Omanis are warm, friendly people who take great pride in their country and their heritage. They enjoy welcoming visitors—introducing them to the beautiful corner of the world Omanis call home.
Nelson Mandela said, “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” So, while many Omanis speak and understand at least a little English, they will be thrilled with your attempts at speaking their beautiful language, Arabic.
Here are ten indispensable Arabic phrases you can use to speak to the hearts of the friendly people who will help make your trip to Oman unforgettable!
1. “Marhaba”—This simple Turkish word is used across the Arab world to say hello. Use it with local people of your same gender to receive smiles and enthusiastic greetings in response.
2. “As-Salaamu-Alaikum”—For an even more impressive greeting here in Oman, use this phrase, which means, “Peace be upon you”. It’s the greeting Omanis use with each other and they will be thrilled at your attempts to do likewise. When entering a public place like a shop or restaurant, it is appropriate to say this phrase to those who are already inside.
3. “Wa-Alaikum-Salaam”—This is the traditional response to the greeting described above. It means, “And unto you peace”. Imagine a local person’s surprise when you correctly return their greeting in their own language!
4. “Shukran”—You may find yourself using this Arabic word more than any other, as it means “Thank you”. When a shopkeeper helps you choose the perfect souvenir in the souq (market) or as you say goodbye to your driver at the end of the day, be sure to thank them in the language that goes to their hearts!
5. “Aiwa” and “La”—These words mean “Yes” and “No”, respectively, and will come in handy countless times. A simple, “la shukran” (no, thank you), can be used to politely refuse something that is offered, like another serving of food.
6. “Lau Samaht”—This phrase, meaning “Pardon me”, is handy when combined with a small wave to get the attention of a waiter or shopkeeper. If it’s a woman helping you, adding an “i” sound to the end will change it to the appropriate feminine form, “lau samahti”.
7. “Hatha Be-Kam?”—Armed with just these two words, meaning “How much is this?”, you’re ready to tackle any shopping experience in Oman! Just point to an object and say this phrase. Remember, the first price the shopkeeper tells you is not the final price. Bartering is a fun part of local shopping experiences. Saying, “Discount?”, after being told the first price can start the bartering process with ease.
8. “Weyn Hammam”—Pronounced like the name, “Wayne”, this first word is handy in many situations because it means, “Where”. Followed by the word for restroom (hammam), you won’t want to forget this dynamic duo!
9. “Titkallem Ingleezi”—While it’s a priceless experience to attempt to speak to Omanis in Arabic, the time will inevitably come when you need to use English to get your meaning across. This short question means, “Do you speak English?”. Even if the person you are speaking with does not know English, he will probably help you find someone nearby who does.
10. “Ma’a Salaama”—To say goodbye in Arabic, use this phrase. It means, “Peace be with you”. Even common greetings and leave-takings reflect the peace-loving hearts of the Omani people.
It’s always interesting to pick up bits and pieces of foreign languages while you travel. As you meet Omanis who are friendly and eager to talk with you, don’t be afraid to practice these phrases with them and ask them to teach you more Arabic words. This will show them that you appreciate their culture and language, and may gain you an Omani friend in the process!
By Shanae Eddy
Shanae is a freelance writer from the USA. She has lived in Salalah, Oman since 2015. When not writing content for Experience It Oman, Shanae enjoys learning Arabic from local friends, exploring the Dhofar mountains during Khareef (monsoon season), and drinking tea.