Did you know that the…..

-Arabic script reads from right to left.

-Arabic script contains 28 characters (see alphabet below).

-Arabic does not have capital letters. However, Arabic letters differ in shape depending on whether the letter comes in the beginning, middle or end of the word.

-Arabic words have dashes and curves written above or below the letters to indicate the sound of short vowels.

-Arabic has many different local dialects. Yet the Arabs can understand nearby dialects easily, and some of the other dialects. Although, they can communicate easily if they use the Standard Arabic language.

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Standard Arabic
Local dialect
in Baghdad (Iraq)
Local dialect
in Damascus (Syria)
Local dialect in Cairo (Egypt)

-190 million inhabitants of the Arab world speak and write the Arabic language.

-It is the official language in 22 countries (see map below).

-It is one of the official languages of the United Nations.

-It is a significant language to one billion Muslim people world-wide.

-Persian (Iran), Urdu (Pakistan), Afghanistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and some Muslim areas of India, China, Philippines and the USSR use the Arabic Alphabets.

-Arabic remains the primary means of prayer in Islam, since the Holy Book of Islam – The Quran – was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad and consequently recorded in Arabic.

-The Arabic belongs to the Semitic family of languages that include Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, Akkadian, Amharic, and Phoenician.

-Both the Arabic and Hebrew languages derive from the Aramaic language, which was spoken at the time of Christ and still spoken in parts of Syria, and Iraq.

-Between the 8th and 12th centuries, Arabic was the universal language of culture, diplomacy and science, similarly to the Latin that became such a language later in the middle ages.

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Many modern European languages borrow from Arabic a long list of words;

Name Origin in Arabic Meaning of word
Admiral amir-ar-rahl chief of the transport
Alchemy al-kimiya chemistry
Alcohol al-kuhul. Stain or fine metallic powder used to darken the eyelids.
Algebra al jebr "reunion of broken parts" as in computation.
Algorism al gorisme a mangled transliteration of Arabic al-Khwarizmi "native of Khwarazm" and a mathematician.
Alkali al-qaliy the ashes of saltwort, a plant growing in alkaline soils.
Almanac al-manakh climate
Carafe ghurruf drinking cup
Caraway al-karawiya Caraway seeds
Coffee qahwah Coffee
Cotton qutn Cotton
Damask Dimashq the Syrian city, famous for silk
Elixir al-iksir believed by alchemists to transform metals into gold and/or to cure diseases and prolong life.
Ghoul ghul an evil spirit that robs graves and feeds on corpses
Gypsum jibs plaster
Jar jarrah earthen water vessel
Muslin Mosul City in northern Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) where muslin was made.
Saffron za'faran Aromatic plant used in cooking
Satin Zaitun Olive
Sherbet sharbat a drink
Sofa Suffah Pad
Sugar sukkar sugar
Sumac summaq from Syrian summaq "red."
Syrup sharab beverage
Tambourine tunbur drum
Tariff ta'rif information, notification, inventory of fees to be paid

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Names of places, rivers, mountains and other natural features

Name Original Arabic Name Name Meaning
Alhambra al-Hamara The Red
Almaden al-Maydan The Field
Alqazar al-Qasr The Palace
Alcantara al-Qantarah The Bridge
Almenara al-Manarah The Mosque Tower
Alborg al-Burj The Tower
Alcove al-Qubbah Dome
Almansil al-Manzil The Stopping Place
Alqueria al-Qariyah The Village
Almeria al-Mirayah The Mirror
Guadalquivir Wadi al-Kabir Great Valley
Guadalajara Wadi al-Hijarah Stony Valley
Taifa Ta'ifah Party or Faction
Azulejo az-Zulayj Burnished Pebble
Alcaids al-Qa'ids Warden


-Calligraphy is merely hand-writing, but in the Arab world, it is visual art, with remarkable history and traditions. It is a "spiritual technique" with flowing patterns and intricate geometry. True Arabic calligraphy balances between meaning and beauty.

Basmalah in the shape of an pear.
Basmalah in the shape of a Ostrich.

-Historians disagree on the date and place of the birth of Arabic writing, but most agree on the fact that the origin is Aramaic which was the international language of the Middle East from about 400 B.C. until 700 A.D. Calligraphy started as a means to convey language and thought. It developed to be an art filling palaces, mosques, clothes, rugs and books, to please the eye and mind.

Aramaic script

The Taj Mahal

Brass tray with calligraphy

Brass vases adorned with calligraphy

Embellished plate with calligraphy

-Some of the great Arabic calligraphers are held in high esteem. Story is told that Sultan Mahmud II (Ottoman Empire) would stand before Mustafa Rakim (the great 17th century calligrapher) as a pupil before his teacher, to hold the inkstand for this calligrapher while he writes.

Samples of Calligraphy:

The Arabic Calligraphy has different styles including:


Thulth or Thuluth


Jali or Royal Diwani


Training of Calligraphers

Training periods were, and still are, long and arduous. Calligraphers start as apprentices and continue to journeymen and master ranks. Calligraphers were hired by Caliphs to draw up official documents, write diplomatic correspondence and design official signatures.

Current schools for teaching calligraphy are in Egypt. Two schools exist, in Cairo and Alexandria.

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