Team Nisreen video transcription: حمام السلام (The Dove of Peace)

This clip is from بقعة ضوء buq3et Daw2 (spotlight), a sketch show which has been airing for quite a long time now and has featured at one time or another basically every Syrian actor. It is the first scene of the episode حمام السلام ‭‭7amaam éssalaam ‘the dove of peace’.

The entire episode is an allegorical tale about destroying what you have by fighting with your friends and neighbours over political differences. The two main characters, Wa7iid and Sherko, are pigeon-fanciers (كشاشة kashshaashe or حميماتي  ‭‭7amiimaati). This hobby (or sometimes profession) is provided with the following saucy definition by one internet site discussing a decision to impose government licensing laws on people who want to keep pigeons:

الكشاشون فئة لم تكتف بتربية الحمام لرقته وجماله وحنين هديله بل تعلقوا بالحمام تعلق العاشق بالمعشوقة وبذلوا في سبيله المطال والوقت حتى قيل إن الكشاش <سلبة>, هي نفسها الاستلاب في لغة الفصحاء>

Romantic attachment to birds aside, a kashshaash is somebody who catches pigeons, doves etc by maintaining a flock of birds (كشة kashshe) who from time to time they send flying off into the sky. Other birds (probably belonging to another kashshaash) will mingle into the flock and then when it lands the kashshaash grabs them and sticks them away in a cage. Profit can then be made out of selling them, if you’re that way inclined. This activity (known as كش kashsh, the maSdar of the verb kashsh ykéshsh) has something of a bad reputation and the kashshaashe are known for stealing from one another and for lying, which is referenced by popular proverbs and slang (لا تكش laa tkéshsh ‘don’t lie’).

A story of this kind forms the basis for the allegory. Wa7iid steals a bird belonging to Sheeko’s flock, a طاير حر Taayer 7érr (‘free bird’). In return, Sherko steals one of Wa7iid’s, nicknamed البغدادي élbaghdaadi. Their quarrel, which is rooted in their ‘political differences’ (the names of the birds are allusions to the Free Syrian Army and ISIS, of course), escalates despite the warnings of their wiser, older mutual friend, and in the end results in the destruction of both their flocks and the loss of everything and the ‘intervention’ of outsiders.

This transcription is of the first scene. Although it includes a lot of very fast shouting and some avian vocabulary, the entire episode is worth watching.

حيو الطير الكشميييييري
7ayyo TTeer élkashmiiri
Hooray for the Kashmiri bird!

حيو is a difficult one to translate. ‘hooray’ sounds much stupider in English than حيو does, but it covers a vaguely similar semantic territory.

 شفلي هالكشة شفلي… شي رفع
shéfli halkashshe shéfli… shi rafi3.
Just take a look at that flock, eh? Glorious.

شفلي shuuf + li with shortening of the long vowel. شاف is typically glossed as ‘see’, but can also have the meaning of ‘look at’ (i.e. seeing deliberately).

شي رفع shi rafi3 – شي often appears before adjectives like this as a kind of dummy noun for the adjective to modify: shi ghaali ktiir ‘wow, that’s pretty expensive’, shi 2akiid ‘of course’, etc.

تعال تعال تعال هاتو هاتو
ta3aal ta3aal ta3aal… haato haato
Come over here, come on, give it here.

طيرو طيرو ليكو مبين فريخ يعني بعدو
Tayyro Tayyro. Leeko mbayyen @freekh ya3ni ba3do
Come on, let it go. It’s obviously just a chick still.

طيّر is obviously the causative of Taar ‘fly’. Here it means ‘let it fly away’, ‘send it flying away’ – i.e. release the bird that they’ve caught with the كشة.

ليكو – literally ‘there it is’.

مبين ‘clearly’.

بعدو – ba3d plus personal pronouns can mean ‘still’ in the same meaning as لسا.

شو هادا معلمي سيكي ما؟
shu haada m3allmi, siiki maa?
What’s this, boss? A siiki, right?

