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Western Egyptian Bedawi Arabic

Western Egyptian Bedawi Arabic
Sahil Maryut Bedouin Arabic
Sulaimitian Arabic
Native toEgypt
RegionAlexandria, Beheira, Matrouh, Beni Suef, Cairo, Egypt–Libya border
Speakers470,000 (2021)[1]
Arabic alphabet
Language codes
ISO 639-3ayl included in Libyan Arabic [ayl][2]

Western Egyptian Bedawi Arabic, also known as Sahil Maryut Bedouin Arabic,[3][4] is a group of Bedouin Arabic dialects spoken in Western Egypt along the Mediterranean coast, west to the Egypt–Libya border.[2][5] Ethnologue and Glottolog classify Western Egyptian Bedawi Arabic as a Libyan Arabic dialect.[6][2]

This variety is spoken by the Awlad Ali tribe,[7][8] who settled in the edges of Lake Maryut and west of Bihera beginning in the 17th century from the region of Jebel Akhdar (Libya).[9] It is also spoken in Wadi El Natrun.[10] Their dialect is phonologically, morphophonemically and morphologically closer to the Peninsular Bedouin dialects than to the adjacent Egyptian dialects.[11] Egyptian Arabic speakers from other parts of Egypt do not understand the Awlad Ali dialect.[12]

Western Bedouin dialects influenced the dialects of southern Upper Egypt between Asyut and Idfu, and those of the Bahariyya Oasis and Bihera.[9]


The dialects spoken in Matruh province as well as in eastern Libya have been traditionally classified as belonging to the Sulaymi Bedouin dialects, characterized by a /g/ reflex of Qāf, the gahawa-syndrome, and feminine plural conjugations and pronouns.[13] However, the classification of North African Bedouin dialects into Hilalian, Sulaimitian, and Ma’qilian groups is not uncontroversial, and is based primarily on socio-historical and geographical considerations.[14][15] While the dialects of Tripolitania represent a continuation of Tunisian dialects, the dialects of Cyrenaica show affinities with Eastern Bedouin dialects, especially with regards to the gahawa-syndrome and syllable structure.[14]


Labial Interdental Dental/Alveolar Palatal Velar Pharyngeal Glottal
plain emph. plain emph.
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless t tˤʔ k
voiced b d ɡ
Fricative voiceless f θ s ʃ x ħ h
voiced ð ðˤ z ʒ ɣ ʕ
Tap/Trill r
Approximant l j w


  • /ṭ/ is glottalized as in Upper Egyptian Arabic: [tˤʔ]
Front Central Back
Close i
Mid ə
Open a



Contrary to MSA, Western Egyptian Bedawi uses the plural pronouns for dual pronouns:

Independent personal pronouns[9]
Singular Plural
1st person (m/f) , nābīdi iḥna, niḥna
2nd person m init intu
f inti intan
3rd person m həm
f hin

The following direct object pronominal suffixes are attached to verbs:

Direct object pronominal suffixes[9]
Singular Plural
1st person (m/f) -ni -na
2nd person m -ak -kam
f -ik -kan
3rd person m -ih, -ah (near emphatics) -həm ~ -ham
f -ha -hin ~ -hən

The following demonstrative pronouns are used. The form hāḏ̣ayīəhi is also used with the suffix -yīəhi:

Demonstrative pronouns[9]
Singular Plural

(this, these)

m hāḏ̣a hāḏowl
f hāḏi hāḏeyn

(that, those)

m hāḏ̣āk hāḏ̣alówk
f hāḏīk hāḏ̣alák

The following interrogative pronouns are used:

Interrogative pronouns[9]
Arabic English
eyš what
leyš why
eymítta when
weyn where
keyf, eyšinhū, eyšinhī how



There are two types of strong perfect stems, CiCáC (a-type) and CCiC (i-type). Examples of a-type perfects are misák, nizál, ṭiláʿ, fihám. Examples of i-type perfects are šrib, rkib, zʿil, smiʿ, ʿrif, gdir, kbir, kṯir, tʿib, lbis, ybis.[9]

Some perfect conjugations are shown below:

Base w/ Object Suffixes
3rd person sg. m misák
f msíkat msikīət-ih, msikát-ta
3rd person pl. m msíkaw
f msíkan msikánn-ih


There are three types of strong imperfect stems, CCiC (i-type), CCəC (ə-type), and CCaC (a-type). The vowel of the conjugation prefix harmonizes with the vowel of the stem: yiktib, yərgəd, yašṛab. The conjugation of the 1st person follows the niktib-níkitbu paradigm.[9]



The pronunciation [ʒ] for ǧīm occurs in the west of the Bihera, were Awlad Ali settled. Metathesized forms such as mašzid “mosque” may be a result of the influence of their dialect.[16]


  1. ^ Western Egyptian Bedawi Arabic at Ethnologue (26th ed., 2023) Closed access icon
  2. ^ a b c d Arabic, Libyan Spoken at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022) Closed access icon
  3. ^ Maṭar 1967.
  4. ^ Maṭar 1981.
  5. ^ Ennaji 1998, p. 7.
  6. ^ "Glottolog 4.7 - Western Egyptian Bedawi Arabic". Retrieved 2023-01-01.
  7. ^ Al‐Wer & Jong 2017, p. 529.
  8. ^ Hüsken 2019, p. 39.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Behnstedt & Woidich 1987, p. 244-251.
  10. ^ Wilmsen & Woidich 2011, p. 2.
  11. ^ Behnstedt & Woidich 2005, p. 39.
  12. ^ Hüsken 2019, p. 54.
  13. ^ Souag, Lameen (2009). "Siwa and its significance for Arabic dialectology". Zeitschrift für Arabische Linguistik (51): 51–75. ISSN 0170-026X. JSTOR 43525858.
  14. ^ a b Taine-Cheikh, Catherine (2017). "La classification des parlers bédouins du Maghreb : revisiter le classement traditionnel". Tunisian and Libyan Arabic Dialects: Common Trends - Recent Developments - Diachronic Aspects (in French).
  15. ^ Benkato, Adam (2019-12-13). "From Medieval Tribes to Modern Dialects: on the Afterlives of Colonial Knowledge in Arabic Dialectology". Philological Encounters. 4 (1–2): 2–25. doi:10.1163/24519197-12340061. ISSN 2451-9197. S2CID 213987414.
  16. ^ Holes 2018, p. 80.


Further reading

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Western Egyptian Bedawi Arabic
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