Complete List of Arabic Speaking Countries 2017

In this article, we provide you with a complete list of Arabic speaking countries. Not only are countries listed whose official language is Arabic, but also countries whose co-official language is Arabic. The first list provided is Arabic speaking countries sorted in alphabetical order. This article also includes data on GDP, population, and sections for each dialectal group of colloquial Arabic. The same data is provided for countries with sizable populations of Arabic speakers or whose co-official language is Arabic.

arabic countries listArabic Speaking Countries List in Alphabetical Order

 

Country
Algeria
Bahrain
Egypt
Iraq
Jordan
Kuwait
Lebanon
Libya
Mauritania
Morocco
Oman
Palestine
Qatar
Saudi Arabia
Sudan
Syria
Tunisia
United Arab Emirates (UAE)
Yemen

 

Brief Background on Arabic and the Arab World

As many as 420 million people around the world speak Arabic, making it the sixth most spoken language. The word “Arab” means “nomad”, which makes sense considering Arabic originated from nomadic tribes in the desert regions of the Arabian Peninsula. Arabic language evolved from Nabataean Aramaic script and has been used since the 4th century CE.  It is written from right to left, in a cursive style, and includes 28 letters similar to the English alphabet. Arabic belongs to the “Semitic” group of languages and is closely related to Hebrew and Aramaic.  It has been preserved since the 7th century CE through the Prophet Muhammad’s revelations recorded in the Qur’an. By the 8th Century CE, Arabic began spreading throughout the Middle East and North Africa as many people converted to Islam. All Muslims are obliged to use Arabic in prayer. Today, the Arab world is as region composed of countries in the Middle East and North Africa where Arabic is an official language. Arabic speaking countries are immensely diverse from one another in terms of their history, culture, politics, and dialects.

 

List of Arabic Speaking Countries by GDP

In total, Arabic speaking countries have a collective GDP of $2.851 trillion. This is approximately 4% of Gross World Product (GWP). Many countries in the Arab world are considered emerging markets. The Arab world is most notable for petroleum production, specifically in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia produces the second most amount of oil in the world with Iraq, UAE, and Kuwait ranking 7, 8, and 11 respectively. Many of these countries economies’ solely depend on oil revenues.  In Qatar, the Arab country with the largest GDP growth (5.6%), petroleum accounts for more than 70% of total government revenue, more than 60% of gross domestic product, and roughly 85% of export earnings. However, petroleum is not the only industry in the Arab world. For example, Jordan does not have oil or other resources for energy production. Instead, services in Jordan account for more than 67% of GDP. The banking sector in Jordan is one of the strongest in the region. Arab Bank is one of the largest financial institutions in the Middle East and is headquartered in Jordan’s capital Amman. The Arab world is also diverse in regards to living standards. Qatar has one of the highest GDP per capita in the world at $93,352 where as Yemen has one of the lowest at $1,473.

 

Country

GDP (billions of USD)

Saudi Arabia

646.00

United Arab Emirates

370.29

Egypt

330.78

Iraq

180.07

Algeria

166.84

Qatar

164.60

Kuwait

114.04

Morocco

100.59

Oman

69.83

Libya

29.15

Sudan

97.16

Syria

73.67

Tunisia

43.02

Lebanon

47.10

Yemen

37.73

Jordan

37.52

Bahrain

31.12

Palestine

6.90

Mauritania

5.44

 

 

Arabic Speaking Frontier Markets & Least Developed Countries

There are a handful of Arabic speaking countries that either fall into the category of a Frontier market or are considered a Least Developed Country (LDC). Frontier markets typically have large market opportunities and high potential for rapid growth. On the other hand these markets are often much riskier than established markets and the lack of infrastructure can make doing business complicated. Arabic LDCs are Arabic speaking countries that show the lowest economic development. Countries like Syria torn by war actually experience contraction in their economy instead of growth and negative GDP as value flows out of the country. It’s important to note that even in these markets there are still some industries and products that do well and experience growth. The study of economics tells us that inferior goods are products that increase in demand as incomes decrease. Bus travel is an example of an inferior good that people turn as their incomes decrease. That said, even some expensive products see a growth in demand in these countries while the economy contracts.  For example Armored vehicles are in high demand in war torn Arab nations where safety is a primary concern.

Below is a list of 4 Arab countries that fall into this category.

Libya

Sudan

Syria

Yemen

 

List of Arabic Speaking Countries by Population

The total estimated population of the Arab World is 369.8 million people (2013). This region stretches from Morocco in Northern Africa to Dubai in the Persian Gulf. Egypt is the most populous country and Bahrain is the least populous country in the region. Many countries in this region have very high population growth rates. For example, Oman and Qatar have the highest population growth rates in the world at 9.2% and 5.6% respectively. Approximately 90% of people in the Arab world identify as Muslim, while 6% are Christian and 4% make up other various religions. The majority of people in this region are ethnically Arab but other major ethnic groups include Berber and Kurdish. Below is the complete Arabic Speaking Countries list sorted by population:

Country Population
Egypt 82,060,000
Algeria 39,210,000
Sudan 37,960,000
Iraq 33,042,000
Morocco 33,010,000
Saudi Arabia 28,290,000
Yemen 24,410,000
Syria 22,850,000
Tunisia 10,890,000
United Arab Emirates 9,346,000
Jordan 6,459,000
Libya 6,202,000
Lebanon 4,467,000
Palestine 4,170,000
Mauritania 3,890,000
Oman 3,632,000
Kuwait 3,369,000
Qatar 2.169,000
Bahrain 1,332,000

 

Other Arab Speaking Countries

Many countries also list Arabic as a Co-official language or have sizable Arabic speaking communities. However, Arabic is a minority language in all of these countries. For example, Chad has two official languages, French and literary Arabic, as well as over 120 indigenous languages.

Country GDP (billions USD) Population
Chad 11.02 12,450,000
Comoros 0.5959 717,503
Djibouti 1.239 859,652
Eritrea 3.092 6,131,000
Israel 242.9 7,908,000
Somalia 0.917 10,200,000
South Sudan 9.337 10,840,000

Dialects of Arabic

There are three forms of Arabic: Modern Standard Arabic (MSA), Qur’anic Arabic / Classical Arabic, and Colloquial Arabic. MSA is the official modern language of the Arab world and is derived from the Qur’an. MSA is widely taught in schools and universities throughout Arab speaking countries. It is also used to varying degrees in workplaces, government, and the media throughout the Arab World.

Despite the existence of MSA, Arabic-Speakers grow up speaking the dialect of their region. Every Arabic speaking country has its own form of colloquial Arabic that differs radically from MSA. A single dialect of colloquial Arabic may be common throughout an entire region or specific to one country. The major Arabic dialectal groups are:

Dialect Areas Spoken Number of Speakers
Egyptian Egypt 55,000,000
Gulf Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE 36,056,000
Hassaniya Mauritania, southern Morocco, south western Algeria, Western Sahara 3,000,000
Levantine Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine, Syria 21,000,000
Maghrebi Algeria, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia 70,000,000
Mesopotamian/Iraqi Iraq, eastern Syria 35,000,000
Sudanese Sudan, Southern Egypt 40,000,000
Yemeni Yemen, Somalia, Djibouti, southern Saudi Arabia 15,000,000

 

dialects

Written by by Scott Ridout

References:

World Economic Outlook Database

Population Analysis of the Arabic Languages

Map of Arabic Dialects