Caravan-Serai Traveler’s Handbook
The Arabic Language & Alphabet
Arabic is the language of most of the countries we visit. Classical Arabic is used in all writing and is understood and spoken by all Arabs. Newspapers and TV news use Classical Arabic. Colloquial Arabic is only spoken (not written) and varies from country to country. In North Africa Arabic is influenced by native languages. For instance, in Egypt, the accent is changed. Therefore, spoken communication can be difficult between people from different Arab countries.
Arabic is read from right to left. Listed below are some common expressions in Arabic spoken in Yemen. Words are gendered, having different endings for “male” and “female”.
ah-len wa sah-len: welcome, formal greeting
salaam aleikum: hello (peace be upon you)
wa aleikum as-salaam: hello (and to you peace) — response
ma sa-laa-ma: good-bye (“Go in Peace”)
sa-bah al hair: good morning
sabah-an-noor: good morning — response
kee-fik: how are you
shu-kran: thank you
af-wan: you’re welcome
wain ___?: where is _______?
wain ha-mmam?: where is the bathroom?
kit-eer gha-li: too expensive
ashti ah-roo-h (illa) ____: I want to go (to) ____