ikil tibin!

ikil tabin literally means "go eat hay!" Don't be fooled by its quaintness - the phrase has been effective enough to outlast an era when Kuwaitis probably were up to their elbows in hay.

Its old-school flavour also provides an unexpected bridge of understanding between the two men in today's story, which begins when legendary adventurer Ibn Battuta steps into a time vortex, exits 14th century Morocco and lands in a blaze of sand and silk outside Salamaat Café in Hawally.

He pushes open the cracked glass door and in a booming voice, asks: “yaa rajul, ayna ana?”

A slightly chubby man sporting a coffee-spotted dishdaashah turns and says: “yaa m3awad, shgilt?” Then he motions with his shiishah pipe at the stranger and asks, grinning: “min wayn yaay? Costume party?”

The stranger looks confused. “maadhaa?”

shinuu?" the man responds, equally confused by the stranger's language that seems somehow familiar yet different to his own. "Hang on a minute, minuu inta?

For a moment they both look at each other.

“Aha!” says the traveller, triumphant. “What you mean to say is man ant? Now I understand you!”

The chubby guy doesn’t like being corrected. He frowns with his hairy unibrow and makes a dismissive gesture to the stern-faced stranger. “ruu7 waal-ii!

Ibn Battuta laughs. “My oh my, how thick your Arabic accent is! I think I’d understand kalb more than I could you!”

The Kuwaiti guy knocks his shiishah aside, spilling water and tobacco over the laps of his fellow smokers. “chalb? How dare you call me chalb! ikil tabin!

“To look at you, yaa 7aywaan, one would presume that there may not be hay left to eat!”


what did you say?
منو أنت؟
minuu inta?
who are you? (>m)
من وين ياي؟
min wayn yaay?
where have you come from? (>m)
long tunic wore by men from the GCC Countries
a dog
يا حيوان
yaa 7aywaan
you animal
روح ولي!
ruu7 walii!
get lost! (>m)