ما – one of various different ways to do tag questions, alongside مو, صح, مو هيك, ما هيك etc.

سيكي؟ لك تعلم. هادا اسمو طير حر
siiki? lak @t3allam. haada ésmo Teer 7érr
Siiki? Listen up and learn something. This is called a ‘free bird’.

لك is a difficult particle to define. It often emphasises or gets someone’s attention. It is invariant.

I have no idea what a سيكي is (or if I’ve even heard it right), but a طير حر is actually a real bird, apparently called a Lanner falcon.

يعني… اصطفل؟
ya3ni… éSTéfel?
So… do whatever you want?

اصطفل is an impolite way to say ‘do whatever you want’, ‘get lost’, ‘whatever’. It literally means ‘act freely’, but is usually a rude thing you say to someone who insists on doing something different from what you think is the best thing to do. I’m not sure whether this is supposed to be a pun on طير حر (perhaps in the meaning ‘fly free’), a reference to حر, or if he’s just saying ‘so, uhh… I should just piss off then’ or what. Regardless, it’s not that important.

You got it!

ايوا with a certain intonation is used to mean ‘yes, exactly!’ in response to guesses at the answers to questions.

لك يا وحيد يا وحيد انت ما عندك منو. يعني مالك علاقة فيه
lak yaa wa7iid yaa wa7iid maa 3éndak ménno. ya3ni maalak 3alaa2a fii
Come on, Wa7iid. You haven’t got any of these, the bird’s nothing to do with you!

ما عندك منو – literally ‘you don’t have of it’. The -o here refers to the طير حر.

مالك علاقة فيه – in Damascene مالـ can be one of two things – either a negative of الـ él- in the sense of ‘to have’, or a variant of مانـ (the negative particle). Here it’s the former. مالك علاقة فيه obviously literally means ‘you have nothing to do with it’ (‘you have no connection with it’) but this translation in English gives a different meaning from the intention here, which is not literal.

رزقة من عندو لله معلم
réz2a mén 3éndo la2aLLa m3allem
A gift from God, mate.

من عندو لله – you might mistake this for ‘from him, to God’ but in fact this is an example of the construction mentioned here with direct objects. Any attached pronoun – whatever it’s attached to – can be made explicit by following it up with la- plus what it refers to (here -o = الله).

بس هادا اكيد لحدا معلمي
bass haada 2akiid la7ada m3allmi
But this surely belongs to someone already, boss…

لـ la- is probably the most common way of expressing possession.

معلم m3allem is literally ‘teacher’ and commonly used to mean ‘boss’, but it’s also one of the most common informal styles of address between men, as used above. معلمي on the other hand is what you call your boss and is more unambiguously respectful.

مزبوط عم يحكي هادا الوزوز. لإنو الطير الي
maZbuut 3am yé7ki haada lwazwaz! la2énno éTTeer 2éli!
The little gosling’s right. The bird belongs to me!

مزبوط عم يحكي – exact/precise(ly), he’s talking.

مزبوط هادا الحكي! هادا الحر النا! رجعو!
maZbuut haada l7aki! haada l7érr 2élna! rajj3uu!
It’s true! The free bird’s ours! Give it back!

رجع is obviously the causative of réje3 ‘to return’ and means ‘put back’, ‘give back’, etc etc…

اي لا يا سيدي مو الك. شو اذا حر صار الك يعني؟
ee la2 siidi muu 2élak. shu iza 7érr Saar 2élak ya3ni?
Nah mate, it doesn’t belong to you. What, does every ‘free bird’ belong to you?

سيدي – literally ‘sir’, and what you call superiors in the army for example. It’s also used in informal conversations (along with its feminine equivalent ستي) as a normal term of address, often when laying down the law or giving advice.

اذا حر صار الك –  literally if (it’s) a free bird, then it’s (become) yours?

وحيد؟ رجعو احسنلك اه؟ رجعو لا تزيدا!
wa7iid! rajj3o a7sallak aah! rajj3o, laa tziida!
Wa7iid! Give it back or it’ll go badly for you, huh? Don’t make it worse!

