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A glossary of Gulf Arabic words

Arabian Oryx

The Arabian oryx has nothing to do with the glossary or the addendum to it, but I felt it would be a nice idea to include at least one photo of it on this site as it is such a beautiful animal. Its proper name is al maha or, less commonly, al wadhihi and it once roamed the Arabian peninsula. Hunting and urbanisation killed it off in the region but now most of the states have zoos which include specimens. Incidentally, the name al wadhihi relates to the animal’s beautiful eyes.

The glossary set out below was intended to be a vocabulary related mainly to building development in the Gulf. There are, however, a number of words which come into general discussions when dealing with the planning, design and building process, and which are added for interest, if not clarity. Please be aware that there may well be errors and omissions.

You should also be aware that the glossary is set out in Roman alphabetic order. This is different from the way in which an Arabic dictionary or glossary is set out: they are organised with respect to the root word, usually the third person singular of the past tense. Hence kataba is the root verb meaning ‘he wrote’ (something), under which maktab, meaning ‘office’ or ‘desk’, kaatib, meaning clerk or scribe, and maktoub, meaning ‘letter’, would be found.

There are few resources on the Internet but the Qatar government has published a planning glossary that some might find useful. It can be accessed from the References page. It is aimed at a more modern audience than is this glossary. I also recommend the glossary found at the back of An Outline of Islamic Architecture for its vocabulary of classic Islamic architectural elements. Usefully, it also has a list of the sources used in compiling it. However, bear in mind that the vocabulary is not really related to Gulf Arabic.

The reader should understand that there is constant dissent about the meanings of translations in general and, here, there is likely to be more as I am using both Gulf terms as well as Arabic words from elsewhere in the Arab world.

Moreover there are differences between the way a word may be written in Arabic and the way it is pronounced. For instance, feriq is often pronounced colloquially, fereej, and the hard gebel of Egyptian Arabic is written as jabal and pronounced in Qatar more like jebel.

I should repeat here that the glossary below is set out differently from that of an Arabic dictionary. Not only is the order based on the Roman alphabet, but the initial letters relate to the way in which the Arabic word is heard, this often being different from the actual Arabic letter. For instance the letters ‘c’, ‘e’ and ‘o’ do not exist in Arabic, yet I have shown words beginning with them, as that is how they sound to me.

In addition I am aware that there are other inconsistencies. The main one is in my using ‘ee’ and ‘i’ interchangeably depending, in the main, on how I have heard them spoken.

The main purpose of the glossary is to enable you to learn the meaning of a word spoken in Arabic, but bear in mind that this is mixture of different kinds of Arabic, ranging from the vernacular to forms brought in by Arabs from other countries.

One final note is that there is, as you might anticipate, considerable differences in pronunciation within the Arab world. The main one to be aware of is that Egyptian Arabic pronounces the soft Gulf Arabic ‘j’ as a hard ‘g’.



’abbaasid relating to ’Abbaas ibn ’Abd al-Muttalib, a paternal uncle of Muhammad, and representing a political dynasty, founded in 750, based in Baghdad and lasting around two hundred years. It was the third of four Islamic caliphates, supplanting the Umayyad caliphate – see fatimid and umayyad
’abd slave
’abreeq jug
’adhaab al-miyaa’ desalination
’alam flag
a’ailah a children’s game played with stones and a double row of holes, usually scratched in the ground
a’amoud column
a’oud incense used to perfume, particularly, in the majlis
abaya – pl. abayaat black cloak worn by women
’abra bi al majdaaf a small traditional craft used for light porterage across the creek in Dubai
abyadh white
’ada – pl. ’adat a habit, or something carried out habitually
adab good manners, courtesy, politeness or the proper approach to carrying out a task
adhaan the call to prayers, usually made through a loud speaker attached to the minaret of a mosque
’adl justice
’adliya Civil court
ahmar red
’ain the twelfth letter of the Arabic alphabet, containing a glottal stop
akeed definitely
akhbar news
akhdar green
alair on
alaas’aafaat alaawlya first aid
alaadhaa’a lighting
alaaslaahaat repairs
alatool straight ahead – coll.
aldhukuwr male
al faas an axe or axehead
alif the first letter of the Arabic alphabet
al ikhwan as-safa’ the Brotherhood of Purity
alinaath female
al khatt al mansub a classic calligraphic style designed by the calligrapher Abu Ali ibn Muqlah
al haadhr the present
al madhi the past
al mustaqbil the future
alhambra an Islamic development in Andalucian Spain that came to an end with the Christian reconquista in 1492, and is a very commonly perceived Western model of Islamic design
amaan safety
amil system of pearling where a naakhuda is financed by a taajir
amir prince
amira princess, or a woman’s head scarf, similar to a hijab, but used with an underscarf
’amm public
’amn security
’amuwd the poles used to hold up a black tent
’angar a light anchor with four or six prongs, typically used by pearling ships
’aqd – pl. ’uquwd contract
’areedth wide
’arish palm fronds or stalks and the buildings constructed with pitched roofs of palm fronds. The word is derived from the plural of the Arabic word for feathers – see al-rish
ardha traditionally a dance performed before warfare, accompanied by two facing groups chanting to each other while moving slowly with guns and swords to the accompaniment of drummers – see razeef which is a version
ardth earth or land
arnab desert hare
as’aaf ambulance
’asabiyyah social solidarity, kinship, loyalty or cohesion
a’sal honey
asfar yellow
ashiddah camel tack, the general word for the equipment and harnesses of a camel
askar military
’asiil tribes considered to be noble
askari soldier – see also jundi
’asr prayer in the mid-afternoon
assass foundations or footings, also has the meaning of the basis
alustrlaab astrolabe, a scientific instrument used in astronomy, surveying, way-finding, prayer timing and astrology
aswad black
ataba the threshold of a door
’atar perfume
atiq old
atnab the guy ropes on traditional tents, usually made of hemp
awamid columns
awasij the plant, Lycium shawii
’ayaala the Emirati name for the razeef
aayah – pl. aayaat the verses that make up a surah of the Quran
’ayn – pl. ’ayyuwn eye
’ayyin small defensive holes in the wall of buildings through which firearms could be sighted
azal diver who goes out in the boat of a naakhuda, but is independent
azba permit for a non-residential temporary animal stock camp – see mazarah
ba’ath meaning, literally, re-birth, and the name of a political nationalistic, secular party established in Syria
baarid cold
baazur wrought iron, dome-headed nails used in the construction of heavy doors, face-fixed from the outside of the door through horizontal ledges and turned over to fix them
bab – pl. abwaab door
bab khalfi or bab al-waraani a minor, secondary or service door to a property, often giving onto a sikka, relative’s property or private grazing area
badawi – pl. badu commonly, bedouin, meaning people who live in the desert
badgheer natural ventilation system – from the Persian
ba’eed far or far away
bahr – pl. bihaar or buhuwr sea – note that the name, Bahrein, means ‘two seas’ and comes from the belief that the island and the surrounding salt water floated on a bed of sweet water – the Persian/Arabian Gulf – it being possible to find sweet water both under the land and the sea – see also buhuwr below
baharnah Arabs believed to be the first settlers of the Qatar peninsula, and of shi’ite origin – see also hawwalah
bakhnaq a short head covering worn by unmarried females
bakra hoist used over a well
balaat tiles or paving
balad – pl. bilaad town or country
baladiya municipality, also the common term for the municipality building
balam nasaari a trading vessel also used for fishing and pearling and around forty or fifty feet long
baluchi a person of Baluchistan, a geographical area within south-east Iran and west Pakistan
baniya tahatiya infrastructure
bannaa – pl. bayaan land or country
baraha a majlis, or sitting area, outside the house and its compound
barash palm thatched dwelling
barasti construction of palm fronds but, more commonly nowadays, temporary housing constructed of flattened out oil drums
bareed post office
barnaamaj – pl. baraamij programme or schedule
barq lightning
barr desert, land or country
barra outside
barzan a free-standing watchtower
bas enough!
