Wikipedia: Arabic Language
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Before Islam, or what is commonly known in the history of Arabs as الجاهلية "al-Jahiliya" (the age of ignorance), the Arabs used to organise big gatherings in which traders from different tribes met to sell and buy products. However, these gatherings were more than trade fairs; they were also real social and cultural events where poets from the four corners of Arabia competed against each other by showing the eloquence and the purity of their Arabic language while each of them delivered his/her قصيدة "qasida" (poem). The most famous of these gatherings is سوق عكاظ "souk Ukaz" (Ukaz market) which was situated on the spice route in the centre of western Arabia. The competition between the poets of the market of Ukaz was fierce and the winner poet was rewarded with his/her poem being written in gold and hung on the walls of الكعبة "al-Kaaba" in Mecca. The collection of poems that made it to the walls of the Kaaba is known as المعلقات "al-Muallaqat" (the suspended ones) and their number according to different sources varies from seven to ten odes.
Until that stage of history, Arabic was spoken by a number of tribes living around Mecca and its use never reached outside the Arabian Peninsula. But in the year 610, Islam’s prophet Muhammad (570-632) started receiving the revelations of the Qur’an which is still considered today to be the central manuscript of the Islamic faith for all Muslims worldwide (over 1 billion people), whatever their native language. After the death of the prophet Muhammad in the year 632, the diffusion of the Islamic faith beyond the Arabian Peninsula gained a high momentum. By the year 692, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Egypt and most parts of North Africa became part of the Islamic empire. The diffusion of the Arabic language went along with the Islamic conquests especially since the status of Arabic was raised to be the sole administrative language of the empire during the Umayyad Caliphate (661-750) by the Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marawan who reigned between 685-705 (Baker, 1998: 317).
The expansion of the Islamic faith was the decisive factor behind the flourishing of Arabic as well as the main driving force for its transformation from being the language of small groups of Bedouins to the mother tongue of hundreds of millions of people all around the globe.
Today, Arabic is one of the most widely spoken languages in the world. It is the official language of more than twenty countries. Arabic is also one of the six official languages of the United Nations.
The following are some important facts about Arabic language:
Although the desert dominates most of the Arab World, the fauna and flora of this region is very rich and unique at the same time. Camels and horses are certainly two essential features of the Arabian fauna.
Unlike the Bactrian camel which has two humps, the Arabian camel or the dromedary has just one hump. For a Bedouin, a camel is not only a reliable mean of transport but also a source of meat, milk, wool, shades, and hides. The camel’s nickname in Arabic is “the ship of desert”.
Another important animal in the Arabic tradition is the horse. The Arabian horse is one of the best breeds in the world. This magnificent animal is often been the principal theme of many great Arabian poems such as “al-Muallaqat” (the suspended odes). The Arabian horse is a symbol of prowess, glory, immortality, happiness, prosperity, fertility, speed, and great power.
While the desert is usually a synonym of: scorching heat, harshness, thirst, and death, the oasis represents: comfort, water, and life. The oasis is an important image of the Arabian environment. Date palm could be described as the queen of the Arabic flora.
Food is one of the great passions of Arabs. Arab cuisine is very rich and consists of a myriad of spicy and sweet, hot and cold dishes. Of Arabic recipes, the Lebanese are the most known to the West. Both hummus and falafel are hits in UK.
Hummus: crushed chickpeas mixed with sesame sauce (tahina), lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil dressing on the top.
Falafel: a deep fried mixture of soaked chickpeas, beans, onions, garlic, parsley, chilli, and fine spices.
Among all fruits, dates are the most associated with Arabic culture. Most of the major date producers are Arab countries. There are many kinds of dates such as: Medjool, Deglet Nour, Barhee, and Halawy.
The Arabic musical tradition dates back to the pre-Islamic period. The Oud is one of the most important Arabic inventions in the field of music. This unique musical instrument has up to twelve strings and is considered to be the ancestor of the lute.
Music in the Arab World varies from one country to another. The genre includes both local folkloric rhythms such as Dabkeh (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, and Palestine) and Mezwed (Tunisia), and universal modern melodies such as Khaleeji (Gulf countries) and Rai (Algeria).
Speak 7 is a site devoted to the learning of the Arabic language. The Gulf Arabic site is an online course to learn a particular dialect of Arabic, that of the language spoken by the nationals of Gulf countries (United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia among others). Omniglot gives a good insight on the Arabic alphabet.
If you are interested in learning more about Arab cooking, go to Middle Eastern Recipes, which includes a good number of Arab cuisine recipes. For music enthusiasts: visit Arab Music, a website containing a list of Arabic singers from the four corners of the Arab World. You can even listen to some great Arab music. Al-Bab will give you access to many resources on Arabic arts such as calligraphy, architecture, cinema, poetry, music, and dance while Al-Hewar takes you to a useful article on the Arab World civilization.
The Arabian Business and Cultural Guide is a 200+ pages guide for visitors, exporters, and international traders to understand the culture, business culture, and how to do business with Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain
For the latest news about the Arabic-speaking world, you can read a version of the BBC’s news web page in Arabic. View information on the Arab League (the English site is under construction) where you can access most newspapers in the Arab World classified by countries where they are issued.
Radio: Surfmusic is a German site that includes links to most online radio channels on the Web. (Asian channels / African channels [caution: most Algerian, Tunisian and Moroccan channels are also in French]).
Television: find Arabic-speaking TV channels at wwitv.com listed per country of origin.
Sakhr Software Company has a webpage enabling its visitors to translate Arabic words into English and vice versa. Al-Bab, already mentioned above, here gathers a collection of general and historical maps of the Arab World. Finally, using the Firdaous site could help you write your name in Arabic. All you need to do is write your name in Latin and then, in one click, you will get your name in Arabic.