domingo, 16 de octubre de 2011

Spanish speaker? Arabic speaker rather

In my humble attempts to learn Arabic, I have discovered that there are many words in Spanish that actually come from it. And to my relief, I am not the only Spanish speaking person who doesn’t get Arabic (indeed, the Spanish word “Algarabía”, which means incomprehensible talk comes from “al-'Arabiya”, which basically means "Arabic").

NB: (By the way, as I write this, I realize that this blog post will probably not mean much to my readers who do not speak Spanish, but if you are willing to take my word for it, there ARE loads of words in Spanish that come from Arabic).

NB2: If you want more serious explanation of the influence of Arabic in Spanish, just click here

As I was saying: there are tons of words in Spanish that come from Arabic, many of which I could have sworn were nothing but “Mexicanisms”. Never mind the obvious words, like "Guadalajara"- the name of a city (it also means river of stones)- or "babucha", a sort of slipper that comes originally from Morocco, and that us Mexicans use to refer to any kind of Arabic-looking shoe.  (On a side note: 
there’s even a saying in Mexico “Sacate las Babuchas!” that I have no idea where it comes from, but basically it means you are very surprised).

I have made some fascinating findings with last names. I was in Morocco recently and came across a certain Mr. Bargash. I could not believe this, as “Vargas” is a very common family name in Mexico. The other surprise was when, over coffee, a friend told me that she had found out that the common last name “Reyes” actually comes from Arabic as well. You see, in Arabic, the word “Ras” (plural Reis) means head, boss or king. Well, guess how you say king in Spanish? “Rey”.

The other ones that I like are articles of clothing. “Bantaloun” for “Pantalon” (pants), “Qamis” for “Camisa” (shirt), “Qalcet” for “Calcetines” (socks), “Sobat” for “Zapato” (shoes). I also love the ones that have to do with food: “Zeitun” for “Aceituna” (olive), coming obviously from  “Zeit” or “Aceite” (oil),  “Zukkar for “Azucar” (sugar), the color “Zafra”, that means yellow, and where the word “Azafran” (saffron) comes from. And finally you have places in the house, such as “Assutáyha” for “azotea” (roof), or “Al-qubba” for “Alcoba” (room).

But my all time favorite is “al qawwad” (the messenger) which gives the word  “Alcahuete” (accomplice in a love affair).

I wonder what my Mum will tell me when I go back home, and I start asking for “Zeitunas”, or I say I am going to my “Alqubba”, or if I tell her I like her “Sobatos”… She will tell me “ You are loca!” (which comes from “lawqa").

PS: please note that my “spelling” with the words in Arabic might not be correct, as I am reproducing them phonetically. 

martes, 4 de octubre de 2011

Walking around in Beirut

I wonder if I am writing less these days because I am too busy or because Beirut is becoming “what is usual”. I spend sometimes days thinking about what I am going to write about and then it hits me!

I was running on Sunday on the “Corniche”, this promenade along the Mediterranean Sea, where everyone and their mother spends countless hours wondering around. I couldn’t help but thinking of the “Alameda”  a long street in Mexico City’ s downtown, where everyone goes to hangout on Sundays aswell.

The “Corniche” is Beirut’s traditional waterfront. You have beautiful hotels, the American University of Beirut, Starbucks and Mc Donalds side by side with decaying buildings, coffee shops and little stores.

On the Corniche, vagabonds are strolling around next to highly make-uped and jeweled ladies wearing Chanel (how else would you go jogging, hello?), little kids on their tricycles, next to big kids on their mopeds (yes, on the sidewalk), miniskirts next to veils, bikes and rollerblades and even fishermen next to runners.

On a Saturday or Sunday night, cars are parked along the sidewalk, blasting some Arabic songs, and people sometimes are even dancing too. Others bring their Arguileh -or water pipe- and suck on it merrily while people-watching. A man can approach you to sell you some knock-your-socks-off coffee (to “wake your veins up” according to him. I just get massive jitters), bread, or cigarrettes.  

But don’t be fooled: the Corniche is vibrant and fully alive every day of the week, and dare I say, at every hour. Sometimes when I go for a run at 7am, it is already full of joggers, ladies on their cell-phones or fishermen. During the day, you can see some people jumping off the Corniche to swim (no girls allowed though). And on weekends families come to walk around, the Corniche being one of the only pedestrian areas in Beirut.

I personally just love the Ferris wheel, lit up with neon lights at night or the fact that you can see off "Raouche" the Pigeon rock at a distance.

But what I like the most about the Corniche is that everybody goes. Young and old. Families and young couples. Men and women. Muslim and Christian. Locals and tourists. These days I feel there are fewer and fewer places like this. Hence the importance of public spaces. 

So if you are in Beirut, do not miss an afternoon walk along the Corniche. You will see all of Lebanon there, walking.

 Photos from Wikipedia