basjeel a woven cane mat usually employed in the construction of suspended floors or roofs
bateel – pl. bataateel a type of local sailing craft, traditionally used for both fishing and fighting
bateel selek a small version of the above craft
batin the inner aspect of self or a thing
batula – pl. bataateel the mask worn by Gulf Arab women to preserve their privacy
bawabat al hawwa wooden shutters used to close off the circulation of wind towers
bawara a heavy sea anchor, suited to sandy sea beds
bay’ah an obligation upon, as well as a right for, every Muslim, man or woman; an oath of allegiance under Islam
bayaasira a pejorative term for those who do not belong to a qabila, as well as a group established in the Oman whose origins are not known
bayt – pl. byoot house
bayt khiaas canvas tent, literally, a house of canvas
bayt sha’bi a Public house, given by right to any Qatari that needs housing
bayt sha’r traditional Bedu tent, literally, a house of hair
bazaar a suq or shopping area
beeb – pl. beebaat pipe
bijanb beside or next to
bilaad country
bid’a not having roots in traditional understanding or sunnah
bideda extended families
bidoon or biduwn without – also a term given to those without nationality – see hadhar
bidiy water trough
bihaaraat spices
bin son (of)
bint daughter (of)
il bint il wald amha the girl is to go to her first cousin in marriage
bina’a – pl. binaaya or mabaani building
bi’r – pl. alabaar well
biqaala – pl. albiqaala grocery
bi’rkat cistern
bisht loose robe worn by men, usually black or brown with embroidered gold trimming, heavier in winter. Sometimes known as a mishlah
bismillah collective word describing the religious exhortation, bism illah al-rahman al-rahim – In the name of Allah, the most Compassionate, the most Merciful
bitaath hinge
biyaa’ itinerant salesman
boom – pl. abwaam large wooden, traditional boat with raking stem and stern, usually with a single, forward-raked mast
booma owl – a symbol of bad luck
bratha a small sand deposit – see also ramla
buhuwr seas – with the meaning of the metres of poetry
bukhur generic word for incense
bukra tomorrow – bad bukra – the day after tomrrow
bunkah fan, usually centrally located in the ceiling
burj – pl. abraaj tower
burj al hawwa wind tower
burj al muraaqiba watchtower
burj as-sa’a clock tower
burka – pl. barak water tank
burq’a the hood used to calm a hawk, an enveloping dress commonly worn by women in Afghanistan, and an alternative name for a batula
burtuqal orange – fruit and colour
busa – pl. busat inch – measurement
bustaan – pl. basaatin garden
buwny brown
buwradaai – baraadi curtain
buwraah irregular, strong wind, common in May
caravanserai a combined lodging for travelling merchants and their pack animals as well as a temporary place for their business
chadur a woman’s outer dress common to Iran, covering the body from head to foot
cubit a measure of approximately half a metre – see the note at the foot of References.
daa’ira ring, as in ring road
dafnah an alternative name of the New District of Doha, deriving from the colloquial name for dug or made ground, more classically relating to graves
dahl – pl. duhul geological feature – a hole in the ground where underground water has eroded the limestone causing the surface to fall in
dahleez corridor or entrance space in a traditional house
dahroi a traditional game for boys
dakhil inside
dalalah – dalalaat women who sold clothes and the like from door to door to the women of the household
dallal colloquial name for an estate agent – see samsaar
daluw the bucket associated with a jaleeb – see also maqam
danjal timber beams of mangrove – see shandal
daqiqa – pl. daqa’q minute (of time)
dar house or home – also the name of the room where pearl divers would gather onshore to share experiences and sing – also the extent of a tribal grazing area
darb – pl. daruwb alleyway or street
daraj – pl. darajaat staircase
daraj al haraara degrees – literally, degrees of heat
darisha – daraaish window openings, usually meant as shuttered windows
darwaazah a pair of main doors
dastur bowsprit of a traditional craft
dawla state, as in Dawlat Qatar – State of Qatar
dawwah a brass tray, raised from the ground, used with charcoal to prepare coffee both in the desert as well as the preparation area adjacent to or inside majaalis
debesh animals
deek cock
deira encampment
della – pl. dellaal coffee pot – usually the traditional pot
dhafaqat internal wooden window shutters
dhahr al-khait windward side of a dune – see sayal
dhaif guest
dhanoun Cistanche phelypaea – a parasitic desert plant
dhow general name for traditional, timber Arab boats, see also khashab
dhubab fog
dhuhr afternoon
dhul shade
dibis date syrup, a staple culinary ingredient used as a drink and as a sweetner, produced by pressing dates
dihliz narrow passage or entrance hallway to a house
dikka a raised bench or seat, usually built along an external wall and forming a side or sides of a baraha – pr. ‘ditcher’ – see also mastaba
dirah an area of land over which groups of people had grazing rights. cf. haram, coll. a person’s place of residence or country
dirwand the beam or lintel over an opening usually in the form of a palm trunk or bound mangrove poles
diwan – pl. dawaaween the office of a government institution or head of state, sometimes used as the entrance to a large house – see iwaan
diwania an occasional reference to a small, important building, usually two-storied
diyin or dabeen a string bag worn around the neck of divers, in which to place oyster shells
djin devils or evil spirits
doha marine bay
dowshek – pl. dowaashek low mattress with relatively hard stuffing on which people site or recline
dthabit officer
dtha’eef weak
dtha’eeq narrow
dthahab gold
dthawdthaa’ noise
dthabab mist or fog
dthayf guest
dthuhr prayer at noon
duff a drum or tambourine created by stretching an animal skin over a circular wooden frame – see tara
dujarj chicken
dukaan – pl. dukaakeen shop
dukhan smoke
duqal mast of a traditional craft – see also saaria
durwa decorative treatment of a parapet wall
du’un timber window shutters
duwah a low brazier on which charcoal is burned and kettles heated
duwnya world
duwlaab cupboard
duwwar defensive wall
dwar roundabout
ems yesterday
’enf – pl. ’enuwf nose, the prominent vertical feature of a batula or the vertical post on a double door
’eid celebration, festival or holiday
’eid al-adha the four-day holiday that follows the hajj
’eid al-fitr the three-day holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadhan
’eid mubarak the exhortation congratulating a Muslim on the ’eid holiday
’eid sa’id an alternative exhortation congratulating a Muslim on the ’eid holiday
ezrak blue
faas axe
fajr prayer at sunrise
fakh – pl. afkhakh a bird trap made from goat or sheep horns
falaa – pl. falawaat wilderness
falaj – pl. aflaaj water channel, usually open – see also saab and qanat
fan – pl. funuwn art or science
fanas Jack wood, or Artocarpus heterophyllus, the name given to this timber by Kuwaiti shipbuilders
fanous – pl. fuwaanis lamp or lantern
fara carpenter’s plane
farash servant
fard salat compulsory prayers, avoidance of which places the individual concerned outside Islam
farkhat al bab the small door that is set into a larger door – usually a pair of doors – known as darwaazah
farman the yard of a traditional wooden craft
faruwsh dead coral which comes in striated slabs
fasht marine reef
fasl – pl. fusuwl season – of the year
fasl al rabi’a spring
fasl al saif summer
fasl al kharif autumn
fasl al shitaa’ winter
fatail fibrous twine used, when soaked in fish oil, to seal between the planks of wooden boats
fatam the nose clip used by divers to prevent water entering their lungs, usually carved from horn
fat’ha – fathaat opening or open
fat’ha al murakaba defensive viewing holes in the walls of a building
fatimid relating to a Shi’a dynasty founded in 909 by ’Abdullah al-Mahdi Billah who claimed legitimacy tracing his relationship with Muhammad through his daughter, Fatima al-Zahra and her husband, ’Ali ibn Abi-Taalib, the first Shi’a Imaam. The dynasty lasted until 1171 and was based in Cairo, Egypt. It was the fourth and last Islamic caliphate – see abbaasid and umayyad
fatwa – pl. fataawaa edict or decision in Islamic law
feriq – pl. furuwq or furjaan district of a town or city, usually associated with a particular family
feriya opening in a common wall between two houses, usually of relatives, and generally not secured
fahamah or faham charcoal
fidawi – pl. fidawiyya armed retainers
fidha silver
fijr dawn or daybreak
fijiri rhythmic songs sung by pearlers
filla – pl. fillat villa – an obvious loan word
filli strips of woven goat hair which, sewn together, form the covering of a black tent
finjaal – pl. finajeel traditional Arabic coffee cup – badu pronunciation
finjaan – pl. finajeen traditional Arabic coffee cup
finaa’ courtyard and the space immediately adjacent to the outside of a property wall
fiqh Islamic jurisprudence which has a number of schools distinguished by geographical area: hanafi – the Indian sub-continent, West Africa and Egypt; maliki – north and west Africa; shafi – Malaysia and Indonesia; hanbali – the Arabian peninsula; and jaferi – Iran and Iraq.
