This is the image I captured during my numerous visits in the Old Souk Mubarakiya in Kuwait. Vendors normally sits in vain, helplessly killing the time and enormously looking so bored waiting for costumers to passed by, if luck comes by, buy some goods that they sell.
It is so true, a picture says a thousand words…the face, the expressions shows a myriad of mysterious cloud of thoughts, feelings and emotions. No one, but only the old man knows what he is thinking.
Have you ever wondered how you looked when you are waiting for something?
This post is inspired by this week’s WPC Photo Challenge |Waiting
Typical sight inside the Souk Mubarakiya in Kuwait, during the not-so busy times inside the wet market. Almost half of this old man’s life is spent as Expat in Kuwait, inside the souk working as a vendor and rumbling in the streets of Kuwait City. “Baba” whom I fondly called him as I haggle for the fresh vegetables he is selling. Like the story of one Tea Boy ,life goes on like this, counting the days where a certain “magic”could happen and change the course of his routine, in his life spent as a modern nomad , or also known as Expat.
Do you like visiting wet markets? What fascinates you the most?
Aside from the food, language is the second thing that you ‘taste‘when you become an Expat. Trust me,learning a few local phrases will save you from debilitating language bubble trap.Those everyday language dilemma,they will come.
I still remember my culture shock hearing Arabic for the first time. It’s neither ugly nor pleasant to hear, it’s just ‘unknown’ to my ears. I can’t understand a single word. It sound so strange and I felt like my brain is tortured trying to dissect each word. At home I heard the prayer calls from the mosques and I jumped out of bed, and asked, “Is that a global warning to evacuate the whole building or some kind of cult gathering,reciting their chants.”? I couldn’t sleep on the first weeks. My system needs to get used to it.
Looking back after 8 long years, I smiled at my poor mind. I realized that it really takes perseverance and “desire”to learn a new language. The other day, I was talking to a friend in English and suddenly I replied in Arabic, and here in Germany, I still found myself uttering basic Arabic words /phrases unintentionally like La ( No) , Aiwa (Yes), mafi ( nothing) and the phrase that becomes my favorite expression, Shuno Hada!?
If you’re an Expat in the Middle East, (or planning to be) these are the Top 8 Arabic words that you should know and learn. Knowing the basic lingo is always helpful. Arabic language has core phrases that are essential wherever you are in the whole region and speaking them as the way that natives do will definitely bring a smile on their faces. Take it from me, learning the street language is the best way to integrate, its much easier & easy to memorize especially if you don’t have time to study it formally. Remember, Arabic is a language where much words have no direct English translation, so go for it.
Khalas – literally means finish, end, and provocably, It’s over. This is probably the most underrated Arabic word that I have learned in Kuwait. It could mean a lot of things depending on when & how you used it. You can say ‘Khalas’ after a phone call, when buying something and you agree with the price, or simply nodding to end a long discussion. Sometimes it’s used to denotes Shut up! or That’s a wrap! Having a hard time to tell the taxi driver to stop, just say “Khalas” and you’re done.
Yalla -means Hurry up, Let’s go, come on,or can denote as well as ‘Okay’, when used indirectly. Yalla is my favourite word so far. In Hebrew, a combination of the Arabic word yalla means “let’s go, hurry up” and of the English word bye means “see you later”. This combination is used as a farewell expression (usually when you are in a hurry). Sounds like “OK must go, catch you later”
Shokran – means Thank you.
A very straightforward ‘shokran’will be your next favorite word and will bring you a long way. People normally reply with ‘Afwan‘( or You’re welcome).
Assalamu alaikum – Salam, or Assalamu alaikum literally means “Peace be upon you “. It is used when you greet people and also before you part with them. It’s like the simple ‘Hi, Hello,and Goodbye’ in English. Natives always reacts positively when Expats/tourists utter this word. Its one way to show people politeness & being courteous. Over the phone, I’d love to say ‘Salam’after I’ve said Hello. It always brings fresh vibes in a conversation, also before ending a call. People normally replies,Salam, or Wa Alaykum Salaam, Waleiykum assalam warahmatullahi wa barakatuh ( And peace and mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you).
Masha’Allah -Masha’Allah is a word that you use to show that you are happy about a good thing that happened to someone else. For example, if your co-worker just had a baby and told you about it, you would say “Masha’Allah”. Other examples of times when you would use this word are when a friend buy’s a new house or if someone shows you a picture of their child. Basically, if someone talks about something good in their life, say Masha’Allah.
