Nasser Isleem, a senior Arabic language lecturer at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD). Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: ‘He who does not recognise the falcon, grills it.’ ‘Close the door from which comes the draught, and be tranquil.’

These proverbs and more such insightful gems can be found in the recently released book Popular Proverbs: An Entrance to Emirati Culture by Nasser Isleem, a senior Arabic language lecturer at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD).

The book, which is a compilation of Arabic proverbs and their English translations, offers a glimpse of the role proverbs play in Emirati culture, and a unique perspective on the beliefs and values shared across the Arab world.

“Emiratis, like most Arabs, routinely draw on popular proverbs in their communication. These proverbs have endured the test of time. They are part of the traditions and cultural norms that have been passed down from generation to generation,” said Isleem who has been teaching in NYUAD since 2012.

Designed for both learners and teachers of Arabic, the book provides a practical tool for incorporating Emirati culture into the teaching of the language. Through his work, Isleem seeks to also break stereotypes in Gulf societies, and promote integration across all cultures and communities.


Isleem is a pioneer in applying studies that examine the impact of using songs, proverbs, and other cultural expressions and components in teaching the Arabic language and has himself written many books on the subject.

“I use proverbs in my classroom as they are a friendly introduction to a different and sometimes confusing foreign culture,” said Isleem who also teaches a course on Emirati dialect and culture called ‘Ramsah.

“The book is also useful for immigrant Arabs as it will remind them of their culture and childhood memories. It also includes cultural background and references which will evoke strong memories of life in their homeland.0 More importantly, I hope that these proverbs and stories will continue to play their role in passing on the rich cultural tradition to coming generations.”

Isleem is the recipient of several American academic awards such as Tanner University Teaching Award (UNC-Chapel Hill) in 2012 and the Order of the Golden Fleece (UNC-Chapel Hill) in 2011 and Student Undergraduate Teaching and Staff Awards (UNC-Chapel Hill) in 2006.

Popular Proverbs is available at the NYUAD bookstore.