firdaws the highest level of paradise
fowk above
fraym fat’ha al badgheer a shutter which closes over a ventilation system to keep the rain from entering
fuluws money or fish scales
funduq hotel or guest house
fuq’a truffles, of which there are two main types: khalasi, which are black with a light pink flesh and zubaidi, dark cream with a cream coloured flesh
fuqaha Islamic jurists
furshat paint brush
fustaan a woman’s dress
garmoush male saqr falcon
ghaduf a fishing oar
ghaim cloud
ghais or ghawwass a pearl diver
ghalat mistake
ghali expensive
ghaltan wrong
ghanem sheep
ghaar cave, as in the Grotto or Cave of Hiraa’ in the jabal al-nuwr where the Prophet received his first revelation
gharqad probably the Parkinsonia aculeata, a tree named in a hadith as being the ‘tree of the Jews’
gharb west
gharghuwr – pl. gharagheer a woven fish trap, circular with conical entrance
gharsha a clay pot used as a percussive musical instrument
ghaus dive – ghaus al-kabir being the chief pearl diving season, followed by radda and preceded by ghaus al-barid
ghazaal gazelle
ghaazi a warrior
ghazw a form of warfare associated with raiding for camels – cf. harb
ghubar dust
ghurbaal a collection of twenty-five pearl sieves, each known as a tasah
ghurfa room or a suspended floor in a building
ghurfat al-jaluws sitting room for the family
ghurfat al-nome – pl. ghurf nome bedroom or room for sleeping in
ghurfat al-sufra dining room or room for eating in
ghuri fort
ghutrah headscarf square, folded on the diagonal and worn on the head over a kufiyah and held down with a black iqal. The ghutrah is white in summer and usually check in winter – most commonly white and black, red or green. Although both white and coloured are commonly referred to as a ghutrah, the embroidered, heavy ghutrah is more properly known as a shumagh
ghuwry – pl. ghuwaary teapot, usually imported enamelled metal
girih [not a word used in the Gulf] tiles which consist of sets of five contiguous polygons – a decagon, pentagon, diamond, bowtie, and hexagon – each with a unique decorative line pattern which, when joined together produce complex geometrical patterns
guidu – pl. gdawa the name given to an Iranian earthenware water-cooled nargila with a bamboo pipe common to the region. Also qulyan or ghalyun – see shisha
haashiya – pl. haashiyaat frame or edge
habaan the Arabian bagpipe, common to the southern Gulf, and related to the Bahreini qirba or jirba though there having two chanters and itself being similar to the nay anbaan used in southern Iran
hadaa the rope to which a pearl driver is attached
hamour – pl. hawaamir a type of grouper fish
haatif telephone
habl – pl. hibaal rope
hadam demolition
hadhar, hadar or hazar people who have settled in a particular area, as opposed to badu, who are transient
hadeed iron, traditionally, wrought iron but now also used for steel
hadeed ash shubeck iron window bars
hadiqa – pl. hadaa’aq garden
hadith – pl. ahaadith sayings or traditions – based on what he witnessed and approved – of the Prophet
hadith qudsi hadiths in which the Prophet put in his own words what Allah said to him – not to be confused with the words of the Quran which are literal quotes of Allah
hafriyaat excavation
haikal – pl. haiaakal structure
hail the spice cardamon, used in preparation of Arabic coffee
hajj the pilgrimage made by muslims to Mecca
hajar – pl. hajaraat stone
hakuwma government
halaal anything that is permitted, in English usually relating to diet, but in Islam also relating to dress, speech and behaviour
halib milk
haluwsah a children’s game played with stones and a double row of holes, usually scratched in the ground
halwa beautiful, or a sweet
hamaam – pl. hamaamaat washroom
hamaaya min al haraa’q fire protection
hamaam pigeon
hamam an area in the vicinity of a town or settlement upon which such town or settlement has a claim of exclusive rights for the purpose of obtaining the necessities of its existence
hanafi the school of fiqh within sunni Islam covering the Indian sub-continent, West Africa and Egypt and based on the teachings of Abu Hanifa al-Nu’man ibn Thabi.
hanbali the school of fiqh within sunni Islam covering the Arabian peninsula and named after Ahmad bin Hanbal.
haqq – pl. huquwq truth or right
haqqaah the sure truth or inevitable reality
har hot
haram area in the vicinity of a settlement over which that settlement has exclusive rights to the necessities for its existence. cf. dirah
haraam forbidden – the opposite of halaal
haraara heat
haramlik the private area of a house
harb war waged for territory – cf. ghazw
harees a popular meal combining crushed wheat and a meat, cooked with clarified butter, salt and water, and served with sugar and, sometimes a spice such as cinammon topping
harf a letter of the alphabet
harm pyramid
hariq fire
hasa stones from the desert, also the name of the stone weight used to propel a pearl diver to the sea bed
hasa bahri literally, sea stones – see faruwsh
hassira cane or rush matting
hashish garden or grass
hashwat bab carved decorative treatment to the face of a door – see also bab
hawaala transfer or remit (of money)
hawa’ air or weather
hawlaani a badu riding saddle
hawan wa yad al-hawan pestle and mortar used for the crushing of coffee beans
hawar a young camel
hawaya the tall, vertical openings which form the entrances for the wind in a wind tower
hawdaj a covered, tent-like camel saddle, generally used by women
hawdh pool
hawi local name for a courtyard – see also hawsh
hawiya identity, as in hawiya watani – national identity – see watan
hawsh local name for a courtyard – see also hawi
hawta boundary
haykal tale or story, or the hull of a traditional craft
hayt wall
hazar see hadhar
hazara immigrant settlements
hazm high ground separating two depressions
henna or hiyna a plant used to decorate the skin
hijaab woven or fabric wall used to separate the women’s area from the men’s area of a tent – see also snaah
hijab a Muslim woman’s common head covering
hijrah the name given to the exile, flight or move the Prophet made from Mecca to Medina in 622 AD, the result of his increasing disaffection with polytheism and the resultant merchants’ anger with his opposition and its effect on the pilgrims
hilaal a crescent or new moon
hima pre-Islamic protected reserve of land – and management system based on rotation to permit regeneration
himaar – pl. hameer donkey, and a mild term of abuse
himaar bahr sailor’s donkey, an above-deck cross beam used to strength the structure of traditional craft
hisaan horse
hibl – pl. hibaal rope
hibb large earthenware water vessel
hibr ink
hiyala a majlis, or sitting area, outside the house and its compound
hizam as suwr / burj the strengthened construction of the foot or corner of a building / tower
housh the garden, yard or area around the house
hubara the hubara or bustard is a relatively slow bird, commonly the quarry of hawks
hujra a room or the lowest floor of a house
huli – pl. hawwalah Sunni Arab and Persian populations from southern Iran who link themselves genealogically to one of the tribes of Arabia from where they came in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, also a pejorative Gulf Arab term – see also baharnah
hurr female saqr falcon
huwah or juwayzah, traditional Arabic tribute levied by toll of money, animals, agricultural product, military conscription or other, reflecting the dominion of one party over another – originally a benign tradition which developed into a protection model
huwsh the courtyard of a traditional house or building
huwtah – pl. huwaat a walled and secured empty plot of land set aside for personal or communal use and future development
idhat the waiting period of four months and ten days during which a woman may remain in her house to effect a reconciliation
ibriq kettle
ifsah yield! – traffic sign
ifreez carved timber or plaster frieze
iftah open!
