middle east

Completed Demotic Dictionary Unlocks Common Life in Ancient Egypt

Demotic Dictionary

Dictionaries are an important part of any translation process, particularly if the language is no longer spoken. Take ancient Egypt. While we might think of hieroglyphs as the language of ancient Egyptians, the language that everyday people wrote and spoke was quite different. Known as Demotic (from the Greek meaning "the tongue of the demos," or the common people), this language was one of the three scripts on the famous Rosetta Stone (shown above, along with Greek and hieroglyphs) that enabled scholars to translate the meanings of the hieroglyphs and unlock an entire period of history.

Scholars at the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago have completed an almost 40-year project of a Demotic dictionary, expected to further unlock the many unpublished manuscripts from this period in history. Read on to find out more about Demotic, the dictionary making process, and why this language is relevant today.

Visions of Alexandria: The Universal Library, Then and Now

June 17, 2011 by Garner Gollatz
Category: Technology, Culture

If scholars, linguists and book lovers could travel through time, one of their first destinations would be the Royal Library of Alexandria, Egypt. In the time of Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, this legendary center of learning was reputed to be a universal library, gathering what was then all the world's Royal Library of Alexandriaknowledge in a single place.

The original Library of Alexandria has long since vanished. The ideal it represents, however, continues to inspire visionaries in the digital age. Today, tourists and scholars can find a similar experience at sites such as Egypt's new Biblioteca Alexandrina, while digital pioneers are coming closer than ever to creating a true universal library online.

The First Universal Library

The original Library of Alexandria, founded by Egypt's King Ptolemy II in the 2nd century B.C., was said to contain hundreds of thousands of scrolls from throughout the ancient world, written in Greek and many other languages. For centuries afterward, Ptolemy’s creation helped make Egypt an active hub of scholarship and education.

The Library's exact fate remains a mystery. Historians have blamed its destruction on Julius Caesar, the Emperor Aurelian, religious strife in the late Roman Empire and invading Arab armies. What is certain is that its disappearance marked the end of ancient Egypt’s intellectual preeminence. The dream of a universal library went into eclipse for much of the next 2000 years.

Been There, Never Done That: Four Hours in Dubai

May 18, 2011 by Lauren Kerr
Category: Culture

The meeting's over. You've got a little time to explore. It's your chance to get out of that hotel room, get off the beaten path, and experience the culture, the flavor, and the people.

We've pulled together some of our favorite activities and places in Dubai, the ones most travelers don’t have a chance to experience. Next time you’re in town with a few free hours, check out our list and go home with your best stories ever.

dubai abra

  • With everything from frankincense to shisha on display, Dubai’s open-air spice souk is a small, fragrant wonderland. Ride a traditional abra across the creek to get there.
  • Got a little more time? Go sandboarding just outside the city on rolling red dunes.

Egypt: The Arab World's Trendsetting Nation

February 25, 2011 by Garner Gollatz
Category: International & Global Translation Services, Culture

As Egypt goes, so goes the Arab world: if that idea has lost some of its currency in recent years, Egypt’s latest revolution is proving its worth once again. By far the most populous Arab country, Egypt has long had a cultural influence that extends far beyond its borders — a status reflected in Cairo’s Arabic nickname, “Umm Al-Dunya”, or “Mother of the World." A brief look at a few of Egypt’s “greatest hits” shows why events there have such an outsized impact on other Arab countries, and why the rise of democracy in Egypt could pave the way for a new era in the region.

Politics. For better or worse, Egypt has long been at the leading edge of Arab politics. The fiery President Gamal Abdel Nasser breathed life into Arab nationalism and inspired a generation of young revolutionaries — though his star dimmed after Egypt’s disastrous 1967 war with Israel. His successor, Anwar Al-Sadat, lacked Nasser’s popular appeal, yet he transformed Arab politics yet again by making peace with Israel and aligning Egypt with the West.

egyptian musicians

Music. Cairo and Beirut have a longstanding rivalry as capitals of the Arab music industry. For lovers of traditional Arab music, twentieth-century Egyptian stars such as Umm Kulthum and Farid Al-Atrash remain legends. More recently, singer Amr Diab has become one of a handful of Arab pop stars to achieve worldwide fame, most notably with his 1996 single Habibi ya Nur al-‘Ain.

Egypt’s Revolution: Good for Business?

February 17, 2011 by Garner Gollatz
Category: International & Global Translation Services, International Business

cairo fruit stallThe international business community is still trying to assess the effects of revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia for investment and growth in the Middle East and North Africa—especially now that similar uprisings are springing up across the Arab world. A brief look at the Arab and foreign media reveals uncertainty and concern over what will happen next. Yet there is also hope that greater democracy will improve the economic outlook both in Egypt and elsewhere in the region.

To be sure, the economy of the Arab world’s largest country is still reeling after weeks of paralysis. Banks have reopened, but Egypt’s stock market remains closed, reportedly infuriating foreign investors, and the tourists who power much of the economy have been slow to return. Exacerbating the immediate crisis, the rash of labor protests and strikes that helped bring down Egypt’s dictatorship has not yet abated. The Egyptian state newspaper Al-Ahram (in Arabic) echoes the new government’s call for the strikes to end, saying they endanger the country’s economic growth.

Egypt Is Heard

On Friday, January 28, 2011 the ruling government of Egypt cut off access to internet and cell phone services to its 80 million inhabitants. That’s the equivalent of shutting down access to everyone in California, Texas, and Florida. Yet, despite this, individual voices among the hundreds of thousands of Egyptian protesters are still being broadcast not only via traditional television news, but also via YouTube, personal blogs and Twitter feeds. Similar to the events that occurred in Thailand in 2010 and Iran in 2009, the "internet revolution" has transformed the 21st century civic revolution into a 24/7 newsfeed of insightful, real-time protester tidbits.

egypt twitter feed

Videos, blogs, and tweets are the new call to arms — instead of picking up pens, protesters now wield phones. Want to glean a bit of what’s being written by Egyptians but don’t speak Arabic? No problem. Check out Meedan, a service we profiled in a previous blog that translates various news items from Arabic into English, along with translated reader comments. Another similar website is Alive In Egypt, which adds English subtitles to videos, and Arabic transcriptions along with English translations of Speak2Tweet audio files. Speak2Tweet, launched by Google when the Egyptian protests started, allows anyone to leave a voicemail that is then placed onto Twitter with an #egypt hashtag.

Traveler's Corner: Ben Howdeshell in Israel

April 1, 2010 by Ben Howdeshell
Category: "Spot" on Language

st james street israelOn a recent trip to Israel, one of the things that caught my eye was the interplay of the country's two official languages, Hebrew and Arabic, with the equally ubiquitous but not officially official third language, English.

Before my trip, concerned at the thought of not being able express my desire to find a restroom or, heaven forbid, a bar, I spent several weeks trying to become familiar with basic Hebrew. I got to a point where I could eke out “Eifoh efshar liknot beerah, b’vakashah?”  “Where can I buy beer, please?” which was functional if not absolutely grammatically correct; victory enough despite its glaring inelegance. So what if I had to play the bumbling, awkward tourist for a few days? Phrasebook and dictionary packed, I boarded the plane.

Landing at Ben Gurion airport, I was secretly relieved to see that advertisements for Bank Hapoalim — a local Israeli bank — were painted in both Hebrew and English on the outside of the jetways leading up to the building.

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Smart, fun and useful. Acclaro shares news and tips on translation, localization, language, global business and culture.


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