Insha’Allah – Insha’Allah is definitely one of the precarious words I have learned while being in Middle East. It confuses me at first, but later I understand when & why they kept on saying it. Although at work,I found it vague when I follow-up on things and they just replied ‘Insha ‘Allah’.Insha’allah ( pronounced as in-sha-la) literally means “God willing”. This is a phrase that is said a lot by locals on daily conversations.When you use this word, you want to make sure you use it before it happens.For example, you would say “Insha ‘Allah, I will see you tomorrow” (or God willing, I will see you tomorrow).
Hamdullilah – Hamdullah is the opposite of Insha’allah. You say Insha’allah before something happens and Hamdullah after it happens. Hamdullilah means “Thank God”and you use it to give thanks for something good that happened. People normally utter this word after a meal, or when going after a hard time and its over. Don’t be surprised when you asked someone how are they doing and they just replied “Hamdullah!”. If you are so bored and doesn’t want to elaborate your answer when someone asked how are you doing, simply answer, ‘Hamdullah!’
Shuno Hada – or Shu hada means “What is this? ” For me, its more of a sarcastic way of saying “What in the world..??! ” or at things if it appears to be insane or unbelievable. I love this phrase because I saw many crazy things back then in Kuwait and I just laugh while saying “Shuno hada!?” Talking about Only in Kuwait, right?
Do you have any favorite foreign words? Feel free to share it in the comments!
If you would want to learn a new language, which one it is?
If you’re on Twitter & would like to follow my Expat stories, follow me in my Twitter page Here and my Instagram for snapshot of my life as an Expat Here.
What’s your perception when you see women dressed in Black Abaya?
In Kuwait, traditionally & culturally, the clothing for women is the Black Abaya, while men wore the Dishdasha or Kandoura. For men, the color of Dishdasha ranges from beige, gray, off- white, white and during winter, they wear the Black ones. Now,there is a simple explanation while Black is the choice for color or this type of clothing for Muslim women here. It’s not because Black is a fashionable color,although I personally agree on this, but rather simply that it is most concealing. The sun is the most brightest here in middle east. It shines so bright and the heat is real and struggle.You cannot wear thick clothes in the summer and so many layers is also a no-no, rather you need something to cover your skin from burning at the same time for your skin to breathe.The Abaya or also known as cloak covers your whole body from your arms up to your legs and thus giving you ultimate protection from harmful rays of the sun.
The color black relates to the hidden, the secretive and the unknown, and as a result it creates an air of mystery. It keeps things bottled up inside, hidden from the world.In color psychology this color gives protection from external emotional stress.Wearing this black cloak relieves you from unwanted attention from lustful eyes and gives you a sense of protection.This is the whole concept of Muslim modesty. Women wear the black Abaya that totally disclose everything underneath.
If you knew the controversial photo of the late Princess Diana before about the see-through skirt that evokes too much attention then this is the absolute reason why white is not appropriate color chosen for Abayas here in the Middle East.
Now on the daily life of Muslim women here in Kuwait, wearing Black Abaya is more of a functional way, It is more than a culture behind the cloth. It is easy to put on, you don’t even know what they wear underneath. Some even wear their pyjamas or casual clothes. If you are a busy mom, then Abaya comes handy like rushing to get the kids to school, going into the grocery shop or even just a quick run down to the Bakala across the street. This saves so much time in putting on decent clothes. I have tried wearing the Abaya on certain occasion when we entered the Mosque and it was a great privilege at the same time experience. I have great respect for this culture.
The origin of Abaya can be traced immemorial. Since the ancient times, people who are nomads in the Desert are wearing cloak type garments that protects them from the arid climate, strong winds & freezing cold desert winter.Through times, the style & evolution of Abaya in Fashion becomes a worldwide statement for the Arabic nation. Nowadays, Abayas are available with stylish embroidery, some even with Swarovski crystals, and tailor-made for the owner. In Kuwait alone, there are hundreds of shops particularly only for fashionable Abayas and its accessories. With this country’s ever – changing lifestyle, wearing the Abaya has become a Fashion statement for women together with their Arabic Oud perfumes, stilletos and luxury handbags.
How about you? What particular cultural aspects in Islam do you appreciate? Or have you ever tried trying out foreign and local customs from your country?