Tree worship is very common worldwide, and Arab culture is no exception to that. In fact, arboreal references in holy books and rituals reflect the place of various types of trees in Arabic cultures of millennia ago: their uses, the local species of importance, and moreover, their inspirational and symbolic significance based on the perception of the tree as a symbol of life. With the continuous influence of culture and spiritual practices over thousands of years, particular species (e.g. the Cedar of Lebanon) and certain forests and groves have acquired great, even sacred, importance, which still holds today and may contribute to their protection and conservation.

How does the Middle East see trees?

In the Middle East, sacred places are closely related to the veneration of saints and, in many instances, sacred trees are connected with sacred graves/shrines and share the same supernatural powers to grant divine blessings, to cure and to punish the offenders against the saint to whom the tree is dedicated and who endows them with their miraculous powers. So, it is not surprising that many of the customs and ceremonies which are performed, in general, in sacred places are performed also at the sites of sacred trees. For example, in some villages, there are sacred trees which are called “shajarat al’arees” (The groom’s tree) or “shajarat al’aroos” (The bride’s tree). These names reflect the old custom of performing weddings under these trees.

Olive trees

Olives are among the oldest tree species in the world, originating approximately 8,000 years ago. After the first trees were planted, cultivation soon followed, marking the beginning of the link between Arab culture and the olive. This small tree species has also been incorporated as a political symbol in the modern Arab world and olives, in general, were viewed as a symbol of richness and affluence. Moreover, olives (along with the fig and pomegranate) are especially singled out as a blessing from God. Likewise, the Quran describes fruit-trees as a gift of God.

Date trees

Another important tree would be the date palm tree. Dates are associated with the culture, heritage and history of the Arab world. Every type of dates has its own taste and story for the Arab nationals, who consider the harvesting season of dates as a festival. The fruit’s long life when dried, coupled with its nutritional value, made dates a perfect food for people who had to move from place to place. Ancient cultures referred to date palms as “trees of life” and they remained a critical food source for nomadic people across the globe.

So here is a list of the types of trees in Arabic:

Tree in Arabicshajarahشجرة
Pear tree in Arabicshajarat ‘ejaasشجرة إجاص
Orange tree in Arabicshajarat burtuqaalشجرة برتقال
Oak tree in Arabicshajarat ballootشجرة بلوط
Palm tree in Arabicshajarat balaHشجرة بلح
Hazelnut tree in Arabicshajarat bunduqشجرة بندق
Apple tree in Arabicshajarat tuffaaHشجرة تفاح
Mulberry tree in Arabicshajarat tootشجرة توت
Fig tree in Arabicshajarat teenشجرة تين
Walnut tree in Arabicshajarat jawzشجرة جوز
Nutmeg tree in Arabicshajarat jawz ilhindشجرة جوز الهند
Plum tree in Arabicshajarat khawkhشجرة خوخ
Peach tree in Arabicshajarat durraaqشجرة دراق
Pomegranate tree in Arabicshajarat rummanشجرة رمان
Olive tree in Arabicshajaratu zaytoonشجرة زيتون
Cypress tree in Arabicshajarat sarroشجرة سرو
Willow tree in Arabicshajarat safsaafشجرة صفصاف
Chestnut tree in Arabicshajarat kastanaa’شجرة كستناء
Almond tree in Arabicshajarat lawzشجرة لوز
Banana tree in Arabicshajarat mawzشجرة موز
Apricot tree in Arabicshajarat mishmishشجرة مشمش

Now, whenever you take a walk and want to rest under a tree’s shade, think about how nature and trees specifically shaped beliefs and practices.

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