Media Arabic Booster 03/24

As a journalist, I read Arabic newspapers daily, especially the opinion section. Every month, I want to share with you on Arabic for Nerds what I find interesting from a linguistic perspective and which vocabulary might be worth learning. I call it the Media Arabic Booster.

Headlines in Arabic media are generally easy to understand – but there are also some tricky words.

al-Akhbar al-Youm (Egypt): the verb تَلَأْلَأَ

On Saturday, March 30, 2024, the Egyptian weekly state newspaper al-Akhbar al-Youm (الأخبار اليوم) had the following headline on its front page:

Headline: Al-Akhbar Al-YoumHeadline: Al-Akhbar Al-Youm
Headline Al-Akhbar Al-Youm 30th March 2024

Before we get into the Arabic stuff, some background information:

Egypt is working on a big project to create a new city for government work. This idea was started by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to make less crowded conditions in Cairo. The city will be built around 45 kilometers away from Cairo and will cover an area as large as Singapore. The costs for building the new capital city is thought to be more than $45 billion. Work started in 2015.

By 2019, they had finished the second-biggest mosque in the world, called Al-Fattah Al-Aleem Mosque (مسجد الفتاح العليم). It’s huge and can fit 17,000 people inside. The mosque has its own spot for helicopters to land, lots of parking for cars, places for people to get services, and an office building. In that building, 60 people work to take care of the mosque. The mosque itself has four minarets, each 95 meters (approximately 312 feet) high.

If you’re curious about the origin of the name Al-Fattah Al-Aleem (الفتاح العليم) and why it was chosen… Well, it likely refers indirectly to the Egyptian autocratic leader Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The name الفتاح العليم appears in the Holy Qur’an, in Sura Saba (سبأ), verse 34:26:

قُلْ يَجْمَعُ بَيْنَنَا رَبُّنَا ثُمَّ يَفْتَحُ بَيْنَنَا بِلْحَقِّ وَهُوَ ٱلْفَتَّاحُ ٱلْعَلِيمُ

Say, “Our Lord will gather us together, then He will judge justly between us; He alone is the All Knowing Judge.” (Abdel Haleem)

Wait a minute! Why did Abdel Haleem translate ٱلْفَتَّاحُ as Judge?

Literally, it means the opener and is one of the so-called 99 names of Allah, as used in the proper name Abd al-Fattah – عبد الفتاح. However, in the context of Allah, ٱلْفَتَّاحُ should not be understood literally but rather as: He who decides and lays open all matters in truth and justice and who opens the way to victory, success, relief, knowledge, and understanding.

Now, let’s focus on the headline, in particular the word تَلَأْلَأَ:


الْعاصِمَةُ الْإِدارِيَّةُ تَتَلَأْلَأُ فِي سَماءِ الْجُمْهُورِيَّةِ الْجَدِيدَةِ

The Administrative Capital shines in the sky of the New Republic

The verb تَلَأْلَأَ is based on four root letters and follows the pattern of a II-verb (4 root letters). A common theme in such verbs (II_form) is to repeat the first two root letters. In the case of تَلَأْلَأَ, the root letters are ل-أ-ل-أ.

In the dictionary of Hans Wehr, we find the following translations: to shine; to glitter, to glisten, to sparkle, to gleam, to shimmer, to glimmer, to beam, to radiate. Of this root, you may know the noun لُؤْلُؤ which means pearl (collective noun) and occurs six times in the Holy Qur’an; a pearl (nomen unitatis; a noun denoting an individual) would be لُؤْلُؤةٌ.

The Oxford Arabic dictionary gives the following example: to gleam in the sunlight (تَلَأْلَأَ في الشَمْسِ)

How do you conjugate a II-verb with four root letters?

PronounPresent TensePast Tense
Conjugation of the Arabic verb تَلَأْلَأَ with four root letters (form II)

The task turned out to be simpler than expected. However, the following common noun forms derived from the root can be a bit more challenging because they include a special letter: the Hamza (همزة).

  • Infinitive noun (مصدر): تَلَأْلُؤ
  • Active Participle (اسم الفاعِل): مُتَلَأْلِئ
  • Passive Participle (اسم المفْعُول): مُتَلَأْلَأ

Vocabulary list

All the words marked in yellow above are explained here.

