Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 27 October 2020

5 ways to say good morning in Arabic: from sabah al kheir to sah el noum

Arabic morning greetings are full of colour and flavour

Morning greetings are a serious business in the Arab world. Getty Images.
Morning greetings are a serious business in the Arab world. Getty Images.

Yallah, join The National’s Saeed as he takes a weekly deep dive into the cultural gems and quirks of the Arab world and its diaspora ...

A morning salutation in Arabic is a treat for the senses.

These greetings, when translated, include nods to the sunshine, the scent of flowers and the lingering taste of sweet desserts. And if that’s not heady enough, they are often delivered with a rich rhythm and tone that'll mean you can’t help but start your day on the right note.

To appreciate the value that Arabic speakers place on their morning hello, all you have to do is go to Twitter at the start of each day. There, you will often find the phrase sabah al kheir (good morning) listed as a trending hashtag in both the UAE and Egypt.

This particular greeting is one of the most important phrases to learn when living in the region. But if you get bored of saying sabah al kheir numerous times a day, there are plenty of other salutations you can adopt to raise the spirits of those near and dear.

Here are five other ways to say good morning, with an explanation of what they mean and when to use them. Like most greetings, they only work when said with feeling.

1. Sabaho

As with most languages, Arabic is not immune to certain phrases being snipped but managing to retain most of their meaning. Sabaho is a case in point. A common greeting, it is a clipped version of sabah al kheir and translates simply as "morning”. Because of its informal nature, keep it limited to family, friends and close colleagues. For the elderly and office management, best to stick with the full sabah al kheir.

2. Yes'eed Sabhakom

This is a lovely greeting that works in both the streets and the boardroom. Translating to "may you have a nice morning", it's another regional favourite full of the trademark warmth and generosity that characterises everyday interactions in the Arab world. Another phrase that riffs on this is sabah al sa’ada, which means "may you have a happy morning".

3. Sabah Al Jasmine

This is a classic morning welcome heard across the Levant. The colloquial phrase often used in Jordan and Palestine literally translates to "a morning full of jasmine". With the flower renowned for its beauty, elegance and calming effects, this wonderful and rich greeting basically covers all the bases you need for a great day ahead. Other floral salutations include sabah al ward (morning of flowers) and the Egyptian equivalent sabah al ful (morning of seeds).

4. Sabah Al Ishta

Kunafa at Flavours, Sheraton Abu Dhabi
Kunafa at Flavours, Sheraton Abu Dhabi

You can’t get any more Egyptian than this delicious saying. Named after the thick, creamy and luxurious cheese used in pastries such as kunafa and qatayef, this salutation basically wishes you a day as sweet as ishta. Another sweet tip: ishta can also be used as a reply to a greeting. If someone asks you how your day is going, just reply with ishta, which would mean your day was pretty swell.

5. Sah El Noum

The Arabic equivalent of "wakey, wakey”, this is a cheeky term used to address latecomers, the drowsy and those caught sleeping in class. Delivered in a sarcastic tone, it is advised that you use this term only around your inner circle. Uttering such a welcome to a harried boss at the start of a morning meeting may result in that being one of your final exchanges in that workplace.

Updated: September 17, 2020 05:04 PM

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