رجعو احسنلك – literally ‘give it back, it’d be better for you’. the n of a7san assimilates to the next letter. احسنلك is a good word to use to be aggressive.

لا تزيدا – zaad is literally ‘increase’ (‘don’t increase it’). The ـا here doesn’t really refer to anything specific – usually these dummy pronouns are feminine in Arabic.

لا يا سيدي بدي زيدا لإنو هادا الطير اساسا مو لالك
laa yaa siidi béddi ziida. la2énno haada TTeer 2asaasan muu la2élak.
No, mate, I’m gonna make it worse. Because this bird isn’t yours to start with.

لك شو هالحكي شو هالحكي رج تجنني رح تجنني! عم نقللك الي هادا الله وكيلك الي
lak shu hal7aki shu hal7aki! ra7 @tjannénni ra7 @tjannénni! 3am @n2éllak 2éli haada, aLLa wakiilak éli!
What the hell are you saying? You’re going to make me go mad! We’re telling you that it belongs to me, I swear to God, it belongs to me!

شو هالحكي – ‘what’s this talk’, very common expression for surprise.

جنن – ‘drive mad’. The causative of jann yjénn ‘go mad’. Whilst بجنن bijannen is often a positive description of something nice, the verb can be used in a sense similar to English too.

الله وكيلك – something like ‘as God as my witness’.

اي وبدي فكاكو
ee w béddi fkaako.
OK. Then I want a ransom.

لك يا جبيبي يا عيني يا روحي انت الطير شك لعندك هيك بالغلط يعني مو بشطارتك سحبتو لك رح تجنني
lak yaa 7abiibi, yaa 3eeni, yaa roo7i inte. éTTeer shakk la3éndak heek bélghalaT, ya3ni muu bshaTaartak sa7abto! Lak ra7 tjannénni!
Look, pal, listen to me. The bird came down on your side by accident. It wasn’t your cleverness that brought it down there. You’re going to make me go mad!

يا حبيبي يا عيني يا روحي – my love, my eye, my soul. All terms of affection, although their use here isn’t very affectionate.

شك لعندك – this use of shakk apparently literally means ‘swoop down (on prey)’ and is presumably unrelated to the ‘doubt’ meaning. لعندك is ‘down to (where you are)’, probably naturally translated by something like ‘on your side’ or just ‘to you’ in English.

بالغلط – by accident, by mistake (literally ‘in error’, I guess – the article is generic).

مو بشطارتك سحبتو – you didn’t bring it down (سحب, literally ‘pull’) by (b-) your cleverness (شطارة).

لك مزبوط هادا الحكي رجعلنا الحر احسن ما اجي عدللو شاربو لهاني
lak mazbuuT haada l7aki! rajj3élna l7érr a7san ma éji 3addéllo shaarbo lahaani
Yeah, it’s true! Give us the bird back or else I’ll come over there and rearrange Hany’s moustache!

احسن ما – often ‘in case’ or, to rely a bit on archaism, ‘lest’. It’s the latter meaning here.

عدللو شاربو – the first word is a verb 3addal ‘rearrange, set right’, in the first person subjunctive (so it has no prefix at all). In other dialects it would be 2a3addel. The –lo on the end is one of the -l- suffixes discussed here. Taken together as a unit, it means ‘I’ll rearrange (for) him his moustache!’ The la-haani bit is another one of these additional la- objects we’ve seen, here connecting Hany with the -lo. As you can see, this construction is very common.

خراس انت خراس حاج… متل الفرخ
khraas inte khraas 7aaj twazwez métl élfar@kh
Shut your mouth, you. Stop squeaking like a chicklet.

حاج – literally ‘stop’, followed by a subjunctive. We’ve seen this before elsewhere.

