A guide to useful phrases in Dubai

The official language of Dubai is Arabic but with a global expatriate community that makes up 75% of the country’s population, English is the most widely spoken language. You’ll find road signs, menus and guides available in both English and Arabic but outside the city, most rural people only speak their native tongue. Even if you only manage to learn a few key words for you Dubai holidays, the Emiratis appreciate any effort made to master their complex language.

Common Arabic phrases

Hello/Peace be upon you (when meeting someone for the first time) – Assalamu a’alaikum
Hello – Marhaban
Goodbye – Ila al’likaa
Good morning – Sabahul khay
Good afternoon/evening – Masa’ al-khayr
Please – Min fadlak
Thank you – Shukran
Sorry – Asef
You’re welcome – A’afwan
Yes – Na’am
No – La’a
Excuse me – Min fadlak
I don’t understand – Lam af’ham
Do you speak English? – Hal tatakallam al ingliziya?


One – Wahid
Two – Ithnan
Three – Thalatha
Four – Arba’a
Five – Khamsa
Six – Ssitta
Seven – Sab’a
Eight – Thamaniya
Nine – Tis’a
Ten – ‘Ashra

Out and about

What time is it? – Kam as saa?
Where is the nearest cash machine? – Ayna aqrab Saraf aalee
Where is…? – Ayna…?
Where can I buy…? – Ayna yomkanany shera…?
How do I get to…? – Kaeef yomKanany El Hosool ala…?
How far is it to…? – Kam kiloometre ila…?
How much does it cost? – Kam et-taklefa?
Too expensive – Ktir ghali
Petrol – Super/Benzin
Diesel – Maazout
Car – Sayara
Taxi – Taxi
Market – Souk
Post office – Maktab al-barid
Bank – Bank
Hospital – Mustashfa
Chemist – Saydaliyeh
Police – Shurta/Boulees
Open – Maftuh
Closed – Mughlag

Eating out

Waiter! – Ya nadil!
Could I/we see the menu please? – Qa’imatu t-tacam, min fadlik
Where is the bathroom? – Ayna Al Hamam
The bill, please – ‘Al-fatura, min fadlik
Can I pay with credit card? – Hal mumkin dafcu belbetaka al-e’temania
One beer please – Waheed beera, min fadlik
I don’t eat meat – Ana ma bakul laham
Restaurant – Mata’am
Breakfast – Futour
Lunch – Ghadaa
Dinner – Ashaa
Coffee – Kahwa
Tea – Shay
Beer – Beera
Fish – Simich
Meat – Lahm

Food and Drink terms

Al Harees – A traditional Arabic dish made with boiled, cracked, or coarsely-ground wheat, mixed with meat. Its consistency varies between a porridge and a dumpling and it’s especially popular as an evening meal after a day of fasting during Ramadan.

Ghuzi – Roasted lamb served on a bed of cooked rice, crushed nuts and vegetables

Esh asarya – Sweet cheesecake with a cream topping

Matchbous – A classic Khaleeji stew-like dish consisting of spiced lamb, rice and tomatoes usually served with green salad and dried lime.

Shawarma – Similar to a kebab or gyros, mixed meats are grilled on a vertical spit and served alongside tabbouleh and salad or packed into a wrap and drizzled with tahini, houmous and pickles.

Mehalabiya – Sweet Egyptian-stye milk pudding served with pistachios and rose water