Description of what its like to be a student in Damaaj

There is a nice description of what it’s like to be a student in Damaaj here:

Brief Description of Damaaj, Yemen


Pictures of Housing, Sana’a

Below is an example of a furnished house, (comes with carpet and curtains, no stove/refrigerator), 5 bedrooms for around $350.00/month. Although not the most expensive (there are some apartments renting up to $1200; in Markaz Libby, the rent is around $800.00/month) you can find new unfurnished places in multifamily units for around $150 – $200, they are much simpler in design than this, but still really comfortable.
This is a 2 family villa (one family on top, the other on the bottom) with a small yard and carport area.

Yard and Carport areas

Living Room

Entry Way (1 of 2 in this particular house)

Tips for learning spoken Arabic

After five years of living in a Muslim country, I still am not fluent in speaking Arabic. I don’t really interact with sisters too much and, my oldest son usually did most of the grocery shopping at the small nearby stores; until recently, I did not really get out too much until I discovered the big Western style grocery stores.

My oldest son was nine when we moved to Egypt. Within a year, I would say, he was fluent in the local lingo. Now my nine year old, though not fluent, is picking it up well masha Allah. And as I go out more, I am making some progress, insha Allah. My son hails down the taxi, but has trouble explaining where a store is located so I have to step in…

During my trips out, I have made some observations and come to a few conclusions that make communicating a little more easier. I thought they may be of some help to others who are planning to move to an Arabic country and Arabic is not their native language, again, these are just my thoughts……...

Fushah vs. Local dialect

The language spoken in the streets in most Arabic speaking countries is probably not the fushah that many of us learn say from the Madinah books, etc. You will find local dialects for different countries and even different dialects within a small country. Many times the vocabulary is very different from what you may learn. So be prepared to learn the local lingo, it’s a must….


For out on the street communication, don’t get bogged down into using so much of that grammar you learn from books…Of course it is important to learn grammar to read the quraan and Arabic text, but it can be a time killer out on the streets when you need to communicate quickly.

Example: Conjugation. If you take the time to figure out how to correctly conjugate a word, well you may draw a blank stare from say an impatient taxi driver. I have found that you knowing the “you” form are the most important as you may most likely be addressing one person (say a taxi driver, cashier, etc) and of course learning “I” forms, I want, I need, etc. You may want to get a conjugation dictionary and practice conjugating for those forms of words that you might use often.

Endings (damma, kasrah, fathah).

Of course these are extremely helpful, as they can tell you who or what did something, for example, but when I try to figure out the correct ending, it just takes up a long time and anyway, I find that in spoken language, these are often left off anyway.

Sentence Structure.

Learn how the locals say key phrases and say what they say. It may not seem to make sense if you’ve studied fushah. Just learn it and use it if you want to communicate quickly. I pick up a lot of phrases in the taxi and just use them the next time and it really works. Sometimes you get helpful drivers who will tell you how to say something “better” or “correctly”. Take it and use it, trust me.


Now I can really butcher a word. I may elongate when it’s a short sound or vice versa. When you hear someone pronounce something, remember it. It could mean a world of difference between how you pronounce something and how its locally pronounced. I’ve given names of streets and drawn blank faces and repeated it different ways until I got “m’aruf” (known, I know) picked that phrase up the other day in the taxi…….Its amazing, to me I would think if I mispronounce it you could still figure it out, but apparently not…….


Again, sometimes if you use fushah for a work, it doesn’t go over well. Learn the local vocabulary. For instance, someone learning fushah might say “Matha tureed?” What do you want? Here its “Ish tureed?” “Ish” is used in many places (I think Egypt is one if I remember correctly). If you don’t understand something its “Ish?” Still funny using that one, though…….

Listening, Body Language, and Context Clues

Native speakers seem to speak fast if your ear is not trained. Get lots of practice listening to people. I have learned that sometimes you have to listen for key words instead of trying to take in the whole sentence. Just understanding one word of a string of uncomprehensible words can make the difference between understanding and being completely lost. And also helpful too is that you can sometimes easily pick up the gist of what someone is saying by their body language, whew. Sometimes a driver will rattle off a quick sentence and the only thing that saved me was that he pointed or made some gesture. At first, there will be a lot of trial and error. If you can go around with someone who is fluent and just listen, that really helps. My son is my translator and I often ask, what’d he say? What does that mean? You have to get in there and act like you know what is going on. I asked my son what the taxi driver said thinking he had understood and he said he didn’t know, but the guy pointed,lol.

I am always amazed though because my son will go into a store talk with the people and I sit back and watch them go back and forth, and everything sounded totally foreign to me. You have to get out there and use the language. Studying from a book is good, but to be able to communicate with people, you have to get out there and use it (the masjid, the store, go to a sister’s house, etc) that is how you are going to learn it.

Dips & Salsas

Sahawa (Salsa)


This is a recipe from Yemen. It is used on chicken, beans, rice, etc.


4 tomatoes, chopped

1-2 cucumbers, chopped (optional)

1/4 hot pepper (or to taste)

1 clove garlic, diced

1 tsp olive oil (optional)

Pepper and salt to taste


Blend 1st four ingredients in a blender or hand food grater. Should be the consistency of a salsa. Add olive oil. Eat with chicken, beans, or rice.


Feta Cheese (Jubn Abyad) Dip

1/2 cup feta cheese

4 tomatoes, diced

1 clove garlic, diced

2 tsp olive oil



Mix the first three ingredients in a bowl.

Add the olive oil and mix thoroughly.

Eat with samosas, bread, or anything else you like.



When we were in Egypt and had guests over one time, one of them commented on how “mushy” my rice was. While I was taken aback at the lack of tact, it really didn’t measure up to Middle Eastern rice which is not mushy when prepared and you can eat it with your fingers. So here is how an Egyptian sister schooled me at making rice.

Here is Yemen, they sell Amreeki rice (however it tastes nothing like the rice I grew up on and I don’t really care for this; Basmati, and Mazah. (Of course there are other types too). I love the mazah rice and it very rarely comes out too sticky (unless we add too much water).


Plain Rice

3 cups rice

2 tbsp butter


salt, 1-2 teaspoons


  1. Put the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and let melt.

  2. Add the rice and stir until coated with butter.

  3. Add enough water to cover the rice (about 1/2 inch over the top of the rice) and give a quick stir.

  4. Add salt.

  5. Cover with lid, cook over low heat for about 30 -40 minutes or until rice is soft.

  6. Fluff with fork.

This method yields a non mushy rice that can be eaten easily with the fingers, insha Allah.

You can also add the famous Maggi cubes (chicken buillion cubes) to give it more flavor.

This is my own creation that I made up while here in Yemen.

Rainbow Tuna Rice

1 can of tuna

3 cups rice

2 tbsp butter

1/2 can pineapple chunks

2 tomatoes, chopped

1/2 green pepper, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

salt, 1-2 teaspoons


  1. Put the butter in a saucepan over medium heat and let melt.

  2. Add the rice and stir until coated with butter.

  3. Add onions and green pepper and stir.

  4. Add enough water to cover the rice (about 1/2 inch over the top of the rice)

  5. Add salt.

  6. Cover with lid, cook over low heat for about 30 -40 minutes or until rice is soft.

  7. Fluff with rice and add tomatoes and pineapple chunks.


Beverage Recipes

Haleeb Mowz – (Banana Milk)


This drink is served at Yemeni juice stands.


1/2 cup – 1 cup dry milk

1/2 liter water

3 bananas, cut up into big chunks

1/2 cup sugar

1 cup ice cubes, optional


Blend all ingredients in a blender until thoroughly mixed.




Haleeb Laymun (Lemon Milk)

This drink is served at Yemeni juice stands.

Follow the directions for haleeb mowz above except substitute lemons for the bananas. If you are using middle eastern lemons (diameter is about the size of a quarter, use about 3. If you are using bigger American style lemons, use about 1/2 lemon.). Cut up into small pieces (keep the peel on) and add to blender mixture.


Haleeb (Milk)



This drink is served at Yemeni and Egyptian juice stands.

Makes 1 cup


3 tablespoons dry milk

1 cup water

pinch cinnamon

sugar (to taste)


Mix milk and water to make 1 cup of milk

Add a pinch of cinnamon and sugar to taste. Stir. Can be served hot or cold.


Regular milk may be used in place of the dry milk and water.


Date (tamr) Milk


6-7 moist, pitted dates

1/2 dry powdered milk


sugar to taste

Blend all ingredients in blender until dates are thoroughly blended.

Alternative Method:

Stew dates on the stove in a little sugar and water. When mixture becomes like a syrupy paste, mix with milk.

Serve warm or cold.



Phrases for Getting Around

Here are a few key phrases that are useful for getting around in taxis.

Tawalli or alatoule (straight)

Yameen (right)

Shimaal (left)

Irja (as in turn around and go back the other way, u turn)

Ta’aruf ________? (do you know ______?) as in a particular street or building

Shweyyah (a little bit, a little, a little further)

Ba’dayn (further down)

Ath-thani (the next, as in the next street for example)

Qarib min (close to)

Janby (next to, or near)