When Greeting Amman …

Saying hello has never been so much fun.

Sitting next to Ali at the university when his phone rings, it’s his dad. The barrage begins. Greeting after greeting with all the suitable responses and customary timely interjections of al-hamdu lillah. In a conversation that lasts for only a few minutes, the key information (what time are you getting the bus home son?) is only asked in the last ten seconds. Coming shortly before the oral equivalent of the full-stop: ‘yalla bye’ (lit. let’s go, bye).

So here are some ways of enquiring to the ‘alrightness’ of your mate in Jordan plus how to reply (note: if ever in doubt go for al-hamdu lillah – lit. ‘thanks be to God’).

Just keep in mind that bumping into someone you know or, God-forbid receiving a phone call from them, is never simply a case of “hi, you alright? yeh, fine thanks. So about that bed-bug infestation…”


Saying “Good morning”:

Sabaah el-kheer (morning of goodness)

Pick your reply from:

sabaah el-noor (morning of light)

sabaah el-warrd (morning of flowers)

sabaah el-fol (morning of jasmine)

sabaah + anything topical / in line of sight at the time

e.g. sabaah el-gahwey / el-ahwey (morning of coffee, to indicate to the person who dared speak to you at this hour that they should very well get you some caffeine to make up for it)


Saying “Hello”:

There is the formal and polite approach (usually said on entering a shop, greeting a stranger, or being a good citizen)

A-salamu alaykum (peace be upon you)

wa alaykumu a-salam (and peace upon you)

And then the more general:

Merhaba (‘hi, hey, yo, avast!’)

 Reply with: merhabtayn (two hellos) or ahlayn (welcome)


“You alright pal?”: (note: ak becomes ik when talking to a woman)

Keef halak? (how is your condition?)

Shloan-ak? (what colour are you?)


Keefak? (how are you?)

Kol shi tamaam? (is everything good?)

Shu Akbarak? (what’s your news?)


Responses to all the above can include:

– mneeh, maleeh, tamaam, b-kheer, kwayes, zayn (good)

– mash el-hal (not bad)

– yaani (alright- indicating you are not alright)


Shu fee ma fee? (what’s up?)

– Safiay wafiay (nothing new)

Shaku Maku? (Iraqi version of the above)

– Koolesh Maku (everything is maku (whatever that means))

Gow-ak (a bedouin greeting)

– Gow-eet (reply to bedouin greeting, then good luck understanding the rest of what they say)

There are a million more of such greetings from different dialects, towns, families, tribes and isolated tents, so for now it’s …

Yalla bye.


7 thoughts on “When Greeting Amman …

  1. Do I detect an early movember!


  2. Hi… what a great post… btw, are u study in amman or what?


      1. Wow.. me too… im from malaysia.. nice to meet u


      2. nice, yep you too, are you at the university?


      3. Yup.. at the university… im taking arabic.


      4. Yup.. at university.. im taking arabic


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