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Dubai: Feel like conversing with Alexa in Arabic? From today, you can as Amazon adds Arabic to the list of languages its popular voice assistant can communicate with users.

And not just a few token lines at that. Alexa comes empowered with a full set of Arabic language skills, including dialects unique to a country within the region. Clearly, Amazon has gone to some lengths to get the new language skills right.

“Arabic has 12.2 million words and dialects with different levels of complexities,” said Raf Fatani, General Manager for Alexa in the Middle East and North Africa. “We have made all attempts to hyper localize the new language into Alexa, and is able to play the Quran, integrates the Hijri calendar, and gives updates on the daily prayer timings.”

Amazon has introduced seven devices from its Dot and Echo families, to have Alexa spread the word in Arabic. The entry level model starts at Dh189.99 and the top-of-the-line at Dh1,099.99. It was in 2019 that Amazon started selling it in these markets, starting with the e-reader Kindle.

“We did not hold back when coming up with the Arabic addition,” said Fatani. “Alexa is always getting smarter, and we had developers in the region add around 200 additional ‘skills’ in Arabic in preparation for the launch.

Raf Fatani, General Manager for Alexa in the Middle East and North Africa
“We built the Alexa for this region from the ground up, and that’s why we were able to introduce all these dialects and sub-dialects,” said Fatani.

Speak the Khaleeji way

So, in the UAE, that means empowering Alexa to make all the commands and queries from its users when they are using Khaleeji Arabic. Popular tie-ins include those with Etisalat, the Expo 2020, Domino’s, Fatafeat, Careem, Emirates NBD, DEWA, and others.

Plus, there is all that music library curated by Anghami, the Arabic music streaming service. “We’re thrilled to team up with Alexa, providing customers with access to millions of international and Arabic songs and podcasts”, said Elie Habib, co-founder and CTO of Anghami. “Only by using their voice, customers can ask Alexa to play any song from the region’s largest music catalogue in Arabic – this adds a new dimension to our customer experience.”