A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

beyond the burj: Diamond in Sharjah

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 29, 2007

I spent the other night up in Sharjah, Dubai’s smaller (but growing) and more conservative cousin to the northeast.

(The emirate’s name is not properly sharjah but sharqah, reflecting its orientation. The transliteration as sharJah I think was the product of a double translation by an Egyptian or Jordanian Arabic speaker, who must have heard the Gulf pronunciation of “q” as “g” and re-interpreted as a “j”, since Egyptians and Jordanians pronounce the “j” as a “g”).

Sharjah reminds me of the Gulf I remember from the late 1990s and early 2000s – lots of small shops and dust. But it is growing – there are skyscrapers under construction wherever one looks.

I took these photos early yesterday morning while out for a walk.




2 Responses to “beyond the burj: Diamond in Sharjah”

  1. martin said

    Hi, my comment might sound somewhat futile, but i don’t think your explanation of why sharqah is pronounced sharjah is the good one; i’d rather say that in this part of the Gulf the Qaf is sometimes pronounced “J”. Although i might be wrong, (I never went to the Emirates myself), I remember having noticed this peculiarity while listening to Emirati people on some arabic satellite TV channel).

    As far as the Jordanian dialect is concerned, i can tell you that nowhere in Jordan you’ll hear the J pronounced G (except by the thousands of egyptian workers living in Amman or in the Jordan valley!): this is specific to Egypt (more precisely to Cairo and the north, as you probably know).

    c’est tout!

  2. Dear Martin,

    *Laughing* Your comments are hardly futile – they are very interesting. The Sharqah/Shargah/Sharjah connection is a rather common theory among Arabic speakers & linguists I know; I lack enough familiarity with Sharqawi residents to know whether most do indeed say Sharjah – although I certainly believe you if you have lived in the emirate for some time.

    As for the matter of whether only Egyptian laborers in Jordan pronounce the “j” as a “g”, I am tempted to tell this to my Jordanian friends. Tempted, but only in the abstract:-) – I don’t want to suddenly discover that by comparing them to Sa`idis our friendship has suddenly come to an end :-).

    In any case it might be that we are both right – these countries boast any number of micro-accents, and it might be that our language expectations differ because the accents of our respective acquaintances reflect this.

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