11 Arabic Words Every Belly Dancer Should Know (Inspired by Abigail Keyes)

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Abigail Keyes of the Salimpour School teaches us 11 words from popular Arabic dance songs that will help us understand our favorite belly dance songs.

Listen to the whole belly dance podcast interview with Abby here:

1. ‘Omr (pronounced “oh-mrr”) means life

  • More of a big deep, almost spiritual quality
  • Ex: Enta omri (You are my life)

2. Hayat means life

  • More of a worldly, here and now quality
  • Ex: Hayati (my life)

3. Qalb means heart

  • Egyptian Arabic speakers drop the qaff and say “‘alb”
  • Don’t say it with a “k” sound in the front of the mouth. That’s the word for dog. Say it with a qawf/qaf (in the back of your throat). 
  • Ex: ‘albi (my heart) 

4. Hobb / Hubb is related to love

  • Often the root of words related to love
  • Ex: Habibi (my love), Laylet hobb (love night)

5. Bahebbek means  I love you

  • Colloquial

6. Layla means Night

  • Sometimes there’s a “t” on the end when transliterated
  • ex: Laylet hobb (love night)

7. Nar means fire

  • Ex: The song “Nar Nar Nar” by Jo Thaiza

8. Qamar means moon

  • The “q” is dropped in modern Egyptian Arabic: “‘amar”
  • Ex: The song “Amarain” (2 moons)

9. Beled means the land you come from

  • Not necessarily political
  • Can also mean “countryside”
  • Ex: Beledi (my beloved country)

10. Raqs means dance

  • It’s not plural! Always include the “s” on raqs. Saying “you raq!” is like missing part of the word.

11. Taqsim means solo improvisation

  • Usually played by a melodic instrument like an oud or qanoun
  • It also means partition or break. In pieces, a break in the song, etc.
  • The word “taqsim” is often used as a belly dance move name, unrelated to the original musical form meaning.

While learning a language we can slow down songs and other sound files with the app Audiopo 

Check out Abby’s articles:

What Belly Dancers Need to Know About Arabic

Dancers: Don’t Do These Things with Arabic

A Brief Guide to Arabic Transliteration