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Dubai Slang – What we hear at our store

I just got off a call with our client and I realized that I tend to add extra slang to my conversation. Since we’re a multicultural company ( I mean, you can’t walk around Dubai without bumping into people from across the world), its common for us to pick up on slang that is unique to UAE. We’ve got words from different languages like Arabic, Urdu, Tagalog, and even Pashto.

Here are some words which I feel that would be helpful to members of my team, and possibly even to residents and visitors to Dubai in UAE.

Arabic – Terms, Context and Slang Usage:
I’ll give a brief overview but these are the ones I feel are the most popularly used. If you can think of any more, contact us!

These are mostly product related but I’ve gotten people ask us about colloquial phrases which I’ve added in a separate list.

  • Sha’ar: Hair – Obviously the most popular term across all our products.
  • Shampu: It means ‘shampoo’, the foundation of hair care.
  • Balsam: Translates to ‘conditioner’, essential for smooth and manageable hair.
  • Qashoor: Known as ‘dandruff’, a common scalp issue.
  • Furoo’ al-ra’s: This means ‘scalp’, the base of hair health.
  • Zayt: Known as ‘oil’, essential for hair nourishment.
  • Shampu yabis: Translates to ‘dry shampoo’, a quick hair refresh solution.
  • Jil al-sha’ar: This means ‘hair gel’, for styling and hold.

Everyday words and phrases

  • Wallahi: Translated means By God, but mostly used for emphasis, like saying ‘Really!’ Imagine a customer exclaiming, ‘Wallahi, this conditioner works wonders!’
  • Miskeen: Means ‘poor’ or ‘hopeless’, often used sympathetically. ‘Miskeen, your hair has suffered a lot, but we’ve got just the thing!’
  • Mabrook: A joyful ‘Congratulations!’ Perfect for celebrating an event!
  • Al: It means ‘the’, a common prefix seen across business signboards and names across UAE. Our parent company Al Aseel Cosmetics, also has this, but a literal translation for the words Al Aseel would mean ‘The Real/Genuine’. So our company name literally means The Genuine Cosmetics.
  • Marhaba (proper)/Ha’la (slang): A friendly ‘Hi/Hello’, a common greeting when meeting people.
  • Mafi Mushkil: ‘Not a problem’, our go-to phrase for assuring customer satisfaction or right after scheduling a delivery.
  • Yalla: ‘Come on’, often used to encourage a decision, like choosing a hair product.
  • Habibi/Habiti (male/female): ‘My dear’, a term of endearment for both men and women respectively.
  • Aiwa: The simple yet powerful ‘Yes’, confirming a customer’s choice.
  • Sabah Al Khair: ‘Good Morning’, commonly heard during mornings at the beach.
  • Sabah Al Noor: A direct translation means ‘Morning of Light’, often as a response to Sabah Al Khair.
  • Shu Hada: ‘What is this’, often when a customer wants when a customer is satisfied with their selection.
  • Bukra: ‘Tomorrow’, when we let a customer know when they should receive their order.
  • Wasta: Refers to nepotism and knowing people in the right places to cut across red tape.

Customer Experiences:
“Our customers love to share their stories. Like when Sarah, a regular, jokingly said, ‘Yalla, give me that hair mask!’, or when Alaa exclaimed, ‘Mabrook, you’ve found your perfect hair color!’ These moments are what make our store unique.”

Oddities of Arabic:
Intriguingly, some Arabic words don’t have plurals, such as ‘milk’, ‘sugar’, ‘pupil’, ‘human’, ‘oracle’, ‘pot’, ‘mint’, ‘woman’, ‘tea’ and ‘octopus’.

Faisal Ahmed Hammadi

Faisal Ahmed Hammadi

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