27 Jan

5 Arabic words I wish we had in English


As a second-generation nuss-nuss (“half n’ half”) Arab American who is Lebanese and German, it was only in my adult life that I took a keen interest in my grandparents’ language.
I took a standard Arabic course in Seattle, then traveled to Lebanon to learn the spoken language, only to be evacuated in the summer of 2006 when bombs started dropping on Beirut during a brief war between Hezbollah and Israel.
Four years later, I found a comfortable space to learn Arabic in Syria, living with another nuss-nuss, studying with a tutor, and practicing my street language skills while traveling the countryside by bicycle.
But mostly, the context that I grew up learning Arabic was in the house and with relatives. Their words carried a great amount of love. And if for the majority of my life, I only knew five Arabic words and they made it to my generation, I figure, they’re probably pretty good words!
If only we had these five in English:
1. Saha
Men eating to their “two-healths” — or sahtein — in Damascus.
I suspect many of you have had the experience of sitting next to someone having a coughing fit and were not sure what to say.
“Bless you” — like for a sneeze — doesn’t quite cut it.
Put simply, saha means “health.” What made its use unique for me — and I realize not all Arabic speakers use it this way — is its application for a cough.
Later in life, I learned saha can be used much more extensively and was even self-duplicating in the version of sahtein, or “two-healths,” used at meal time to wish good eating, to which the eater replies ala-albeck or “to your heart.”

2. Yallah
The author filming on the go with his young friend on bike in Aleppo, Syria.
As a kid I had no idea that yallah was Arabic, I just knew that I was late.
Used as liberally in Tel Aviv as Amman (so I’ve heard), this playful word lets you know it’s time to get a move on. It has been adapted for modern times; give “yallah-bye” a try to end a phone call like you were born cruising the Corniche in Beirut.

Yallah, let’s get onto the next word already!

3. Smallah
In my family, smallah is often accompanied by pinches on the cheek and “you’re getting big” comments. Smallah is often used in praise of a baby or something pretty darn cute, but also means “hold the envy” and “save the evil eye.” Amazing how something so complex — expressing both adoration and lack of spite — can be encompassed in one word.

4. Wallah
True story: the author saw this elder at a cafe in Damascus.
Apparently wallah is much more common around town, but I grew up hearing wallah. Wallah in 1990s American TV English is something like “for real, though” or more plainly, “I swear.”
Is there a way to affirm with greater confidence the utter truth and assurance of your statement then following it by wallah? I think not.
Use it with conviction, and the occasional wink.

5. Inshallah
Can you imagine the heat I would get for leaving out this gem?
“God willing” I suppose is the literal transition, but it means so much more.
It’s a word that’s used widely by the passive-aggressive or flaky friend who can’t commit to something (“inshallah”), it can be used with true heart and hope, (“inshallah!”), or how about just honest to goodness uncertainty (“inshallah?”).

Khalas. That’s a wrap! — my half-Lebanese American version of Arabic’s best, that is.

Source: http://www.seattleglobalist.com/2015/04/22/5-arabic-words-i-wish-they-had-in-english/35883

12 Dec

UNESCO: Arabic coffee, a symbol of generosity

Inscribed in 2015 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO
Serving Arabic coffee is an important aspect of hospitality in Arab societies and considered a ceremonial act of generosity. Traditionally, coffee is prepared in front of guests. Coffee-making begins with the selection of beans, which are lightly roasted in a shallow pan over a fire, then placed into a copper mortar and pounded with a copper pestle. The coffee grounds are placed into a large copper coffee pot; water is added and the pot is placed on the fire. Once brewed, it is poured into a smaller coffee pot from which it is poured into small cups. The most important or oldest guest is served first, filling a quarter of the cup, which can then be refilled. Common practice is to drink at least one cup but not exceed three. Arabic coffee is made and enjoyed by men and women from all segments of society, particularly in the home. The sheikhs and heads of tribes who serve Arabic coffee in their meeting spaces, elderly Bedouin men and women and owners of coffee trading shops are considered the main bearers. Knowledge and traditions are passed on within the family through observation and practice. Young family members also accompany their elders to the market to learn how to select the best coffee beans.

source: http://www.unesco.org/culture/ich/en/RL/arabic-coffee-a-symbol-of-generosity-01074

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