يا سيدي نزل لعندي بالغلط وما بدي فكاكو وما بدي رجعو منيح هيك؟
yaa siidi nézel la3éndi bélghalaT w maa béddi fkaako w maa béddi rajj3o. mnii7 heek?
OK, pal. It came down on this side by accident, and I don’t want a ransom and I’m not going to give it back. How’s that for you?

منيح هيك؟ literally ‘good like that?’

شو هاد؟ اي, ماشي يا وحيد. ماشي. انا بورجيك انا اللي لورجيك!
shu haad!? ee, maashi yaa wa7iid. maashi. 2ana bwarjiik. 2ana élli la-warjiik.
Whaaaaaat?! Right, okay then Wa7iid. OK. I’ll show you. I’ll show you all right!

شو هاد – literally ‘what’s this?!’ but very common as an expression of surprise

ماشي – used far less in Syrian than in some other dialects, means ‘fine then’ or ‘all right’, literally ‘it is walking’

انا اللي لورجيك – the verb here is warja/ywarji ‘to show’. The prefix la- is probably future. The اللي makes it literally ‘I’m the one who is going to show you’. انا اللي is often used in a way which is not best translated into English with a relative clause, as in for example انا اللي بعرف ‘of course I know’.

لك روح يا
lak ruu7 yaa!
Get out of here!

خلصنا لك وحيد بلا مشاكل رجعلو الطير مبين نزل لعندك بالغلط
khalléSna lak wa7iid bala mashaakel. rajjé3lo TTeer, mbayyen nézel la3éndak bilghalaT.
Come on, Wa7iid, don’t make problems. Give him back the bird, it obviously landed over here by accident.

خلصنا – come on, leave it out, etc etc.

بلا مشاكل – literally ‘without problems’, but بلا is used a lot on its own like this in a kind of imperative sense.

يا سيدي لو واحد غيرو لرجعو بلا فكاكو بس هادا السل المسوس لأ.
yaa siidi law waa7ed gheero la-rajj3o bala fkaako bass haada sséll lémsawwes la2.
Mate, if it was anyone else I’d give it back without a ransom. But this rotten sneak, no way.

لو واحد غيرو – we discussed the basic syntax of conditionals here. This is a nominal sentence, so it needs no verb – the conditional is law waa7ed gheero ‘if it was someone else’, and the main verb is لرجعو ‘I would (be going to) give it back’, with what looks like a future marker on it.

غيرو – ‘other than him’, ‘different from him’, etc etc.

السل المسوس – séll is, I think, someone sneaky. مسوس msawwes is literally something like ‘rotten’ or ‘decayed’ – it refers to crops infested with سوس suus, a type of insect, or to teeth which have rotted because of plaque (also called سوس).

هادا بالذات انا صدتو معلم.
haada bizzaat 2ana séDto m3allem.
I caught it myself, boss.

صاد Saad – literally ‘to hunt’ or ‘to fish’ (same verb).

صرت تعرف تصيد ولا؟ روح كش روح روح
Sér@t ta3ref tSiid wla? ruu7 késhsh ruu7 késhsh.
Oh, all of a sudden you know how to catch birds? Go and kish.

صرت تعرف تصيد؟ – literally ‘you’ve become knowing how to hunt’? صار typically expresses changes of state and has a much broader use than English ‘become’. It is usually followed by a subjunctive verb, as is عرف in the meaning of ‘know how to’

ولا – an aggressive term of address

هلق بس فهمني انت الله يرضى عليك شو قصتك انت وشيركو على نقار ونقير
halla2 bass fahhémni énte, aLLa yérDa 3aleek, shu 2éSStak énte wsheerko 3ala n2aar w@n2iir?
Just explain to me, please – what’s wrong with you and Sheerko, always at one another’s throats?

فهمني – causative of féhem, literally to ‘make understand’.

الله يرضى عليك – ‘may God be pleased with you’. Often used to say thankyou, or – as here – attached to requests in the meaning of ‘please’, often in an exasperated way.

شو قصتك – literally ‘what’s your story’. Typically means ‘what’s wrong with you’, ‘what’s up with you’.

