The Arabic word for centre, markaz, branches out into all sorts of territories, from the human body and geometry, to shopping malls, banks, clinics and police stations.
In plural form, the word becomes maraakez.
Maraakez al madinah is a city’s centre. Markaz tijari is a shopping mall. Masref al markazi is the central bank. Markaz al shurta is a police headquarters, which also goes by markaz al qiyada al a’amma. Markaz al ittisal is a call centre. Markaz thaqafi is a cultural centre, whereas markaz tajmeel is a beauty centre. Markaz al i’lami is a media hub. In healthcare, specialised clinics are also branded as maraakez.
A rehabilitation centre is known as markaz liltaaheel. The epicentre of an earthquake is known as markaz al zelzal.
In geometry, the centre of a circle is markaz daa'era. A person’s centre of gravity is markaz al thuql. In anatomy, the central nervous system is known as jihaz asabi markazi.
Markaz can also be used when denoting an instance of a particular achievement, whether in a classroom or in sports. Markaz al awwal is first place. Markaz al akheer is last place.
One quote by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, illustrates the country’s ambitions by making use of the word.
“Anni wa shaabi nuhib al markaz al awwal,” my people and I love first place.
Several popular songs include the word markaz, including Emirati singer Eida Al Menhali’s Markaz Al Awwal (First Place). Moroccan singer Hatim Ammor’s Al Awwal is also popular.
“Ana al awwal wa aheb markaz al awwal. Ana al awwal wa la arda ghair bil awal,” Ammor sings. “I am the first and love being the first. I am the first and won’t settle for anything but the first.”