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Arabic Dialect Samples with Video Examples


Arabic: It is the native language of over 374 million people, the official language of 22 countries, and one of the oldest and most widely studied languages in the world. But did you know that there is not just one Arabic language? Arabic can refer to Classical Arabic, Modern Standard Arabic, or any one of the wide varieties of Arabic dialects spoken throughout the Middle East and Africa. Keep reading to learn all about the different forms Arabic can take!


Arabic dialects are defined by geographical and historical factors. Generally, each country in the Middle East and Arabic-speaking Africa region has its own dialect, but many countries have sub-dialects that range in their difference from each other. As you can imagine, the farther away one country is from another, the more their dialect changes, making it so that some dialects are barely mutually intelligible and can seem like a whole different language! Check out this video of students speaking in their native dialects to get a feel for the diversity of the dialects, before we go into more detail about each one.


Students speaking different Arabic dialects


Arabic: Classical, Standard, or Dialect?


Arabic dates back to the 1st Century, so it is no wonder that the Arabic of today has greatly evolved from the original language. However, because of its unique linguistic system based on the roots on which words are formed, the language has been preserved and adopted by a variety of civilizations throughout history. There are three main distinctions to make when discussing the modern Arabic language of today. The first is Classical Arabic, which is the formal written language of the Qu’ran. The second is Modern Standard Arabic, known as Fus’ha or MSA, which is the standard form of Arabic used across the world for business, journalism, and public affairs. Lastly, we have the Arabic dialects: while the vast majority of Arabic speakers understand Classical Arabic and MSA, all Arabic speakers have a dialect as their native language.


Arabic Dialects: Main Groupings

Arabic Dialect Group Categories Map

Breakdown of the main Arabic dialect categories


Some sources define as many as 30 different dialects of Arabic. For this article, we will discuss and give examples of the most common dialects, based on the amount of speakers. The map above shows the main Arabic dialect groupings based on region, however, within each dialectal block there are many subdivisions of each dialect. Let’s take a look (and listen) to the main dialects.



Home to over 107 million native Arabic speakers, the Egyptian dialect is one of the most widely used and understood dialects throughout the Arab-speaking world. Given the popularity of Egyptian cinema and music that flourished throughout the 20th century with the massive production of films watched all over the region, many Arabic speakers from all over can easily recognize and understand Egyptian Arabic. Also known as Masri, one distinctive feature of this dialect is the pronunciation of the j consonant sound as g. A variety of the Egyptian dialect is also predominantly spoken in neighboring Libya.


Example of the Egyptian dialect


Gulf Arabic or Khaleeeji is an umbrella term for the sub-dialects of Arabic spoken in the Gulf region, also known as the Arabian Peninsula. Gulf Arabic is used to describe the Arabic spoken in Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, the UAE, Oman, and Kuwait, and while there are significant differences in accent and other linguistic features between these Gulf countries, the dialects within this region are generally considered to be mutually understandable. One distinctive feature of Gulf dialects is the pronunciation of the Arabic letter qaaf as gaaf, such as in the word for coffee: qahwa is pronounced as gahwa.


Gulf Arabic example from a Saudi Arabian commercial

As a reminder of how much dialects can vary within their grouping – in this case, Gulf Arabic – check out this video!



Levantine Arabic or Shami is the dialectal variety spoken in the Levant region, comprising Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and the Palestinian territories. Such as with Gulf Arabic, each country has its linguistic particularities, but they are considered to be easily mutually intelligible with one another. Levantine Arabic is easily recognizable by almost all Arabic speakers because of the popularity of music and media originating from the Levant region. Levantine Arabic is considered to be a ‘softer’ dialect, because of the tendency to subdue the pronunciation of guttural consonants such as ‘ain, as well as omitting altogether the pronunciation of the guttural qaaf: for example, qahwa (coffee) is pronounced as ‘ahwa by a Levantine speaker.


