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“Bab”: the Arabic word for door is a gateway to livelihood, conquest

The door is a powerful symbolic image in many languages; it represents a transition, a passage, a gateway to the spiritual and to new fortunes. In Arabic, it is also a symbol of livelihood, death, the divine and the mundane.

Bab is Arabic for door. The plural form of the word is abwab.

Bab al rizq is a profession which is also the main means of income. Bab al akhira is the door to the afterlife.

For negotiations that are stalled and completed, you can say ughliqa bab al mufawadat.

For a person who does things according to the book and according to the proper protocol, you can say ata though min abwabiha or, he entered the house through its doors.

The central government of the Ottoman Empire was known as Bab al Ali or the Sublime Porte.

There are a number of historic gates that have specific symbolic designations.

In Cairo, the three remaining gates of the Old City wall are each a Bab of something. There is Bab al Nasr, or the Victory Gate, which is decorated with carvings of shields. There is Bab al Futuh, or the Gate of Conquest, which faces north. Finally, there is Bab Zuweila, which was the western gate of the city and is named after the trade route to Zuwayla in modern Libya.

Damascus was also famous for its gates. The old part of the city has seven gates, the oldest of which dates back to Roman times.

Bab al Faradis, or the Gate of Paradise, owes its name to its proximity to the water and its lush gardens. Bab al Salam is the Gate of Peace. Bab Touma is the gate of the Apostle Thomas. Bab Sharqi is the eastern gate. Bab Kisan is named after a slave who became famous during a conquest by Caliph Muawiya, founder of the Umayyad Caliphate. Bab al Saghir, or the small gate, is the smallest of the seven gates. Finally, there is Bab al Jabiyah, or watering hole gate.

There are a handful of expressions related to the word bab. One of the most resonant is: al bab allazai yughlaq fi wajhika amdan, iyak an tatruqahu thaniyan, which basically means don’t knock on a door that has been slammed in your face.

Updated: April 22, 2022, 6:02 p.m.

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