عاصِمةٌ – plural: عَوَاصِمُcapital (city). Note: It may also work as an apposition (بدل). When you’re mentioning the capital cities of Tunisia and Algeria, which are Tunis and Algiers, it’s interesting to note that in Arabic, these cities are called by the same name as their countries. So, the capital of Tunisia is Tunis, and the capital of Algeria is Algiers, just like the countries themselves.
To avoid confusion, you add the word عاصِمةٌ. For example: تونِس \ الْجَزائِرُ الْعاصِمةُ which means Tunis/Algiers (To tell the difference between the cities and the countries that share the same name). Note: The root ع-ص-م means to guard; to preserve; to defend; to hinder.
تَلَأْلَأَ – يَتَلَأْلَأُto glitter; sparkle; shine; gleam. Four root letters; II-form-verb
جُمْهُورِيّةٌrepublic. For example: the Arab Republic of Egypt (جُمْهُورِيَّةُ مِصْرَ الْعَرَبِيَّةُ); the federal republic of Germany (جُمْهُورِيَّةُ أَلْمانِيا الْاِتِّحادِيَّةُ ); the People’s Republic of China (جُمْهُورِيَّةُ الصِّينِ الشَّعْبِيَّةُ)
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 03/24 – © Gerald Drißner

Translation of an article

Let’s focus on certain parts of the text and translate each sentence carefully. The words marked in yellow can be found further down in the vocabulary list.

al-Ghad (Jordan): “Talk about five inclinations in Jordan”

On March 26 2024, the independent Jordanian Al-Ghad (الغَد) newspaper carried the following opinion piece by the writer and columnist Maher Abu Teir (ماهر أبو طير).

About the author of the opinion piece: Maher Abu Teir (ماهر أبو طير):

Maher Abu Teir is currently working as a consultant in crisis management, political and media analysis. He worked for more than twelve years as a journalist in the daily newspaper “Al-Dustour” (الدستور), where he served as editor-in-chief for political affairs, director of press correspondents’ affairs, head of the press delegates’ department, and journalist covering local and international political affairs.

In addition, he has fifteen years of experience as a press correspondent for “Al-Watan Al-Arabi” magazine (الوطن العربي) published in Paris; as a correspondent for “Al-Ahram Al-Arabi” magazine (الاهرام العربي), published by the Egyptian daily “Al-Ahram”; and as a correspondent for the Emirati newspaper “Al-Bayan” (البيان) in Amman, where he later served as editorial secretary.

Maher Abu Teir holds a BA in Journalism and Political Science from Yarmouk University (جامعة اليرموك), from which he graduated in 1992. He is a member of the Jordanian Journalists Syndicate, the Arab Journalists Union and several international media associations.

Newspaper al-Ghad, opinion piece by Maher Abu TeirNewspaper al-Ghad, opinion piece by Maher Abu Teir
Newspaper al-Ghad, opinion piece by Maher Abu Teir

Let’s examine a large section of the article more closely.

كلام عن 5 اتجاهات في الأردن

Talk about five trends in Jordan

هناك ارتداد سياسي حاد داخل الأردن على خلفية ملف غزة، وهذا الارتداد أدى إلى تشكل اتجاهات متعاكسة في الرأي العام، قد لا تبدو سرا.

There is a sharp political backlash inside Jordan over the Gaza issue, and this backlash has led to the formation of opposite trends in public opinion, which may not be a secret.

من الاتجاهات التي نراها اتجاه يقول إن الأولوية الأولى هي الأردن، وليس بإمكان الأردن التضحية بوجوده ومصالحه واستقراره وعلاقاته مع واشنطن، من خلال الدخول في صدام مع إسرائيل، ويرى أصحاب هذا الاتجاه أن الأردن يفعل ما يمكنه أن يفعله ضمن حدود، وليس مطلوبا أن يكون ضحية لهذه الازمة، فيما دول أقوى وأغنى تتضامن بشكل منخفض، ويلتزم أصحاب هذا الاتجاه بتشخيص أزمة غزة حصرا، وتأثيراتها الحالية، دون الدخول لملفات أوسع أو مقارنة مع ملفات ثانية، وموقفهم يتعلق فقط بكلفة ملف غزة بشكل محدد.