iftaar the evening meal that breaks the day’s fast during the holy month of Ramadhan
ihsaan perfection or excellence, related to the carrying out of prayer and, by extension, to all activities
ijaaza permit or licence
i’jaam dots which are a distinguishing and integral part of some consonants
ijar leasing
ijma’ an aspect of Islamic law based on consensus
ijtihad reasoning aimed at comprehending an issue of shari’a
ijtima’a meeting
ilm knowledge
imaam – pl. a’immah a religious leader or teacher, and one who leads the salah
imkabbis a singer employed on long distance trading vessels
iqal – pl. uqul a thick, doubled, black cord which sits on top of the ghutrah, holding it onto the head, and comes with or without a tail hanging down the back of the wearer
irq small, narrow dune – see sahib below
isha the prayer at night
ishaaraat signals
islam the religion of Muslims, literally – submission to God – from the root meaning ‘to surrender’
istanzal person affected by dancing at a zaar event – derived from the verb nazala
istihsan a method of exercising personal opinion in order to avoid unfairness that might result from a literal application of law
salat al-istiqsaa’ prayers for rain
istislah a method of resolving complex problems whose answer can not be found in religious texts
iswarah a bracelet, usually gold and worn on the wrist
itaar architrave
ithil timber beams of tamarisk – see shandal
streak lamp or lantern
iwaan – pl. iwaanaat or awaawin a portico, often vaulted, open on one side to a hall or, more often, an open forecourt
izmeel chisel
jaama’a university
jabal – pl. jibaal hill
jadeed new
jaferi the school of fiqh covering Iran and Iraq
jafir basket for carrying building materials
jaleeb or bi’r, a circular well
jaliboot – pl. jalaabeet or jawaalbeet boat with vertical stem and transom stern
jals – pl. juluws a long country craft, designed for racing, powered by oars. Also known as jals lal-sibaaq, literally a boat for racing
jamal camel
jameel beautiful
jannah – pl. jannaat paradise – an abbreviation of jannaat ’adn – the Garden of Eden – the English word, paradise, from the Persian, pairi-daeza, meaning an enclosed space. The highest level of jannah is firdaws
janoob south
jaraadah locust
jareed palm leaves used for roofing
jat animal feed, a kind of vetch
jayb pocket
jayyid excellent or very good
jareeda magazine or newspaper
jawaaz permit
jawaaz as-safr passport
jaww a flat, wide open area, or weather
jazeera – pl. juzur island
jazwa pearl divers
jet a green feed given to animals, perhaps alfalfa – to be checked
jibin – pl. ajbaan cheese
jibs lime, plaster, gypsum – usually used about modern internal plaster
jihad struggle
jilaabah – pl. jilbaab a woman’s loose fitting coat covering from the neck to the ground, usually closed with buttons or a zip
jinsiyyah nationality
jiri – pl. jiryan low lying depressions around which there is little planting but in which water collects during rainy seasons
jisr a beam in trabeated construction, or a bridge
jraq the water-cooled smoking pipe – nargila or argila – with a glass bowl and long leather or plastic hose, common to Saudi Arabia – see guidu
juma’a Friday, or a mosque particularly used for the weekly, Friday prayers
jundi soldier – see also askari
jurn horn-shaped hill
juss lime mortar – usually referring to the traditional use of plaster, or stucco
juwdi assistant for a naakhuda, receiving the share of three divers
juwti shoes or sandals, the name being Punjabi
ka’ba a rectangular stone structure within the masjid al Haram in Mecca. It is the holiest place in Islam.
kaanah tiller of a boat – from the Persian
kaatib scribe or clerk
kabeer large
kafaala sponsorship, or the requirement to have a National take responsibility for an expatriate worker, or for the protection of orphans under adoption
kafeel an individual acting as a sponsor to a foreign worker
kaff wrist decoration comprising a bracelet joined to finger rings – in Qatari dialect, pronounced chaff
kufiyah or qaffiyah small cotton skull cap which sits directly on the head, ensuring the ghutrah won’t slip
kahf cave
kahraba’ electricty
kais a pearl diver receiving three shares
kalb dog
kalba a small cross beam at the prow of a boat used to hang an anchor out of the water
kanaar the edible fruit of the ziziphus mauritiana tree
kandiri merchants and water sellers who came with a donkey and water tank on a small cart – also kerosene sellers who sold the same way.
kandura or kanduwrah, the name given to the thub in the United Arab Emirates
kapuji-bashi honorary Turkish title meaning ‘Head of the Palace Doorkeepers’
kariya villages
kashara rubbish
kashtil is-sidr forecastle of a boat
katar or katter a small traditional boat used to move men and materials between ship and shore
katheef thick or dense
katheer much or many
kaza Ottoman district in eastern Arabia which included Qatar, Qatif, Hasa and Najd
khaan – pl. khaanaat a resting place, inn or hotel, similar to a Persian ‘caravansarai’
khaarij outside
khaas private or special
khabt a protective piece of leather covering the fingers of pearl divers
khail horse
khaima – pl. khayaam tent
khalas enough, sufficient or stop
khalij gulf, as in khalij al arabi – Arabian Gulf
khalil little
khalyat nahl bee hive
khamas a pearling system under shared ownership
khanjar curved knife, worn in the belt in front of the stomach
khareef autumn
kharita – pl. kharaayat drawing
kharuwj exit
khashab wood or timber, also a colloquial name for traditional, wooden craft, or dhow
ala khasham affirming honesty, literally meaning ‘on the nose’
khatt calligraphy, handwriting or a drawn line
khat handwriting or a drawn line
khateeb the speaker at a mosque who delivers the khutbah on the Friday dhuhr prayers which may also be given by the imaam
khatr danger
khatuwt al fawltya al ’aalya high voltage lines
khazaan reservoir
khazaan al moi water tank
khazaana or khazaa’n cupboard or lockers
khazuwq a pile, or can be used in impolite remarks
khazzan public water storage facility
khilaal the steel or wooden pins used to fix ruaq to the covering material of a black tent
khilafah stewardship of the world
khimaar a woman’s cape covering from the top of the head to the waist, fastened under the chin
khir the stone used by pearl divers to take them to the sea bed
khor – pl. khiran a sea inlet
khubz bread
khudar vegetables
khuff a leather sock
khurj – pl. akhraaj woven woollen saddlebag
khul’a divorce initiated by a woman
khundrus a tree resin used in the sealing of the hulls of traditional boats
khurays a wide depression covered by a thin layer of water
khuraytiyaat an area characterised by depressions
khursa’ah the first stage of a dahl characterised by a hole with the roof still standing
khutbah sermon delivered at the Friday dhuhr prayers
khuwkhah wicket door, usually in the right hand door of a pair of doors – see also farkhat al bab
khuws traditional flat woven mats
khyaat tailor
kilim flat woven rugs, mostly used from Persia or Iran, but also woven in many other areas
kitab – pl. kuwtub book
kohl from kuh’ala – a black material used to line and beautify the eyes
kitr – pl. kitrat? a small, usually double-ended boat, mainly used to travel between dhows and the shore
kull every, or all
kull a’am wa antum bikhair literally, every year and you are well, but meaning that I wish you (plural) well every year on this occasion
kunatb a traditional game for girls
kufic said to be the earliest form of Islamic calligraphic script
kuka wicket door
kumbar hemp rope used to wrap and strengthen beams
kuwa opening between structural columns, piers or buttresses, used for ventilation
kuwra sphere or ball – also football
kursee chair
kuwttab school, attached to a masjid, providing an elementary Quranic education
laban yoghurt made from sheep or goat milk by agitating the milk in a sameel
laqfah a traditional game for girls
lajna committee
lahm meat, usually mutton
lakh general term for guy ropes on a black tent
lakhoya a local Gulf term for companions, helpers or bodyguards, now used for a special branch of the police force
lughat language
layl night
laysh why?
layt light
lanj launch (boat)
libbin straw used as an admixture to mud bricks
lilbiy’a for sale
liwan covered terrace, hall or open-fronted room – see taarma
lowh board – as in a board on a wall
lown colour
lubbaan frankincense
lu’lu’ colour
maa not – see mush and mab below
maajil private water system
ma’ with
ma’aaljat al miyah water treatment
ma’aaridth exhibition
maail diagonal
mab not, as in ‘mab zain’ – not good – coll.
mabkhar, mabakhir or madkhaan incense burner – but midkhan more usual
mabna – pl. mabaani building
machboos a form of cooking whereby meat, anything from chicken to young camels, and including fish, is cooked with vegetables and spices in large pots
mi’dhana – pl. almaadhan minaret. See also See also manara
madda – pl. maddaat plastic or cloth placed on the ground to receive food for a meal
madina – pl. mudun city
madkhul entrance or entrance hall
madrassa – madaaris school, traditionally associated with a mosque
madyan pearling system allowing merchants and naakhuda to charge interest
mafaasid social evils – see masaalih
maflaj the knife used for opening oysters
maghrab prayer at sunset
maghsila laundry or washing area
maghzal frame on which to weave material used as snaah or similar
maha common name for the Arabian oryx
mahal place or location, also a collection of tents or an encampment
mahram – pl. mahaarim those members of the family whom a man or woman is not permitted to marry – for a man these are his mother, daughters, sisters, his father’s sisters, mother’s sisters, brother’s daughters, sister’s daughters, his foster mother who gave him suck, his foster milk suckling sisters, his wives’ mothers, his step-daughters under his guardianship, and two sisters in wedlock at the same time
maidaan open place, market place, square
maajari drains
mahr the marriage dowry given to a woman by her husband
majaani free
majdah – pl. majadih bow drill
majdthaaf – pl. majaadthif oar
majlis – pl. majaalis in relation to a house, a sitting room, either internal or external, generally understood to be the room in which men of a household entertain their male friends – also the informal institution where issues are aired and decisions made at a variety of scales within the society ranging from individual families through that of the qabila, to that of the Ruler. It also describes the general system by which information is passed and decisions made and in this sense has a more formal meaning as a council – see majlis al shura below
majlis al-aoud a neighbourhood majlis, usually associated with a masjid
majlis al shura literally, a consultative majlis or council
majmuw’a group, collection, sum or total
majtim’a al-mahali community
makaan – pl. ’amaakin a place
makhraj the exit point from the throat or essential articulation of a letter
makhzan shop or store
maksuwr broken
maktab or maktaba office, library, study or desk
malah – pl. mlaal bowl
malfa’ cloth used to cover the hair
maliki the doctrine of fiqh in sunni Islam covering north and west Africa, named after Malik bin Anas
malqaaf wind scoop or ventilator
ma’maari architecture
mamr – mamraat path or passage
mamnoo’a forbidden
mamnoo’a dakhuwl entrance forbidden
mamnoo’a al tadkheen smoking forbidden
manaakh climate
manara – pl. manaaraat the tower of a mosque from which the word ‘minaret’ is thought to be derived. See also mi’dhana
manaz a baby’s or child’s cradle
mandthuwr perspective
manjuwr percussion instrument used in tambouras, consisting of a skirt-like material to which is attached dried goats feet, and activated by shaking the hips rhythmically – also the name used for reed matting
manqa’ land within an area of jiri in which water settles
manqala a board game consisting of two parallel rows of holes along which markers are moved – from the verb naqala – he moved.
manqalah the wrist cuff used by falconers to protect their arm
manqruf mangrove slat timber
manqrur woven palm matting used in the construction of suspended floors
mantaqa – manaataq district
manzil house, or a place to stay
maq’ad projecting balcony, generally used as a women’s sitting area
maqam the wooden structure associated with a jaleeb – see also daluw
maqahwi the person who serves coffee, usually in a majlis
maqataab the ridge pole or beam used in some types of black tent
maqbadth – pl. maqaabadth handle
maqbara – pl. maqbarat graveyard
maqta section
ma’quwl believable
maraafaq al ghaseel washing facilities
marash container from which rose water is sprinkled
maridh ill or sick
markab – pl. maraakib generic term for a ship or boat
markaz a headquarters, centre or place devoted to a specific activity
markaz ashurta police station
marqad gravestone
marub’a square
maruwr traffic
masaa’ evening
masaalih social good – see mafaasid
masaleeb a wooden dowel used to hold two flat paddles together creating the base for holding a camel saddle – see thuluwf
ma’shaa earthenware pot used to cook harees, wide at the base to optimise heating and narrow at the opening to retain moisture
mashghuwl busy or occupied
mashru’a project
masjid – pl. masaajid mosque – masjid al Qubaa’, the house the Prophet built in Medina in 622AD; masjid al Haram, Mecca, the holiest mosque in Islam; masjid al Nabawi, Medina, the second most holy mosque in Islam; masjid al Aqsa, Jerusalem, the third most holy mosque in Islam
maslaha considerations which produce benefit or interest, or prevent harm
mastaba table or bench – see also dikka
masuwl person in charge
mastalki the upwards facing side of a calligraphic stroke
mat’am restaurant
mataar airport
matar rain
matbakh – pl. mataabach kitchen
matbakh al ra’yyis main kitchen
mat’haf – pl. mataahaf museum
mawaasafaat specification
mawaad kham raw materials
mawjood present, in the sense of it existing
mawqif – pl. mawaqif sayaraat car park
mawthafeen staff
mazarah permit holder for permanent house associated with animal stock – see mazra’a and azba
mazdm the rear tent pole of a black tent
mazlaaj – pl. mazaalij a traditional wooden bolt used in securing wooden doors from the outside also, now, of metal
mazra’a – pl. mazaar’a farm
mecca or Makkah, the holiest city in Islam, containing the ka’ba towards which all Muslims turn in prayer
meen who?
midfa’ – pl. madafi’ hard pillow for propping up on the elbow – see misnad
midkhan – pl. midakhn incense burner
mifattah a circular mat made from palm fibres – see sufra
miftah – pl. mafaatiyh key
mighzal drop spindle used for working goat and other hair into yarn
mihma a long-handled spoon on which coffee is roasted in the preparation of traditional Arabic coffee
mihrab – pl. mahaarib feature in the wall or qibla of a mosque – usually a niche , arch or, in earlier times, a marker – indicating the direction of Mecca for prayer
mijwiz a musical reed instrument of the clarinet family, comprising two pipes with a number of tuned holes, bound together and played with a continuous blowing technique
mikhir the front tent pole of a black tent
miknasa sweeping brush
milaabis clothing
milaqat spoon or trowel
milh salt
min from
min seen from a long way away – literally, from China
min’a – pl. mawaani jetty, port or harbour
minb’a sharb – pl. sanaabir myaa’ al-sharb drinking fountain
minbar pulpit in a mosque
minfaakh – manafeekh bellows used to blow air on a fire
mirzam – pl. maraazim a projecting roof water spout, usually made from timber, or the central point of the ghutrah above the eyes
mirzam a’amoudi exposed vertical rainwater channel constructed in the body of the wall to lead water down a wall
misbah prayer beads
mishaash temporary rock pool
mishat – mshoot comb
mishlah loose robe worn by men, usually black or brown with gold trimming, heavier in winter. More usually known as a bisht
mishtakhata – pl. mishtakhtaat chest
mismaar – pl. misaamir nail or a tent peg
mismaar hadeed iron or steel nail
misnad – pl. masaanid hard cushions used on the ground or upon a raised dikka for people to lean against
misnad al majdthaaf rowlock – arranged in pairs they act as fulcrums for oars to power a rowed craft
mistah an area of hard pan ground surrounding manqa’, covered with broken rock
miswaak a piece of fibrous wood from the root of the arak tree – Salvadora persica L. – used to clean teeth and which is associated with prayer
mithaal – pl. amthila pattern or model, similitude or allegory
mithkab drill
mitr measure or tape measure
mitraqa hammer
mizan level or plane
mizmar a double reeded, conical woodwind musical instrument – see zurna
mntharah´┐Ż– pl. manathr mirror
mnya well, all right
moi water
miyaah al jawfiyah ground water
moi warid rose water – literally flower water
mu’allim teacher
mu’adhin – pl. mu’adhneen person who calls Muslims to pray at a masjid, traditionally from a mi’dhana
mub coll. not, as in mub zain – not good, i.e. bad. See also: mush
mubarrad a shallow, wooden box into which roasted coffee beans are placed for them to cool down prior to their being crushed and added to water in the process of making coffee
mudaaris teacher
mudabab pointed arch
mudabissa a specialised room in some houses set aside for the storage of dates and production of date syrup, dibis. It is characterised by the channels for liquids to drain away to a collection pot
mudhaarabah a profit-sharing venture where two parties share profit, but one bears any loss
mudhakarat memorandum
mudir director of a government department or a private organisation
mufak baraghi screwdriver
mufasl – pl. mufsalaat hinge
mugharib generally understood to be the Mediterranean littoral Arabic states of Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco
muhandess general name for an engineer
muhandess ma’mari architect
muhandess takhtiyt planner
muharrik fire engine
muhim important
mujtamah society
mujannah the practice of winning pearls by wading in the shallows
mukhada diver’s earnings
mukhbaz bakery
mukhtalif different or mixed
mukab the downwards facing side of a calligraphic stroke
mukaiyem temporary animal herding camps
mukayif air-conditioner
mukhat a bag, usually made from canvas and carrying raw meat to feed to returning hawks as their reward
mulk – pl. amlaak ownership
munshar saw
muntaqah – pl. manaataq area, zone or neighbourhood
muntaqah mazruwa’ cultivated area
muqarnas – pl. muqarnasaat decorative or structural element, generally in a stalactite or honeycomb form, usually in the area between the foot of a dome and its supporting walls, or around the head of a column
muqawwal contractor
murabahah the sale of goods including a pre-agreed profit
muraaqaba surveillance or supervision
murfaah storage box hung from a kitchen ceiling
marmar – coll. murmar marble
musalla – pl. musaliaat prayer hall, open prayer area or place to pray
musalla saidaat Ladies prayer area
musaqqam financier of a pearling fleet
mush coll. not, as in mush jayyid – not good, i.e. bad. See also mubwhich is the more Qatari of the two words
mushaarakah a profit-sharing venture where two parties share profit and loss
mushrafaat decorative top to wall or building
mushkil difficult
mushrabiya – pl. mushrabiyaat lattice screen, usually of turned or carved wood – also a house type in some parts of the Arab world having mushrabiya to the street and open windows on the other side giving light and ventilation to the house
muslim – pl. muslimeen a follower of Islam
must’ajil urgent
mustaqbil the future
mustashar an expert or advisor
mustashfa hospital
mutasarrif person appointed to govern a mutasarrifiyya
mutasarrifiyya an Ottoman administrative district
mutawain religious police of Saudi Arabia with broad powers for policing the shari’a
muthaad a bangle, usually of gold and worn on the wrist
muwadhin the official or chosen person who makes the call to prayers
na’al traditional open sandal
naady club
naakhuda – pl. nawaakhada ship’s captain
naakhuda al-birr land captain, or merchant who finances a sea or ship’s naakhuda
naaqa female camel
naar fire
na’ashat a dance performed by badu women where they sway their head from side to side, sweeping their hair in arcs in time with the music
nabati Qatari dialect based on classical Arabic with a local influence
nabq the edible fruit of the zizphus spina-christi tree
nadhif clean
nafaaiyaat al-khatara hazardous waste
nafl salat voluntary prayers which may be offered in addition to fard, but not at sunrise, true noon or sunset
nahaar daytime
nahaas brass
nahham a pearl ship lead singer
nahlah – nahal bee
nahr river
na’ib deputy
na’im low lying grassed area suited to grazing
na’in a particular kind of Persian carpet, predominantly beige and blue, and of high quality
najaz adze, or edge cutting tool
najd area of Saudi Arabia and general name for a sand dune
najjar carpenter
najm – pl. najuwm star
najwat steep shoal, coral reef or pearl bank around eight metres deep
nakhl – nakheel cultivated area
nakhuda – pl. nawakhidah captain of a pearling boat
nakhsh a prominent spur
namawzaj model, shape, form or design
naqoush mefat’ha carved plaster panels or plasterwork allowing air to circulate
naqaa barkan sand dunes
naqoush suwr al bab carved plaster panels or plasterwork around a door
naql transportation
naqsh carved plaster panels or plasterwork
naquwsh inscribed decorative features
nat a habl a traditional rope game for girls
nazala to descend or climb down down
natuwr watchman or gatekeeper
neel the material used to give the distinctive finish to a batula
neem a construction forming the roof of the poop deck on a country craft
ni’al sandals
niqaab a double- or triple-layered black veil worn by some women to mask their faces
niswan women
nuhaas copper
nusf half – fraction
nuqta point or place
nuwr light or lamp
nuwra lime wash
’oud a plucked string instrument from which the lute is derived. It has no frets and eleven strings arranged as five pairs and a single
qa’a a house type in some parts of the Arab world having a qa’a, or small covered central courtyard, and surrounding rooms
qabila – pl. qabaa’il tribe or family group characterised by a common family name
qadeem old
qadm – pl. aqdaam foot – measurement
qaffiyah or kufiyah small cotton skull cap which sits directly on the head, ensuring the ghutrah won’t slip
qahwa coffee, traditionally made with coffee beans and cardamon, and served in small cups, poured from a della
qaim maqam a Turkish title given to the person who administers a kaza, or district
qalaaf – pl. qalaleef caulker, one who prepares and inserts caulking between the planks of boats – also a name given to a joiner
qalam pen
qalami the mizzen mast of a traditional wooden craft
qal’at – pl. qalaa’a fort
qal’at al askar military fort
qalb heart or centre
qalm pen
qamah wheat
qamees shirt
qamr moon, arch or crescent-shaped
qamriyah decorative feature in the shape of a crescent
qanas falconry
qanat underground channel for water with periodic vertical ventilation shafts, more commonly used in Iran
qanuwn – pl. qawaaneen laws
qanuwn al binaa’ building regulations
qareeb near
qaraar – pl. qaraaraat decision
laqum al qaraar television programme – The Decision is Yours
qasbah fortified quarters or citadel of rulers – mostly in reference to Mugharib buildings
qasr castle, fort or fortified structure
qata an internal tent dividing wall constructed from woven strips sewn together
qataf Limonium axillare – a desert plant
qatan diver’s share of the total profits after everything due from him has been deducted
qatiya low, head-height dividing wall that usually gave privacy to a toilet
qatuba a reinforcing strip that links the filli of tent roofs and protects the material from tension stresses
qaws – aaqwaas moon or arch
qawi strong
qayis good
qibla the direction of Mecca, usually understood to be the wall of a mosque on that side facing Mecca
qif stop! or stand! – traffic sign
qifl – aqfaal door lock
qism section
qiyas an aspect of Islamic law which is reasoned by analogy
qiyaas measurement
qleena wa al-maatuwa’ tipstick, a traditional Qatari game played with a stick and a bat or paddle to strike it with
qubba – pl. qubab or qubaab dome or cupola
qubqub crab
quffal end of the main diving season
quran the sacred text of Islam, understood by Muslims to comprise the revelations of God to Muhammad through the angel, Gabriel. Its text is valid for religious purposes only in its original Arabic. Translations are interpretations only
qutb pivot, pole or axis
qiyraat a unit of weight derived from the Greek word for a carob seed
ra’ad thunder
raas head of a body or a geographical cape
rabaaba the single stringed violin used by Badu
rabadth suburb in the immediate vicinity of the older, central part of a medina
rabi’a spring (season)
radha a processional dance, performed by women, associated with weddings
radif a boy sa’ib, usually an apprentice who receives half the share of a sa’ib, i.e. one share
ra’ees head of a group or chief of a tribe
raff – pl. rafuwf shelf
rafiq companion or friend
raha – pl. rahaat a pintel hinge, most commonly found on doors, or a circular stone grain mill
rahma compassion
rahnama sailing directions
rajul – pl. rijaal man
rakaab pack camels – camels used for transporting
rakhis cheap
ramadhan the holy month – ninth in the Muslim calendar, the month in which the first verses of the Quran were revealed to the Prophet, and marked by fasting through the hours of daylight
ramaadi grey or ash-like
raml – pl. ramaal sand
ramla a small sand deposit – see also bratha
raqaaba monitoring
raqam – pl. aarqaam number
rawdha – pl. riyadh private garden or cultivatable land – also the colloquial name given to soil which can be used for planting
rashash rifle
rawshina the niche formed between structural columns, usually used for storage – see rushanih and kuwa
razeef – pl. razafaat Badu sword dance accompanied by men standing in two facing lines, singing eight-bar verses at each other, backed by two kinds of drum, the tubal and the tara – see ardha
riba usury
rify rural
rijl foot
risaala letter or transmission
risha – pl. al-rish a feather
ruaq the walls of tent, fixed to the tent roof with wooden pins
ruba’a a quarter – fraction
ruba’a al-khali the Empty Quarter of Saudi Arabia
rukhaam marble
rukhsa a permit
rukn corner
rumaana a vertical timber bollard, fixed in conjunction with a horizontal kalba, just aft of the prow of a vessel, and used in securing the vessel with mooring lines
rushanih – pl. ruwshaanaat the internal part of a wall between structural columns, or a niche, usually used for storage – see rawshina
ruttub a half-ripe date which has contrasting tastes and textures
rutuba humidity, damp or moisture
ruwaaq or riwaq porch or arcade, originally of palm fronds before simple rooms
sa’a clock, watch or hour
saab water channel, usually open – see also falaj and qanat
s’af date palm fronds
saajaat cymbals
saala sitting room for the family
saamry the music associated with zaar events
saaria mast of a traditional craft – see also duqal
sa’b difficult
sabaah morning
sabbah a traditional game played by boys
sabil a fountain used as a water source for washing in a wudhuw’
sabkha an area of sea which has been covered by wind-driven sand to form land of varying solidity and safety to travellers
sabr wait, as in ‘be patient’
sabr shway wait a little
sadaqah al-fitr a small gift, generally of food, given to the deserving in the week before the end of Ramadhan
sadu a badu simple weaving loom, fixed to the ground or the material used for floor covering
safaqa timber window shutters
safarat embassy
safir ambassador
safina ship
sagheer small
saha healthy
sahab cloud
sahn – pl. suhoon plate, or alternatively, a courtyard
saharaa’ desert
sahat cul-de-sac
sahib small, narrow dune – see irq above
sa’ib – pl. siyub the partner of a pearl diver, responsible for pulling the diver to the surface, and who receives two shares compared with the diver’s three shares
sa’id happy
saidaliya pharmacy
saif sword or a curved sand-dune
saif summer
saif land immediately adjacent to the sea that would be used for mending boats, selling fish and by children playing
salaam peace
salaf payment to a diver made in advance of earnings
salafi a term referring to the first three Muslim generations which are held to be a model for the manner in which Islam should be practised
salah ritual prayers
salama safety
salat prayer
salat al-fajr early morning prayer
salat al-dthur mid-day prayer
salat al-’asr mid-afternoon prayer
salat al-maghrib sunset prayer
salat al-isha evening prayer
saj teak timber
sajada – pl. sajjad prayer mat
salaamlik the public area of a house
sallam pl. salaalim wooden ladder or stair
salsabil water spout usually associated with a shadirwan or carved marble slab. The name comes from one of the wells, fountains or rivers in paradise from which the faithful may drink according to the Holy Quran
saluqi – pl. sulqan or salaq a hunting dog
samak fish
sameel bag made from a sheep or goat skin, used to prepare laban
samsaar estate agent – see dallal
sanbooq a boat traditionally used for pearling, also seen written as ‘sambooq
samr the plant, Acacia tortillis
sanduq – pl. sanaadiq box
sanduq al-bareed post office box
sanduq manajam wooden chest decorated with ironwork
sanduq mubayat wooden chest decorated with brasswork, also referred to as a Kuwaiti chest
sanna year
saqf – pl. suquwf roof or ceiling
saqr the most popular hawk for hunting – hurr is the female, garmoush the male
saraaj – pl. saraajaat bed
sareer – pl. saraaeer bed
satur stem post or prow of a traditional boat
sat’ha – pl. astuwhu roof
sawm the practice of fasting
sawma’a – pl. sawaami’ an early ventilation tower
sawr to make a picture or take a photograph
sawt sung poetry
sayaali bitumen
sayaana maintenance
sayal the leeward, steep side of a sand dune – see dhahr al-khait
sayyara motor car
sbuwq the jesses used to tether a hawk’s feet
seeda straight ahead – coll.
seekh a steel or brass bolt used to secure a door, usually on the outside of the door. It is the replacement of the mazlaaj
shaab – pl. shabaab a youth
shaar hair
shaasha – pl. shuwsh a raft or boat constructed from reeds or cane, common to the Oman
shadaad camel saddle
shadakha – pl. shadakhat bird trap
shadirwan a carved marble slab onto which a salsabil pours water
shafi the school of fiqh within sunni Islam covering Indonesia and Malaysia based on the teachings of al-Shafi’i of the Quraysh tribe.
shahada the expression of faith, and one of the five basic practical tenets of Islam
shaheen hawk
shahuf a small double-ended fishing boat, common to the Emirates and north Omani coast
shaikh – pl. shyuwkh leader of a tribe or qabila, or a term of respect
shaitaan Satan or the Devil
shajjar trees
shakush hammer
shamaal north, or the local name for the strong north north-west wind, often sand-laden. Also the colloquial name for ‘left’ or ‘left hand’ – see shimaal
shams sun
shanad a type of mackerel fish
shandal timber roof joists, usually of round sectioned mangrove poles – see danjal, or tamarisk – see ithil
shaqiqa sister state or body, a familiar reference to states or groups with which there are close ties of one sort or another, particularly religious
sha’r hair
shahr – pl. shahuwr month
shara’ road
sharika (commercial) company
shari’a Islamic legal tradition based on regulations, traditions and principles
sharq east
shawkat fork
shawna a mixture of animal fat, usually goat, and lime used to rub onto the underwater planks of boats in order to make them more durable
sharq alawsat Middle East
shayba or shaybi an old man
shayla a loosely worn headscarf for women
sherbala the carved wooden architraves around a door
shi’a a branch of Islam representing between 10-15% of Muslims, representing followers of Muhammad’s son-in-law and cousin, Ali.
shi’b water course or stream with little vegetation
shibreet – shibareet match
shidaad camel riding saddle
shi’ite derived from shi’at Ali – the followers of Ali, the son-in-law of Muhammad who, his followers believe, was designated by Muhammad to succeed him
shimaal the left hand
shisha the water-cooled smoking pipe – nargila or argila – common to the region – see guidu and jraq
shitaa’ winter
shnaan Arthrocnemum glaucum – a desert plant
shubak – pl. shubabik window
shumagh a heavy headscarf square, folded on the diagonal and worn on the head over a kufiyah and held down with a black iqal. Usually worn in winter it commonly has a white and black, red or green check pattern. It is often referred to as a ghutrah
shuw’i – pl. shwa’i typical, small fishing boat with raked stem and transom stern, also used for general cargo movement
shuf look!
