Message from Ms Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of World Arabic Language Day 18 December 2014

World Arabic Language Day affords us

the opportunity to celebrate the

language’s contribution to the common

heritage of humanity. 


      History testifies to the role played by Arabic over thousands of years in the flow of knowledge between cultures and across eras, on subjects ranging from philosophy to medicine, from astronomy to mathematics. The Arabic language engendered a unique art, calligraphy, which takes pride of place this year with the work of many artists, including the master calligrapher Ghani Alani, heir to the Baghdad School and winner of the UNESCO-Sharjah Prize for Arab Culture in 2009. The power of Arabic provides also the means of expression for many folk traditions and arts on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity -- al-Zajal, recited or sung poetry (Lebanon), argan, practices and know-how concerning the argan tree (Morocco), al-Ayyala, a traditional performing art (Oman and United Arab Emirates), and the ritual and ceremonies of Sebeïba in the oasis of Djanet, Algeria. All these traditions show how closely identities are linked to language.

     We can draw from the infinite beauty of Arabic the treasures of wisdom, respect and peace to counter intolerance and hatred.Arabic is also a symbol of unity in diversity, as the classical language used by almost one billion Muslims across the world lives alongside many dialects spoken by nearly 200 million women and men. Promoting Arabic forges cultural ties of solidarity beyond borders, enabling millions of men and women to make their voices heard and to take part on an equal footing in building fairer, more inclusive and more sustainable societies. This is the spirit of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Programme for the Culture of Dialogue and Peace, which aims to eliminate cultural, religious and sexist stereotypes from curricula and teaching materials. It is also the purpose of the work of the Algerian association IQRAA (meaning “read” in Arabic), which received the UNESCO King Sejong Literacy Prize for its programme “Literacy, training and integration of women”.

   Speaking, writing and singing in Arabic are all ways of celebrating our creative diversity. In this spirit, I call today on all Member States, Arabic-speaking and others, to convey this message of multilingualism as a force for mutual understanding and building peace.


In 1948, the 3rd General Conference of UNESCO held in Beirut (Lebanon), declared that Arabic, in addition to English and French, will become the third working language of the governing bodies meeting in an Arabic-speaking country. More on the history of the Arabic language at UNESCO



Join the celebration

  • Calligraphy is an art, try it in a workshop and dive into the beauty

  • Discover the melodic virtuosity of the chants of Arabic poetry

  • Celebrate the Arabic language by organizing a poetry reading in your neighborhood

  • Teachers, encourage your students to practice or start learning Arabic because it's challenging !

  • Native speakers, make sure to preserve the Arabic language by talking to your children in your mother tongue

  • When traveling, try to learn a few words in Arabic to share with natives !



  • الجبر al-jabr, algebra
  • الكيمياء al-kīmiyā, alchemy 
  • العود al-ʿaūd, lute
  • قطن qutun, cotton.

VIDEO: Al-Ayyala, a traditional performing art