Among the trends we see is the one saying that the first priority is Jordan and that Jordan could not sacrifice its existence, interests, stability, and relations with Washington by engaging in a confrontation with Israel. Those defending this opinion believe that Jordan was doing whatever it could within limits, and was not required to be the victim of this crisis at a time when stronger and richer states were barely showing solidarity. Those adhering to this perspective focus exclusively on diagnosing the Gaza crisis and its current impact, without delving into broader issues or comparing it to other files. Their stance is solely concerned with the specific cost of the Gaza file.

هناك اتجاه ثان يتعاطف مع قطاع غزة بشكل كبير، ويأتي تعاطفه لاعتبارات دينية فطرية غير منظمة بالمعنى الحزبي، وهذا الاتجاه موجود في المدن والمحافظات، ويرى في الشعار الديني في قطاع غزة، نقطة جذب. ولديهم تحفظات جزئية على طريقة ادارة بعض الامور بشأن غزة، مع كل الضخ الإعلامي الجائر الذي يَمَسُّ الأُرْدُنَّ بوسائل مختلفة…

There is another inclination that sympathizes significantly with the Gaza Strip for inherent religious considerations, which are non-organized in the partisan sense of the word. This inclination exists in the cities and governorates and views the religious mantra in the Gaza Strip as a point of attraction. … They have partial reservations over the way some things were being managed regarding Gaza, with all the unjust media pumping that affects Jordan through various means…

هناك اتجاه ثالث يذهب بعيدا في تعبيراته ويقول إن الأردن تحول إلى بلد يدفع كلف اللاجئين والنازحين من كل الجنسيات، وأن الأردن عالق بين قضية فلسطين، والملف السوري، وغير ذلك، وان كل الحكومات لم تحم الأردن من كلف أزمات شعوب الجوار، وهؤلاء يرغبون بسد الباب تماما في وجه الاشتباك الأردني مع كل ملفات الاقليم،… وأن على كل شعب أن يخلع شوكه بيديه، يجب أن يكون الأردن في المقام الأول دون أي انحياز يمينًا أو يسارًا. أصبحت البلاد مأوىًا مكتظًا بالسكان، مما يعني أعباءً كبيرة. وليس معروفا حجم هذا الاتجاه لكنه بالتأكيد موجود وأن كان لا يجاهر برايه بشكل علني، في ظل مناخات لا تحتمل إثارة الجدل.

The third inclination goes far in saying that Jordan has been paying the cost of the refugees and displaced from all nationalities, and was caught between the Palestinian cause, the Syrian file, and others. Moreover, it insists that all the governments failed to protect Jordan from the cost of the crises in the neighboring countries, thus wishing to close the door completely in the face of the Jordanian interaction with the region’s file…, and have every population deal with its own problems… Jordan, they believe, must prioritize its own interests without leaning left or right. The country has become a densely populated refuge, burdened by the implications of this situation. The extent of this inclination is unknown, but it definitely exists, though it is not openly mentioned amid a climate that cannot tolerate controversies.

اتجاه رابع يذهب بعيدا أيضا فهو ينتقد الأردن بشكل علني، ولا يوفر وسيلة إلا ويسيء للأردن، عبر التواصل الاجتماعي، أو شعارت تطرح في بعض المظاهرات، أو في المجالس ويستصغر البلد بشكل ظالم …، ويرى أن الأردن مرتهن للولايات المتحدة، وإسرائيل، وان تغطية الارتهان بمساعدات أو بتصريحات أمر غير كاف، وأن على الأردن أن يعيد كل حساباته، وأن لا يبقى في خانة إدارة التوازن بين مصالحه ومخاوفه واحتياجات جواره، وهذا الاتجاه يصب أيضا في حسابات داخلية سياسية، على صلة ربما بعمليات تحشيد تتعلق باستحقاقات داخلية، مثل الانتخابات …

The fourth inclination also goes far in publicly criticizing Jordan and using every possible means to harm the country, whether on social media or through slogans chanted in some demonstrations or meetings and unfairly belittles the country.… To the latter inclination, Jordan is submissive to the United States and Israel. And covering up this submission with aid or statements is not enough. Therefore, Jordan must redo its calculations and stop trying to establish a balance between its interests, fears, and the needs of its neighbors. This inclination may also fall in the context of internal political calculations, related to mobilization prior to internal developments such as the elections…

الاتجاه الخامس الغالب والمعتدل حيث الكل مع قطاع غزة، ويتأثرون بشدة، ويتعاطفون مع ما يجري، وليسوا ضد مساعدة الغزيين، لكنهم أيضا يواجهون هواجس الحياة، والخوف من المستقبل، ويريدون لفلسطين أن تنجو من الاحتلال، ولا يريدون إضاعة الأردن وسط هذا الحريق، ويمكن القول صراحة إن هذا هو الفريق الغالب، ويتأثر بشكل غير مباشر، بحالة التباين التي تمثلها الاتجاهات السابقة، ويتنقل كأفراد ومجموعات أحيانا بين الحزم السابقة.

The fifth trend is the most prevalent and moderate. Its advocators all support Gaza and are strongly affected by and sympathetic toward what is happening, and not opposed to helping the Gazans. However, they are also facing livelihood concerns and fear of the future. They want Palestine to survive the occupation but do not want to lose Jordan in this fire. And we can honestly say that this team constitutes a majority, though it is indirectly affected by the previously mentioned inclinations, causing its advocates to sometimes move as individuals or groups between them.

All the words in the above article marked in yellow can be found in this table with explanations.

اِتِّجاهٌ – اتِّجاهاتٌdirection; view trend, inclination. For example: a move/step in the right direction (خَطْوةٌ فِي الْاِتِّجاهِ الصَّحيحِِ)
اِرْتِدادٌwithdrawal; rebound. It is the infinitive nouns (مصدر) of VIII-verb ارْتَدَّ -يَرْتَدُّ which means: to go back; to move back.
عَلَى خَلْفِيّةِover; regarding; because. Usually, it is not literally translated. The word خَلْفيّة means background, also backdrop in the meaning of reason. For example: because of something/against the backdrop of something (عَلَى خَلْفِيّةِ شَيْءٍ).
مِلَفٌّ – مِلَفّاتٌfile; dossier; folder
أََدَّى – يُؤَدِّي إِلَىto lead to; to bring about. II-verb (root: ء-د-ي).
مُتَعاكِسٌopposite; conflicting. Active participle (اسم الفاعِل) of VI-verb تَعاكَسَ – يَتَعاكَسُ which means to be reversed. For example: in opposite directions (فِي اتِّجاهاتٍ مُتَعاكِسةٍ ).
أَوْلَويّةٌpriority, precedence. For example: to give priority to something (أَعْطى الأَوْلَويّةَ لِشَيْءٍ)
تَضْحِيةٌsacrifice. For example: to make a sacrifice (قَدَّمَ \ بَذَلَ تَضْحِيةً)
صِدامٌclash; confrontation
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 03/24 – © Gerald Drißner
ضِمْنَin; inside of; among
تَضامَنَ – يَتَضامَنُto be responsible for one another; to be solidary; to stick together; to have joint responsibility. It is a VI-form-verb. The infinitive noun (مصدر) is تَضامُنٌ which means solidarity.
حَصْرٌrestriction; narrowing. For example: strictly speaking (بِالْحَصْرِ); exhaustively (عَلَى سَبِيلِ الْحَصْرِ)
كُلْفةٌ – plural: كُلَفcost; expenditure
تَعاطَفَ – يَتَعاطَفُ مَعَto sympathize with. Masdar: تَعاطُفٌ which means sympathy; compassion.
اِعْتِبارٌconsideration; regard
فِطْريٌّinstinctive; intuitive; natural. For example: instinctive reaction (رَدّ فِعْلٍ فِطْريّ). Watch out: With a different vowel, the meaning changes: فُطْريّ means fungal; mouldy
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 03/24 – © Gerald Drißner
شِعارٌ – plural: شُعُر or أَشْعِرة or شِعاراتslogan; motto; banner
تَحَفُّظٌ – تَحَفُّظاتٌreservation; restraint; objection. For example: without reservation (بِلا تَحَفُّظٍ)
جُزْئيّةٌ – جُزْئيّاتٌdetail
ضَخٌّpumping. Infinitive noun of I-verb ضَخَّ – يَضُخُّ which means to pump
جائِرٌunjust; unfair. For example: unjustified criticism (نَقْدٌ جائِرٌ)
مَسَّ – يَمُسُّto touch; to feel; to befall; to hit. I-verb
لاجِئٌrefugee; asylum seeker
نازِحٌemigrant; migrant. It is the active participle (اسم الفاعِل) of I-verb نَزَحَ – يَنْزَحُ which means to emigrate; to go abroad; to migrate
جِنْسيّةٌnationality; citizenship. For example: stateless (عَديم الجِنْسيّةِ ); dual citizenship (جِنْسيّة مُزْدَوِجة)
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 03/24 – © Gerald Drißner
عالِقٌstuck; jammed. For example: stranded immigrants (الْمُهاجِرونَ الْعالِقونَ)
حَمَى – يَحْمِيto protect. Watch out: The jussive form (مجزوم) is لَمْ تَحْمِ
رَغِبَ – يَرْغَبُ فِي أنْto wish that. With the preposition عَنْ, the meaning changes completely, as it then means to dislike.
سَدَّ – يَسُدُّto block; to plug; to stop. For example: to bar the door (سَدَّ البابَ)
خَلَعَ – يَخْلَعُto take off; to remove
مَقامٌplace; position. For example: firstly; in the first place (فِي الْمَقامِ الْأَوَّلِ)
اِنْحِيازٌpartiality; bias; leaning; taking side
مَأْوًىaccomodation; lodging. For example: parking (مَأْوى سَيّاراتٍ )ز It is the noun of place (اسم المكان) of I-verb أَوى – يَأْوي which means to accommodate
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 03/24 – © Gerald Drißner
مُكْتَظّcrammed, packed. For example: overpopulated (مُكْتَظّ بالسُكّانِ)
عِبْءٌ – أَعْباءload, burden
جاهَرَ – يُجاهِرُ بِto say openly; to proclaim
عَلَنِيٌّopen; public. For example: in public (عَلَنِيًّا ; also: بِشَكْلٍ عَلَنِيٍّ)
إثارةٌprovocation; incitement
وَفَّرَ – يُوَفِّرُto provide; to supply
أَساءَ – يُسيءُ إِلَىto insult; to offend. IV-verb
مَوْقِعُ تَواصُلٍ اِجْتِماعِيٍّsocial media networks
اسْتَصْغَرَ – يَسْتَصْغِرُto underestimate; to downplay; to look down on. X-verb
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 03/24 – © Gerald Drißner
مُرْتَهِنٌsubmissive; also: mortgagee; pledgee. It is the active participle of the VIII-verb ارْتَهَنَ which means to pledge. The masdar ارْتِهان can also mean collateral.
غَيْرُ كافٍinsufficient; not enough
أَعادَ – يُعيدُto redo; to do again
خانةٌfield; box
صَبّ – يَصُبُّto pour; to flow; to spill; to cast
صِلةٌconnection; relation. For example: to have a connection with something (كانَ عَلَى صِلةٍ بِشَيْءٍ)
تَحْشِيدٌmobilization; rallying
هاجِسٌ – هَواجِسُfear; anxiety. But also: idea; obsession; fixed idea. For example: an obsession with something/someone (هاجِس شَيْءٍ \ شَخْصٍ). Watch out and don’t confuse roots: حاجِز means blockade; barrier.
نَجَا – يَنْجُوto survive; to escape
إضاعةٌwaste. For example: waste of time (إضاعة الوَقْتِ)
تَبايُنٌcontrast, difference, point
Vocabulary List – Media Arabic Booster 03/24 – © Gerald Drißner

NOTICE: If there are any errors or mistakes in this article, please let me know or use the comment section below. I am not a native English speaker, and inaccuracies can quickly creep in with more complicated texts. We are all here to learn.

DISCLAIMER: Just so you know, my focus is purely on the language, and my selection of texts does not express any political views. The Arab world is currently full of sad conflicts. If a text excerpt hits someone personally or makes them angry, please remember that as a journalist, I listen to all sides without judgment, and I do not want to spread any political views or engage in discussions on Arabic for Nerds. All I care about here is the wonderful language of Arabic, and that we can all use it to understand each other better.

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