101 On the language of Dubai

2017-10-09 19:00 - Ishani Chetty
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Dubai is home to over 200 different nationalities, which means when visiting you will hear a range of languages being spoken.

Dubai is essentially made up of individuals from all over the world. Some of the languages you will hear are Hindi, Urdu, Filipino as well as the national UAE language Arabic. 

Although most of the local folk in Dubai speak English, there may not be a need to learn Arabic fully but it does help to know a few key phrases when travelling to the UAE.

Dubai International Airport is a stopover for many South Africans before getting to their final destination, and knowing key phrases can help you get around the airport with ease. 

SEE: PICS: $11m makeover for Emirates' Dubai Business Class lounge

Local Arabic Phrases

Hello, how are you?

Arabic translation: Marhaba! Shlonak [if speaking to a man] / Shlonik [if speaking to a woman].

Phonetic pronunciation: Mar-ha-baa, Shlow-nak / Shlow-nik.

This is the ideal introductory with locals. 

Where is the Burj Khalifa?

Arabic translation: Wein Burj Khalifa?

Phonetic pronunciation: Way-n Boor-jh Kha-lee-fa?

Standing at a massive 160 stories high the Burj Khalifa is a must-visit when heading to Dubai - it is the tallest building in the world. During the day you are allowed to visit the viewing deck of the tower and in the evening you are able to gaze as the majestic fountains soar in front of the Burj Khalifa.  

READ: The best of Dubai on a budget

How much for the shawarma wrap? 

Arabic translation: Kam haq el shawarma?

Phonetic pronunciation: Kahm huck el sha-wur-maa?

Although we South Africans may be familiar with a shawarma - nothing beats the authentic Arabic shawarmas of Dubai. It is a classic street side wrap with roasted chicken, lamb or beef with pickles. It's accompanied with french fries and garlic sauce - all together in a delicious pita bread. It can cost as little as R18. 

Can I have a cup of Karak chai?

Arabic translation: Kasset karak law samahet?

Phonetic pronunciation: Kahs-set Kuh-rak low Sa-ma-heth

Karak Chai originates from India and Pakistan but over the years has made its way and gained popularity in the UAE. It directly means "strong tea" and is inspired by the South Asian masala chai tea. Its flavours are strong and filled with spice. It can be ordered at any of the local cafes in Dubai.

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Where is the nearest metro station?

Arabic translation: Wein mahatat el metro?

Phonetic pronunciation: Way-n ma-ha-taath-il-metro?

Dubai may appear expensive for some travellers but there are alternative options for everyone. The cheapest way to get around is by using the metro. It is a driverless train that takes you across the city and most of its stations are located close to its attractions and the airport.


My city #mydubai #dubaimetro

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READ: Dubai: The land of plenty

Excuse me, I want to go to the beach.

Arabic translation: Afwan, Weddy arouh el bahr

Phonetic pronunciation: Af-won, Widd-iy-aa-rooh-el-baa-hur

Dubai has it all - the majestic and magical city is also surrounded by pristine beaches and a blue-hue ocean that will be calling your name. Soak up the sun and relax as you stare onto the waters of the Arabian Gulf. 

Can you take a picture?

Arabic translation: Momken soura

Phonetic pronunciation: Mum-kehn soo-rah

Although 'selfie sticks' have taken the world by storm, there is no replacement for a candid photo in front of a statue or sight. This is another way to start up a conversation with a local and also helps you to get the perfect photograph. 

Can you give me a lower price?

Arabic translation: Akher se’er?

Phonetic pronunciation: Aa-kher-saa-er?

In the city's malls this phrase will not help as the prices are fixed and not up for a bargain. However, in the souks of Old Dubai you will be able to bargain to your heart's content. You are able to purchase beautiful textiles, aromatic spices or perfumes. This phrase will come in handy to strike a good deal. 

Spice market #olddubai

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Sorry, I don’t speak Arabic.

Arabic translation: Afwan, ma ahki Arabi

Phonetic pronunciation: Af-won, Maa ah-key Ara-bee

Although most locals do speak English, it is good to know this phrase.

READ: #TravelGoals: This is what a millionaire's holiday in Dubai looks like

A few more important phrases

1. Shukran [Shook-run]Thank you

2. Hayakoum [Hay-yah-koom] – Welcome

3. Yalla! [Yull-ah] – Let’s go!

4. Habibi [ha-bee-bee] (for males) / habibti [ha-beeb-ti] (for females)a term of endearment which literally translates to ‘my beloved’

Discover the wonder that is Dubai and learn these key phrases before you jet off into the UAE. 

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