M); Assifa (F): sorry

Ma-salama: goodbye

Tawaqaf: Stop

Maza/Man: Who?/What?
Ayna/Lemaza: Where?/Why?
Kam ath-thaman: How much?
Ana mu fa-him (when talking to a male); Ana mu fahhma (when talking to a female): I don’t understand

The Quick And Easy Answer To Everything!

Ana La ataKalam El Aarabya: I don't speak Arabic

Meeting And Greeting

Is-mee [your name]: My name is…

Kaeef halak: How are you?

Anaa min [country]: I’m from…

Ame-ri-ki: America

Brai-ta-ni: Britain

O-ro-pi: Europe

Al hind: India

It’s as important as learning your ABCs (or in this case the 28 letters of the Arabic alphabet) to remember the Arabic for numbers for 1-10

Waahad: one

Ithnayn: two

Thaltha: three

arba'a: four       

fkhamsa: five

sitta: six

saba'a: seven   

thamaanya: eight           

tiss'a: nine         

ashara: ten     

Don’t Get Lost… Find Your Way Around The City in Arabic


Whether asking for directions or trying to get someone’s attention, start the conversation with the polite word maazera, which means “excuse me”.

Wayn al hammam?

If you’re looking for the restroom, remember how to say Wayn al hammam? or “Where is the toilet?”.

Ala yamen

Go to the right

Ala yassar

Go to the left



Common questions

Ayna aqrab maHatet banseen: Where is the nearest petrol station?
Ayna aqrab Saraf aalee: Where is the nearest cash machine?
Ayna Al mustashfaa: Where is the hospital?

And in an emergency, you can ask for…

MosaAda: Help!

Al shurtaa: Police

Moustashfa: Hospital

Dakhtar: Doctor

Hal Ladika hatef: Do you have a phone?

Not only will the locals give you a warm welcome for making the effort to speak their language, but you’ll find it easier to navigate your way around the country – and you’ll enjoy feeling immersed in the local culture. So, whether it’s saying shukran or inshallah, mabrook or salaam alaikum, a little bit of Arabic will take you far.