'Burj': the Arabic word for tower looks beyond skyscrapers for answers in the stars

The term has soared to international fame thanks to Dubai's lofty landmarks Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab

'Burj' is synonymous with Dubai's skyscrapers — though there is more behind its towering fame.
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"Burj" can refer to skyscrapers and lofty feats of human engineering as much as it can infer from the stars why we are who we are.

The Arabic word for "tower" has become part of the international lexicon, in large part due to Dubai naming its two most characteristic skyscrapers Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab.

A traditional wind tower is called barjeel. A watchtower is burj muraqaba.

Burj Khalifa's international popularity has brought the Arabic for tower into the global lexicon. Photo: Bloomberg

The Eiffel Tower, in Arabic, is Burj Eiffel. Tokyo Tower, well, Burj Tokyo. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is Burj Piza al Mael.

The word also looks upwards as it seeks answers in the stars or horoscopes.

Burj refers to an individual astrological sign. The plural for burj, whether referring to towers or horoscopes, is abraj.

In Western astrology, there are 12 abraj, segmented among four elements or al anaaser al arbaa.

Al abraj al nariyya, the fire signs, include Aries, al haml; Leo, al assad; Sagittarius, al qoos.

Al abraj al maaiyya, the water signs, include Cancer, al saratan; Scorpio, al aqrab; and Pisces, al hoot.

Al abraj al turabiyya, the earth signs, include Taurus, al thor; Virgo, al adhra; Capricorn, al jidi.

Finally, al abraj al hawaaiyya, the air signs, are Gemini, al gowza; Libra, al mizan; and Aquarius, al dalu.

Horoscopes have made appearances in popular Arabic songs. In Amr Diab’s 2020 hit Ya Ajmal al Ouyoun, he sings of being in love with burj al hoot.

Emirati singer Fayez Al Saeed’s 2016 song Borj Al Ghazal invents in the form of a gazelle a new horoscope that would be fitting for his sweetheart.

The song seemingly riffs from Chinese horoscopes, al abraj al siniyya, which are also depicted as animals.

These include al faer, the rat; al thor, the ox; al nimr, the tiger; al arnab; the rabbit; al tinnin, the dragon; al afea, the snake; al hisaan, horse; al kharoof, sheep; al qird, the monkey; al deek, the rooster; al kalb, the dog; and al khanzeer, the pig.

Updated: September 30, 2022, 6:02 PM
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