Have you ever awoke from a deep sleep and totally forgotten what month it was? It can happen to anybody, but not being exactly sure what month it is can happen in both your sleeping and waking life in the Arabic-speaking countries of the Middle East. You see, depending on where you are exactly in the Middle East, you may be met with a variety of different calendars – anything from the universally accepted Gregorian calendar to the Hijri calendar used by Muslims. And to make matters even more difficult, the Gregorian calendar might have its English names for the months replaced by their ancient Aramaic or Babylonian counterparts.

So how are they distributed?

In the Levant dialect used by Jordanians, Syrians, Palestinians and Lebanese for example, May is called أيار / (‘Ayyaar) –  the Aramaic name for May. In Egypt and Sudan, however, they use the universally accepted Gregorian calendars and have adjusted the names more fittingly where May is known as مايو , which is pretty close to the May of the English Gregorian calendar. There are still other versions used according to other Arab dialects and regions; however, the most often used calendar in the Arab world after the Gregorian calendar is the Islamic ‘Hijree’ calendar,  the calendar based on the year (622 CE, Gregorian) in which the Prophet Mohammad left the city of Mecca and headed to Medina. To help you understand the different calendars and their names a little better, we have included the following tables, one in Aramaic and one with the more universally accepted Gregorian calendar in Arabic:

Aramaic Calendar Months Used in the Levant:

Month in EnglishArabic NameTransliteration
January in Arabic كانون الثاني Kaanoon althaani
February in Arabic شباط Shbaat
March in Arabic آذار ‘Aathaar
April in Arabic نيسان Nisaan
May in Arabic أيار ‘Ayyaar
June in Arabic حزيران Huzayraan
July in Arabic تموز Tammooz
August in Arabic آب ‘Aab
September in Arabic أيلول Aylool
October in Arabic تشرين الأول Tishreen alawwal
November in Arabic تشرين الثاني Tishreen althaani
December in Arabic كانون الأول Kaanoon alawwal

Difference between the Aramaic and the Hijiri calendar

To determine the proper days to observe religious events such as Ramadan, attend hajj and celebrate other Arabic holidays, Muslims use the Islamic or the Hijri calendar. The Hijri calendar has 12 months, each month alternatively having 29 or 30 days. In total it has 354 or 355 depending on when the crescent moon is first observed. This means that the year does not correspond to the solar year used by the Gregorian system. It is also difficult to predict what the future calendar will be because the year does not begin with the actual position of the moon, but when it is first observed. It is used in most Muslim countries alongside the Gregorian calendar.

The Hijri Months Used Throughout the Arab World

Month Arabic Name Meaning
Muharram مُحَرَّم forbidden
Safar صَفَر void
Rabee’ al’awwal ‎رَبِيْعُ الأَوّل first spring
Rabee’ althaani رَبِيْعُ الثَّانِي second spring
Jamaada al’awwal جَمَادَي الأَوّل first month of parched land
Jamaada althaani ‎جَمَادَي الثَّانِي first month of parched land
Rajab ‎رَجَب honor; respect
Sha’baan شَعْبَان scattered
Ramdaan رَمَضَان scorched
Shawwaal شَوَّال raised
Thu alqi’daah ‎ذُوالْقَعْدَة the one of truce
Thu alhijjah ذُوالْحِجَّة the one of pilgrimage

Anytime of the year, you can visit us at Kaleela or download the Kaleela Arabic language learning app‎ to learn more about the Arabic calendar, Arabic language and Arab culture.