على نقار ونقير – at each other’s throats, always fighting, etc.

بدك ياه من الاخر؟
béddak yaa mn él2aakher?
You want the truth?

من الاخر – literally ‘from the end’.


انا واياه ما منتفق بالآراء السياسية
2ana wéyyaa maa mnéttafe2 bil2araa2 éssiyaasiyye.
Me and him disagree on politics.

انا وياه – me and him. Coordinated pronouns (‘me and him‘, ‘me and her‘ etc) always appear on the yaa- carrier.

ما منتفق بالآراء السياسية – we don’t agree in (our) political opinions

On what?!

انا وياه مالنا طيبات يعني مالنا ز… شرحلو ياها
2ana wéyyaa maalna Tayybaat… ya3ni maalna za… shra7lo yaaha.
Me and him, we don’t have… I mean, we’re not… go on, explain.

مالنا طيبات – not entirely sure why طيبات appears in the feminine plural here, but this is a set expression meaning we’re not friends, we’re not good, etc. The word he cuts off is probably زابطين zaabTiin, with a similar meaning (not suited to each other, don’t work for each other’).

شرحلو ياها – -ha again referring to something general – the situation etc.

يعني قصدو معلمي انو هي هداك شو اسمو عرفت شلون يعني هي هيك بتصير
ya3ni 2aSdo m3allmi énno hiyye hadaak, shu ésmo, 3réft @shloon, ya3ni hiyye heek béTSiir.
Well, what my boss means is, it’s like, so, that guy, what’s-his-name, you know what I mean? So, like, that’s how it happens.

شو اسمو – what’s-his-name. A common filler word. This whole sentence is fillers.

بتصير – in the feminine بتصير usually means ‘it happens’. Again the feminine here doesn’t really refer to anything. بصير on the other hand tends to mean ‘is possible’ (though this can sometimes take feminine agreement).

خلص روح كش روح
khalaS ruu7 késhsh ruu7 késhsh
Forget about it. Go and kish.

I see.

This is the other common use of ايوا, with a distinctly different intonation from the other one. This one means ‘I see’ or ‘OK, I understood’.

شفلي هي الكشة وحياة اختي وقت شوفا طايرة كإني شربان ليترين عرق صك
shéfli hayy élkashshe… wé7yaat ékhti wa2@t shuufa Taayra ka2énni shérbaan litreen 3ara2 Sékk.
Look at that flock! I swear to you, when I see them up there, it’s as if I’ve drunk two litres of araq straight.

وحيات اختي – this is the waaw of swearing oaths (the same one we all know from ولله). But of course we don’t say ‘on my sister’s life’ in English that much.

وقت شوفا – wa2@t can be used as a conjunction meaning ‘when’, literally (the) time (that). I’m pretty sure وقت بشوفا would also be acceptable here, but often these sorts of time expressions trigger subjunctive. The -a of course refers to the كشة.

كإني – (it’s) as though I…

شربان – the participle (in Syrian) of shéreb yéshrab ‘to drink’ and means ‘(in the state of) having drunk’, i.e. it has a resultative meaning. Araq is of course the famous cloudy white Levantine variant of the traditional Mediterranean way to get completely off your face, aniseed-based alcohol.


  1. Chris, Do you subscribe to Arabic-L? Someone there was asking about Levantine Arabic podcasts. I hadn’t joined the discussion because podcasts and me do not agree. But after opening this (which had been waiting for me in my inbox for a few days), I’ve directed the membership of Arabic-L to the Team Nisreen site, making mention of your 30 (!!!!) fusha to shami posts, giving you credit by name (hope that’s all lright). Anyone interested in the pedagogy of Shami Arabic should have subscribed to Team Nisreen long ago.

    1. I don’t – thanks very much for directing me towards it (and them towards us), and thanks for your kind words. There’s still ground to cover, so maybe 30 won’t be the last one (I’m trying to keep it to round numbers for aesthetic reasons).

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