Understanding Saudi & Arab names

December 6, 2006 – Wednesday

Understanding Saudi and Arab names….
Current mood: informative
Category: informative
Travel and Places

Some of my friends have asked me why I have not taken Abdullah’s family name.  For privacy sake I am not going to reveal full names here but I will attempt to explain about Saudi and Arab names for those not familiar with the traditions of names….Arab names (and in this case Arab and Saudi is synonomous here) are such that one can trace the family and the tribe.  For example if an arab is named Mohammed Abdul Al-Wadhi what this means is that the first name (given name) is Mohammed and the father’s name is/was Abdul and Al-Wadhi is the family/tribal name.  Therefore if Mohammed has children, they would each have their own first name (given name) but where most Americans have a middle name, in the case of Mohammed’s children each one would have the middle name of Mohammed (whether male or female) so again, one knows who is the father.  (Ie, Fatima Mohammed Al-Wadhi or Maher Mohammed Al-Wadhi)  Due to these traditions, when arab women marry they also retain their family name and do not take the surname of their husband.  Most arabs can trace their names back many generations.  So when meeting an arab and particularly if you are to engage in business, you will want to know the full name.  It is unusual for an arab to simply state his name as “Mohammed Al-Wadhi.”  He would likely provide his full name and also include his full name or middle initial on any business card.In the arab world tribes and families are very important.  One can readily tell with what kind of a person they are interacting and engaging in business by knowing the tribe (family).  When when discusses meeting an arab, usually the first question to be asked is ‘what is the family name.’Secondly it is also important when engaging in business that if you receive a business card from an arab, you not only want to know how they choose to spell their name in English but even more important is to have the spelling in Arabic.  For example, I have some Saudi friends who are all in the same family (brothers and sisters) but on their English language business cards none of them have chosen to spell their family name the same way although in arabic it is identical for all of them.  Because arab names can be very very similar in sound and spelling, it is critical to have the arabic version to know with what family one is engaged in business. 

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5 Responses

  1. […] Arab names which explains why the Saudi husband and wife will have differing last names. See https://delhi4cats.wordpress.com/2007/10/18/understanding-saudi-arab-names/ to read the full […]

  2. […] Jr, John James III, etc., it is unlikely to find such a tradition in place in Saudi names.  A Saudis name will always indicate who his father and grandfather […]

  3. Hi, this article is in need os some minor corrections…

  4. Hi Sara,

    Welcome…I’d be curious to what you find is incorrect?

  5. I have a person I am doing business with in Saudi Arabia . He has handed me business cards several times over the years and his first name seems to change from time to time.. I was told by my client the above comments about English and Arabic ways of saying the name correct and they change the name so it is said correctly. I now just got a email from him and his last name now changed 100% different.. I want to be respectful in understanding why this happened. Any thoughts?

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