Language and Useful Words

The local Arabic dialects spoken by the Bedouin tribes differ from Egyptian in pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary, although Bedouins can switch between dialects depending on who they speak to. Different tribes have different dialects and use some different words. Bedouins nowadays speak a mixture of Egyptian (Amiya) and Bedouin Arabic and some of the younger generation already speak the Egyptian dialect only.

The main difference, for those speaking only a little of the language, is the way some of the sounds are pronunciated. Mountain, for example, would be “gabal” in Egyptian while “jabal” in Bedouin dialects, as in most of the other Gulf Arab dialects. In fact, Bedouin Arabic is considered closer to fus-ha, the classical language than Egyptian. Other difference easy to pick is the “qaf” sound, which is pronunciated as a glottal stop in Egyptian while close to the sound “g” in Bedouin. Thus coffee or coffee house is “ahua” in Egyptian while “gahua” in Bedouin.

Following is a list of useful words and expressions, written in the Bedouin pronunciation. Words only used by Bedouin are marked with a B.

Wadi Valley Bier Water well
Bustan Walled garden Maya Water
Karm (B) Garden Ain Spring
Tariq, darb Road, path Nahla Date palm
Beit House Shajara Tree
Jemel Camel Jebel Mountain
Baran (B) Camel Naqb Pass
Homar Donkey Sig Canyon

An English-Arabic / Arabic-English dictionary is available now from Discover Sinai.

free 2-way arabic-english dictionaryArabic by Suliman Subail el Heneny and Said Mahmoud Salah

English-Arabic dictionary based on the local Egyptian-Bedouin dialect. With 4 columns to make the dictionary work 2-ways:  English word, pronunciation of corresponding Arabic word written phonetically, English word written in Arabic, pronunciation of English word written in Arabic.

Part of the free publication titled “Discover Sinai: A guide to the natural, cultural and historical faces of South Sinai”, the dictionary can be downloaded separately. 28 A4 pages, black-and-white, easy and cheap to photocopy – and also allowed to do so.

See full document online
Download dictionary only FREE

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