shura consultation
shurfa a verandah or balcony, or a merlon or crenellation – the articulated top of a wall
shurta police
shuwar oatmeal feed for camels, presented mixed with water
shurti – pl. shurta policeman
shway-shway gently or quietly
shy tea
shy ahmar tea, literally red tea, served with sugar but without milk
shy na’na mint tea
sidr or sidra the plant, Zizyphus nummularia
sifaat the attributes and characteristics of the letters of the Arabic alphabet
sifr nought, zero or nothing
sijaad carpet
sijn prison
sikka – pl. sikkak narrow urban alleyway
sikkan rudder
sikkin knife
silaf financial advance made to a diver at the beginning of the diving season for his necessities and his family’s provisions
sim poison
simawar kettle or container for boiling water
sinn – pl. alasnaan tooth
siqaataat machicolation
sintiwaan – pl. sintiwaanaat the non-structural decorative element between column and beam on traditional buildings
sirdal al-ghaus admiral of the pearling fleet
sirwal loose trousers worn by both men and women below their outer garment
sirwal qamees woman’s clothing comprising loose trousers and a long shirt
sitara raised parapet walls at roof level for privacy
snaah woven or fabric wall used to separate the women’s area from the men’s area of a tent – see also hijaab
subagh paint
suban shell sand
subh morning
suff a pearling oar
sufra woven mat, usually circular, from which meals are eaten
sufun generic term for a ship or boat
sukkan a steering device, hung from the right hand stern of some traditional craft
sull fish oil
suna’ land within an area of jiri where there is no vegetation
sunnah source of law second only to the Quran, essentially deeds and recorded sayings of the Prophet
sunnah salat optional prayers which may be offered on a regular basis and are of two forms: one which, if abandoned would be a sin, and one which, if abandoned, would not
sunna a branch of Islam founded on acceptance of the legitimacy of the first four caliphs – Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman and Ali – who succeeded Muhammad, and representing 85-90% of Muslims
sunni a follower of the sunna traditions of Islam, and the majority religion of Qataris
suq – pl. aswaaq market or bazaar
sura – pl. suwar any of the 114 chapters of the Holy Quran.
surat al-baqara – the chapter of the cow
surat al-alaq – the clot
surbuwt coffee pestle
surf al sahiyah sanitation
suwf wool
suwr wall
suwra – pl. suwar a picture
taajir merchant
taarma covered terrace, hall or open-fronted room – see liwan
taalib student
tabakh gas oven or cook
tabeeb doctor
tabeeb asnaan dentist
tabiq a storey of a building
tabl a double-ended drum which is carried at waist level, suspended by a rope around the neck of the drummer
tadiem the strengthened corner of a rectangular building
tafaaya al hareeq fire extinguisher
tafteesh inspection
taht under or below
tahuwiyah ventilation
tajweed recitation of the Quran, the root word meaning doing something well
takhzeen storage
takhtiyt planning
tal hill
talaq divorce initiated by a man
tamam good
tambura pre-Islamic dance performed by women and associated with the pre-Islamic god, zaar, and a drum used in that dance?
tambara a tall, stringed, lyre-like instrument used in Tamburas?
tamr date
tanuwr clay bread oven
tanween the addition of ‘un’, ‘an’ or ‘in’ to the end of indefinite nouns to create, respectively, their nominative, accusative and genitive case forms
taq taq taqiyyah a traditional game for boys
taqadam progress
taqiyyah the practice of dissimulation, permitted under certain conditions
taqlidyah traditional
taqs weather
taqwa the attitude of care, and reverence for all things
tara a single-sided drum used at a razeef or ardha – see duff
taraaz – pl. taraazaat pattern
tarfa name given to the wooden construction of a camel saddle, the name deriving from the tamarisk tree from which the y-shaped structure is usually taken
tarifa representative
tariq street
tarmeem repair of buildings
tasah a pearl sieve – see ghurbaal
tasmeem design
taswiq marketing or shopping – see dukaan
taswir a picture
tatwir development
tawash – pl. tawasheesh pearl trader
tawasha collective term for boats engaged in the pearling operations
taweel tall
tawel umrak m. term of respect – literally long your life
tawela table
tawheed the belief of faith in God
tawjeed the art and science of recitation
tawwash a middleman in the business of trading in pearls
tayammum ritual washing for wudhuw’ with dry material
tayyara aeroplane
tayyib good or strong
teen – soft ‘t’ figs
teen – hard ‘t’ mud used for building
thab desert lizard
thalaja refrigerator
thalith third – ordinal
thalj snow or ice or hail
thaqaafa culture or education
thaqeel heavy
thub or thawb – pl. thiyaab ankle-length traditional Arabic male dress, white and light in summer, darker and heavier in winter
thulth third – fraction
thuluwf a pair of flat hard wood paddles forming a part of a traditional camel saddle – see masaleeb
tilwah a cord with a lure at its end used by a falconer to swing round the head in order to attract and encourage a falcon’s return
tirsha individual pearling trip
tistaahleen congratulations
tiwaar a flat-topped mesa or low rounded hill
tubal drum used in razeefs
tufah apple
turaath heritage
turaab earth used for building
ubuw father
’ud the main mast of a traditional wooden craft
ufuqi horizontal
ulema Muslim scholars who are responsible for interpreting the shari’a
umayyad relating to the dynasty founded by Umayya ibn ’abd Shams, the great grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph. Based in Damascus, it moved to al-Andalus. It was the second of the Islamic caliphates – see abbaasid and fatimid
’umdah a community social leader
umm mother
umm salal a hard, rocky area
ummah community or nation. In the context of Islam it refers to the whole of the Islamic world
’uqla a well in the southern desert
’urf – pl. a’raf local or tribal rules and customary practice
usbuwa’ week
ustad master builder
wa’ab geological depression likely to collect water
waasut the central pole of a black tent
wadi – pl. widyan dry river bed or valley
wadi’a safe-keeping of funds with a reward payable on a voluntary basis
wadhihi the Arabian oryx, one of the antelope family
wahhabi a movement, influenced by Hanabali jurisprudence, originating with Muhammad ibn ’abd al-Wahab (c.1703–1791) in Saudi Arabia, holding among other things, that the veneration of saints, ostentation in worship and luxurious living are evils
waha oasis
wakaalah – pl. wakaalaat an agent-principal financial arrangement
waalid father
wajib salat compulsory prayers, avoidance of which make the individual a sinner
waajiha elevation
wakaala – pl. wakaalaat open area serving a number of private houses
wahhabi a movement, influenced by Hanabali jurisprudence, originating with Muhammad ibn ’abd al-Wahab (c.1703–1791) in Saudi Arabia, holding among other things, that the veneration of saints, ostentation in worship and luxurious living are evils
wakr the mushroom-shaped seat on which a hawk sits, with a spiked base for fixing in the sand
walad boy
walayah guardianship
wali – pl. ’awliyaa custodian, helper or protector
waqf – pl. awqaaf. a charitable endowment usually established for the advantage of a religious, educational or hospital establishment – in Qatar under the auspices of the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs
waqaaya min al haraa’q fire protection
waqt time
waraqa piece of paper or the leaf of a tree
warid flower
warra behind
waarish high wall constructed for privacy
wasit middle
wasta influence
wasakh dirt or dirty – coll.
wasm tribal property symbol branded onto animals and carved near wells to express ownership
watad – pl. awtad turned and painted wooden peg, let into the wall of a majlis or other room, and from which cloaks are hung, or a tent peg
watan homeland
wayn where?
wazarat ministry
wazir minister
wudhuw’ ablution, or the Muslim act of washing parts of the body before prayer, or the ablution area
yameen right – as opposed to left
yasaar left – as opposed to right
yad hand
yawm day
zaar dance with a pre-Islamic African origin
zabeen the rope to which a stone is attached for assisting divers to reach the sea bed
zahir the external expression of self or a thing
zain good
zait oil
zakaat a tax and the name given to one of the five pillars of Islam – the giving of alms to the poor
zanbil bucket, pail or woven basket made from palm leaves
zanjabil ginger, particularly tea served in winter with ginger and condensed milk
zariba – pl. zaribaat open area for animals
za’tar a herb of the thyme family, commonly a tea made with thyme which is considered to have beneficial medicinal properties. Also an element of a mixture of spices eaten on bread
zawiya corner
zibda traditional butter
zift black tar or an impolite expression
ziyada outer enclosure or extension of a mosque common to congregational mosques in the early Islamic period
ziyr large water jug or container
zubar medium sized sand dune
zujaj glass
zuli partially enclosed toilet fixed to the side of a boat
zulia – pl. zuwali carpet or rug – coll.
zulij mosaics or glazed tiles
zurna conical musical woodwind instrument operated through a double reed mouthpiece – see mizmar



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