x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Thanks for the gift

How to thank someone for a gift and what the call to prayer means.

Andrew Henderson / The National
Andrew Henderson / The National

Dear Ali: My colleagues and I recently received a Christmas gift from a high-level Emirati government employee. One colleague immediately texted a thank you, which was acknowledged. But in the US, where I'm from, I normally send a handwritten note to a person who gives me a gift. Some have suggested that this is unnecessary; that the text message is sufficient. Plus, we see the person frequently and will be able to offer a verbal thank you. What is the appropriate expression of thanks? The gift was a complete surprise and appreciated. KT, Abu Dhabi

Dear KT: Your question is a classic one, especially when it comes to the differences in how we show our appreciation to someone who gives us a gift, or surprises us with a nice act. In general, saying thank you, whether via a written letter, text message, or face to face, will always be appreciated. However, to be more specific about our expectation, in our society, we do appreciate an acknowledgement, either by a sincere face-to-face thank you, or a text message if the person is overseas and you can't easily reach him via the phone (though I would always go with the face option), but not so much a written letter. Then again, it all depends on the context of the situation and who is involved. You have mentioned how this gift was a surprise and that you frequently meet and see this person. Since he is a high-profile government individual, I would go with the face-to-face option.

A great way to decide on the best course of action is to consider how this high-profile official might respond to a gift from you. Most probably he would ask to meet you to thank you personally, but probably not send a thank-you letter, which could come across as a little over the top. If you send a thank-you note, perhaps you should also give the person a phone call, since the sincere tone of your voice and the initiative to get in touch will be greatly appreciated. I hope this helps. Best regards and mabrook (congratulations) for your gift.

Dear Ali: Can you tell me about the call to prayer? What is it saying? And to whom is it announced? NA, Norway Dear NA: Isn't it funny that after three years of answering questions from correspondents, this is the first time I have received this one, so thanks for finally bringing it up. I want to highlight that knowing what is being said at the call to prayer, and what the words mean, gives one a much greater pleasure when one hears it. So let me take this opportunity to give you an explanation.

Allahu Akbar - Allahu Akbar (God is Great) Ash hadu ana la elaaha ella Allah, repeated (I testify that there is no god but God) Ash hadu ana mohammadan rasulo Allah (I testify that Mohammed is God's messenger) Hayya Ala alSallah (Come to prayer) Hayya Ala alFallah (Come to success) Allahu Akbar (God is great) La ellaha Ella Allah (There is no god but God)

These words have been broadcast five times a day for about 1,400 years and although it is said in Arabic and targeted at Muslims who are aware of the prayer times, it is also believed that the call to prayer is for everyone and everything on the planet. By the way, the morning call to prayer has an additional sentence, Alsalatu khayron min alnawm, which means that praying is better for you than sleeping. May God bless you.

Arabic: Shoo? English: What? To say "what?" in classic Arabic, we say "Madha?", but in our Emirati dialect and way, we say a word that sounds similar to "shoe", though the meaning is obviously different. So if I'm talking and you don't understand me, you could say "Shoo?". Some people might add, "Shoo ma fa hamat", which means, "What? I didn't understand you." And in our dialect, we say "Shoo? Ma fahamt shoo gelt!" when speaking to a man, and "Shoo? Ma fahamt shoo gelti" to a woman.