The Language of Dubai

Key phrases to enhance your visit to Dubai

Home to over 200 nationalities, Dubai is a city of diversity where you’re just as likely to hear English, Hindi, Urdu and Filipino as you are the UAE’s official language, Arabic. Yet while there’s no real need for visitors to learn the local lingo, having a few words and phrases at the ready is sure to enrich your holiday experiences and interactions. Read on for our top tips.

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 a good start to any conversation, no matter if you’re at a hotel, in a taxi, shopping or at a restaurant. You’re sure to be greeted with a smile and traditional Emirati hospitality.

Where is the Burj Khalifa?
Arabic translation: Wein Burj Khalifa?
Phonetic pronunciation: Way-n Boor-jh Kha-lee-fa?
No visit to Dubai is complete without a trip to see the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. Whether you choose to visit the skyscraper’s viewing deck during the day, or watch the tower glitter in the background as the majestic Dubai Fountain performs at night, you won’t be disappointed. This phrase can be also used interchangeably with any other location.

How much for the shawarma wrap?
Arabic translation: Kam haq el shawarma?
Phonetic pronunciation: Kahm huck el sha-wur-maa?
The quintessential Dubai experience is incomplete without a shawarma. This classic street-side wrap combines rotisserie-cooked chicken, lamb or beef with pickles, French fries and garlic sauce in a warm pita bread – and can be picked up at smaller establishments for as low as AED 5 or IDR 18,000.

Can I have a cup of Karak chai?
Arabic translation: Kasset karak law samahet?
Phonetic pronunciation: Kahs-set Kuh-rak low Sa-ma-heth
Roughly translated to ‘strong tea’, Karak chai is a blend of black tea, milk, sugar and cardamom. Inspired by the milky South Asian ‘masala chai’, this must-try tea has become a part of Dubai’s culture, and is served at cafeterias across the city.

Where is the nearest metro station?
Arabic translation: Wein mahatat el metro?
Phonetic pronunciation: Way-n ma-ha-taath-il-metro?
The cheapest way to get around town, the Dubai Metro features driverless trains that take you across the city, with stations at most major shopping malls and attractions as well as Dubai International airport.

Can you take a picture?
Arabic translation: Momken soura
Phonetic pronunciation: Mum-kehn soo-rah
You haven’t really been on holiday if you don’t have the pictures to prove it – so ditch the selfie sticks and ask some of the locals to help you take that perfect shot of you in Dubai.

Can you give me a lower price?
Arabic translation: Akher se’er?
Phonetic pronunciation: Aa-kher-saa-er?
While this won’t help much when shopping for items with fixed rates in the city’s shopping malls, you can bargain to your heart’s content in the souks of Old Dubai. Whether you’re buying textiles, gold, spices or perfumes, use this phrase to start the conversation and snap up your latest purchase at the best possible rate.

Sorry, I don’t speak Arabic.
Arabic translation: Afwan, ma ahki Arabi
Phonetic pronunciation: Af-won, Maa ah-key Ara-bee
While most locals speak good English, keep this phrase on standby, as it could come in handy.

Here are a few more phrases that are good to know and use while in Dubai:
* Shukran [Shook-run] – Thank you
* Hayakoum [Hay-yah-koom] – Welcome
* Yalla! [Yull-ah] – Let’s go!
* Habibi [ha-bee-bee] (for males) / habibti [ha-beeb-ti] (for females) – a term of endearment which literally translates to ‘my beloved’
* Inshallah [In-sha-al-lah] – If God wills
* Wallah [Wull-lah] – I swear / I promise