Middle East politics / Arabic / Counter-terrorism



Why Saudi/UAE views on radical Islam during the Trump era will be more influential than the Qatari narrative of the Obama years

Screen Shot 2017-02-20 at 9.44.43 PM.png

Given the Trump administration focus on rebuilding damaged alliances with traditional Middle Eastern allies that were neglected by President Obama, Israeli, Emirati, Saudi and Egyptian views on issues such as terrorism and whatever relationship the Muslim Brotherhood has to that, will have more influence in the US in the coming years than say, the Qatari narrative that had much weight during the Obama years.

On that note, this is a fascinating article that was published in Al-Hayat, a major regional newspaper, by a distinguished Saudi anthropologist. It sheds some interesting light on those perspectives mentioned above, so I decided to translate it. Continue reading “Why Saudi/UAE views on radical Islam during the Trump era will be more influential than the Qatari narrative of the Obama years”

Can Egypt’s Muslim Establishment neutralize the anti-Establishment Jihadist narrative?

Screen Shot 2017-02-16 at 10.54.43 AM.png

Below I have translated a February 13th article in Alaph newspaper titled “Daesh and the Muslim Brotherhood Call Upon Their Followers to Kill the Sheikh of Al-Azhar.”

It highlights the extent to which the political violence associated with Jihadist movements everywhere in the Muslim World is best understood using this paradigm:

Establishment versus Anti-Establishment 

The basic divides as relates to  Egypt in particular:

(Group A) Establishment Islam: Continue reading “Can Egypt’s Muslim Establishment neutralize the anti-Establishment Jihadist narrative?”

Arabic week in Boston

I’ll be attending three excellent Arabic related conferences. If any readers are there and want to meetup, send me an email at

I  won’t have any new posts during this period but here are some good ones from the last few months:

20 strategies for becoming a fluent Arabic speaker

3 tips for learning the overlooked skill of reading hand-written Arabic

How to speak with, write to, and answer phone calls from Gulf Royals

Why did Al-Jazeera’s ratings tank in 2012 but rebound in 2015?

Real World Arabic Interviews with Experts: 

What’s the situation for studying Arabic in Egypt? An interview with the directors of ILI

Talking Arabic as a 2nd Language Strategies with David Wilmsen

Catching Up with Greg Gause on Saudi Arabia

Stop Overthinking: A Chat with the author of Adventures in Arabic and the Arab World


14 more takeaways on Moroccan Arabic

Back to blogging about Arabic – last few days have been a blur because of the election.

In the last few weeks I’ve been looking at written transcripts of spoken Arabic – from Algeria ( see here and here) and Morocco and trying to highlight practical takeaways for Arabic students, to make this whole process less intimidating than people often make it out to be. Here are 14 more takeaways.

Click the titles to hear the accompanying audio

Navigating a Taxi

Continue reading “14 more takeaways on Moroccan Arabic”

Developing Arabic skills with Maximim Regional Utility – Morocco Part 2

Things to focus on when reading spoken Arabic: 

  • Seeing spoken written allows the student to conceptualize  regional differences and think about how you can communicate than concept based on your Fusha/MSA base
  • Hearing the audio allows the student to recognize differences in accent
  • Reading the transcripts out loud  to yourself after hearing the audio allows the student to internalize differences

Click the title to hear the Audio from the LangMedia transcripts.

Making a Purchase

Screen Shot 2016-11-03 at 10.34.31 AM.png

(20)  ( ديال ) is a new term for someone like me with no exposure to Moroccan. How does the newcomer approach new terms like this?  You can try and figure it out on your own, which I was starting to do. You can get a tutor once you go to Morocco and learn the rule in about 3 minutes.  Or, even better, you can get assists from readers like Chris T. on Twitter.  Very clear- this has entered my mental database on Moroccan Arabic.

Screen Shot 2016-11-03 at 10.40.42 AM.png


Continue reading “Developing Arabic skills with Maximim Regional Utility – Morocco Part 2”

Managing in Arabic in Morocco – part 1

The question I’ve written about many times:

Do you  dedicate your limited Arabic learning resources to:  perfecting a dialect?  Or do you aim for a more general, heavily MSA-based, multi-purpose Arabic that enables you to operate in Arabic at a very high level wherever you go?

Continue reading “Managing in Arabic in Morocco – part 1”

Breaking down North African Dialects Part 4: Declining & Accepting invitations + story telling

I’ve lost track of the number of times over the years that I’ve heard people talk about how North African dialects as if they are drastically different from those of the Central Middle East. This is a mindset that unjustifiably intimidate students, especially because it isn’t true.

3 more Algerian Arabic dialogue as part of my effort to break the perceived “scariness.”

Click on the title to hear the audio.

Declining an Invitation


(1)  This is the first time I’ve heard ( نهار ) instead of ( يوم ) when describing days of the week.  On one hand, I’d never thought of people saying it this way, but as soon as I saw it said this way, the meaning was crystal clear.

(2) Had never heard this verb before as far as I can recall.  As I’ve already mentioned in this series  of posts on Algeria, if the goal is to just become competent in Algerian, where it comes from doesn’t really matter.  Just memorize the verb and use it.

But out of curiosity, I wanted to know if it’s some random Algerian verb, or in fact coming from a clear “Fusha” root. I couldn’t come up with a decisive verdict where it’s coming from in my allotted 10 minutes per word – but I am 95% sure it’s coming from one of these two verbs listed in Hans Wehr:


(3) Nothing uniquely Algerian here.  Pretty close to how you’d say this in Egypt.

Accepting an Invitation

Continue reading “Breaking down North African Dialects Part 4: Declining & Accepting invitations + story telling”

Issues and Strategies – A good book for those interested in translation

One of my favorite things about having a website is that readers send you tips to things to you may not have been aware of otherwise. Many thanks to Magnus for sending me a link to the below book.  After looking through it – I agree – the book is must-read for anyone who is or aspires to be a translator.

I’ve added it to my list of excellent Middle East-related books I’ve read recently.

Screen Shot 2016-10-18 at 10.21.11 AM.png

One, there really aren’t very many books out there on the specific field of translation. This one aims to fill a gap in that market and offers a useful mix of theoretical and practical knowledge. The chapter on Legal translation is especially interesting.

But two, even for those who aren’t working as professional linguists, it’s filled with practical language takeaways for anyone interested interested in Arabic, and therefore worth a read.


Converting the MSA base into Algerian competence Part II: Friendship, Hotel Rooms & Academic Advising

A follow up from my last post.

Key Points to Remember:


Continue reading “Converting the MSA base into Algerian competence Part II: Friendship, Hotel Rooms & Academic Advising”

Blog at

Up ↑