Arabic proverbs

Here’s a link to my informant saying the proverbs aloud in the original Arabic, then translating them into English: Arabic proverbs

il-‘ird fi 3ein ummu ġazaal

A monkey in the eye of his mother is a gazelle

Every child is beautiful in his mother’s eyes

This is a very old, and widely dispersed proverb with a terminus post quem of Aesop’s fables ( 620-564 BCE), with the story of Jupiter and the Monkey, in which Jupiter issued a proclamation to all the animals of the forest promising a reward to the one whose baby was judged the best-looking. The monkey came and presented her ugly little baby monkey as a contestant for the competition, and when the other animals started laughing at her, she said that she didn’t know if Jupiter would give her son the prize, but that, at least in her eyes, he was the most beautiful baby of them all.

The idea behind this proverb is that no matter how something seems or appears to an independent bystander, it will be cherished and appreciated/thought beautiful by those who love it. So, even if your child is ugly, you will think it the most beautiful because you love it, and it’s yours.


Ma illy jamal waleh hamel

I don’t have a horse or camel in this race

I don’t have an ulterior motive for trying to do this

This proverb also seen in English as ‘I don’t have a horse in this race’. The idea behind this proverb is that you don’t have vested interest in the competition—that is, you don’t stand to gain or lose anything by its outcome. For some, that may mean that you don’t really care or have an interest in it; for others, it may mean that you are able to be more impartial.

I can’t be sure if this is an Arabic appropriation of the English proverb, or if the proverb had its origins in Arabia, but the addition of the camel makes the proverb distinctly Arabic. Further, since Arabian horses are one of the oldest human-developed horse breeds in the world, possibly dating as far back as 2500 BC, and seeing as Arabia has been a horsing region for millennia, it’s quite possible that the proverb was actually Arabic in origin, and then adopted by other countries as they got horses and started racing.


Citation for the Jupiter and Monkey fable: