Arabic for the trail

Bedouin & fire, Wadi Kidd, Go tell it on the mountain_resultThe Sinai and mainland Egypt are Arabic speaking regions but their dialects differ. You’ll still hear the mainland Egyptian dialect in the Sinai, especially in official places; and bigger towns, where lots of Egyptians live. Out in Bedouin areas, the dialect is different; it has more in common with classical than Egyptian Arabic. Anyway, that’s just something FYI: it won’t affect anything if you just speak a few words. And you should try to; in many parts of the Sinai, Arabic is the ONLY language. And no matter how little you speak; how stupid you think you sound, people will respect the effort. There are a few essential Arabic words are in the BEING BEDOUIN page; below, are ten more for the mountains. I’ll soon be uploading a Survival Arabic PDF too.


Mount Sinai with chapel, Go tell it on the mountain_resultJEBEL – this means ‘mountain’ and it’s a good first word to learn. It’s said ‘Jebel’ – with a soft ‘J’ – across most of the Middle East, including in the Sinai; for mainland Egyptians, it’s ‘Gebel’. The most famous mountain in the Sinai is Jebel Musa (or as we say in English, Mount Sinai).

Deir el Arbain Sinai_resultWADI – this means valley; and it’s another key word. Even in the mountains, you’ll probably spend most of your time in wadis. They can be big, or small, and are usually relatively flat; usually, when they’re very steep, they’re gullies or ravines. Wadi Feiran is one of the Sinai’s biggest wadis.

Naqb el Ojar, Go tell it on the mountain_resultNAQB – this means a pass: usually a high, mountain pass that cuts between bigger ranges. But sometimes, just a lowland route between A and B. It’s one of the most common, useful words to know. Sometimes, the Bedouin say it ‘Nagb’, with a hard ‘G’ instead of a ‘Q’, but you’ll still recognise it.

Jebel Salla, summit, Go tell it on the mountain_resultQIMMA – this means ‘peak’ or ‘summit’. As with Naqb, the Bedouin often say it ‘Gimma’, not ‘Qimma’. It’s a useful word to know because the word ‘Jebel’ alone doesn’t necessarily indicate a peak. It’s more the word for the whole mountain; its footslopes, cliffs, basins and everything else.

Jebel SunaFARSH – usually a small, rocky basin surrounded by higher ground. It could be small – something just a few paces across – or much bigger; even the size of a few football pitches. It can also be used for any general flat area too. Farsh Eliyas is a well-known basin on Mount Sinai.

Jebel Zibb Rubi, exploringSHEGEEF – a shegeef is a gully: which is to say, a steep, narrow passageway, usually in high, rocky ground. This is an important word to learn for climbing in the Sinai; gullies often give the main way through the mountains; some of them even go direct to the summit.

Well, Jebel Umm Shomer, Go tell it on the mountain_resultBEER – this’ll be an easy one for most to remember. It means ‘well’ in Arabic and it usually indicates a proper shaft dug into the ground; but NOT always. Nor does it say anything about the quality of the shaft; or if it is rigged with a bucket and pulley system to draw water up from below.

Naqb Muwajid, Sinai, Go tell it on the mountain_resultTAREEG – this means a ‘way’ or ‘route’ to a place. A lot of the time, it just shows there is a way; ie that it is possible to go from A to B, usually without too much difficulty. It might – or might not – indicate an actual path. Darb or sikka are the Bedouin words for a hard, beaten trail.

Rojom, Jebel Zibb, Go tell it on the mountain_resultROJOM – a rojom is a small, trail-marking stone. They’re common in places where there’s no obvious path; or where it’s hard to navigate for other reasons. They’re usually small piles of stones, and you can go from one to the next, following them in a long line from A to B until you’re through.

Garden, Wadi Arbain, Sinai, Go tell it on the mountain_resultJINAYNA – this means garden; it’s usually a small orchard, surrounded by stone walls. It’s a useful word in the mountains near St Katherine, where there are hundreds of gardens; and which all give useful reference points for getting around. Shejera is the word for tree; trees can often be useful navigational features too.


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