Levantine Arabic example


Maghrebi (Morocco & Western Algeria)

Maghreb is the term used to describe the region of Francophone North Africa, typically from Mauritania to Tunisia. Within this region, there are many different dialects of Arabic spoken in addition to indigenous Amazigh (Berber) languages, which are not in the Arabic language family. One of the main dialects is Moroccan Arabic, also known as Darija, which is spoken throughout Morocco with some overlap into Algeria to the west. Moroccan Arabic has a reputation for being particularly tricky to understand, mostly due to the large amount of loan words from French, Spanish, and Amazigh languages. For a foreigner who only speaks Modern Standard Arabic, it would be much harder to understand Moroccan Arabic than Gulf Arabic or Levantine Arabic, for example.


Moroccan Darija example


Tunisian Maghrebi

Tunisian Arabic, also known as Tounsi, is notably different from Moroccan Arabic and Egyptian Arabic. It has a unique vocabulary as well as a very noticeable accent. There are certain words like barsha, meaning ‘a lot’, that immediately indicate someone is speaking in Tunisian. Tunisian Arabic is generally considered to be mutually understandable with varietals of Maghrebi Arabic spoken in Algeria, but Arabic speakers from the Levant or Gulf might have difficulty understanding Tunisian.


Tunisian Arabic example



Hassaniya is an offshoot of Maghrebi Arabic and the predominant dialect in Mauritania, Western Sahara, and the Saharan regions of Moroccan and Algeria and is also spoken in Mali, Niger, Senegal, and Libya. Hassaniya Arabic’s origin traces back to Bedouin tribes from Yemen who migrated west throughout Saharan Africa, thus explaining its wide geographical reach. Today, Hassaniya Arabic has influence from southern Moroccan Amazigh (Berber) dialects and Wolof, a Senegalese language.


Hassaniya example from Muaritania


Iraqi / Mesopotamian

As the name suggests, Iraqi Arabic is the dialect spoken in Iraq and some parts of Kuwait. Though Iraq is close to both the Gulf countries and the Levant, its dialect is unique and distinguishable and features many loanwords from Persian, granted its proximity to Iran. One feature of Iraqi Arabic is the nasalization of the a vowel sound, as well as the pronunciation of the Arabic k consonant sound as ch in certain grammatical contexts. Similar to Gulf Arabic, the q consonant is often pronounced as g. It is important to note that Kurdish is also spoken in many regions of northern Iraq, and this language is not mutually intelligible with Arabic.


Iraqi Arabic example from a news report at a market in Karbala



Sudanese Arabic is the dialect of Arabic primarily spoken in Sudan, although there are many variations of the dialect based on where it is used. Versions of Sudanese Arabic are spoken throughout not only Sudan but also South Sudan, Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. The entire area where Sudanese Arabic is spoken is also home to a vast amount of other languages that do not originate from the Arabic language family such as Nubian, Beja, and Fur. These languages have influenced Sudanese Arabic, which is a factor that can make Sudanese Arabic difficult to understand for speakers of other Arabic dialects.


Sudanese Arabic example from a TV Game Show



Though Yemen is in the Gulf region, Yemeni Arabic is typically considered its own dialect, but it is mutually understandable with Gulf Arabic dialects. Yemeni Arabic has the reputation of being the closest dialect to Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) due to its preservation of classical linguistic features and pronunciations.


Yemeni Arabic example from a Yemen Mobile advertisement



You now have an overview of the vast diversity of the Arabic language! While it is easy to notice the differences between the different dialects and accents, it is important to remember that all the dialects are rooted in Classical Arabic and MSA. Therefore, if you are interested in learning Arabic, MSA is a good place to start: almost all Arabic speakers throughout the region will be able to understand you.


Article Originally Written and Researched by
Luisa Bocconcelli




Article Reviewed and Edited by

Jordan Boshers

Jordan Boshers is the Chief Digital Strategist at IstiZada, a digital agency that helps companies market to Arabs. He has 10+ years of experience running successful digital marketing campaigns in the Arab world. His insights into Arabic SEO helped him grow previously unknown websites to dominate Arabic niches on Google including growing one site from 0 to more than 1 million users monthly. Jordan has consulted for hundreds of companies including helping corporations like Amazon, Berlitz, and Exxon Mobil with their Arabic digital marketing. Learn more here or on LinkedIn.