Arabic dish

Can anyone decipher the writing in the photo below? It appears on a set of dishes.

Arabic dish

This entry was posted in Arabic, Language, Puzzles.

16 Responses to Arabic dish

  1. Christopher Miller says:

    Only the top line of this is obviously Arabic: “نَصْرُ الدّولة” (naṣru ‘l-dawlah) (‘victory of the state’ or perhaps more likely ‘assistance of the state’). It’s the only part my neighbourhood grocer from Algeria could understand, apart from the year at the bottom: “١٩٠٥” and the curly line beneath it refer to the year 1905. (The curly line is a special symbol used in Arabic and Arabic-derived scripts, written under the numerals for a year: it derives from “سنه” (sanah). Also, the “٥” (5) is not a simple circle like it shows up in the typeface you see here. It has two curves at its base and looks like an inverted heart shape. This is the eastern style variant, used in Iran and Pakistan but not in Arab countries.

    For the rest, the calligraphy overall looks Turkish, especially the way the “ح” and what looks like a “ع” are drawn with the loops usually used only when no letter follows on the left. The way these loops connect with the next letter. is only done in calligraphy and looks very much like a specifically Ottoman Turkish style. I doubt this is Persian or anything farther east into India because you would expect the calligraphy to be in Nastaliq style rather than this Naskh-like style.

    Unfortunately I can’t decipher anything, and what the lettering below the Arabic is is partially a guess: “١١٨” is 117 and there is a strange-looking letter with a loop and three dots below (ڥ) that looks like it is derived from normal Arabic (ف) ‘f’, but I can’t figure out what language uses or used that particular letter. Since the inscription is dated 1905, it could be any of a variety of languages of peoples under Ottoman rule, including for example South Slavic Bosnian, the variety of Serbo-Croatian spoken by Bosnian muslims…

    Here’s what I think is written (more or less):

    نَصْرُ الدّولة

    naṣru ‘l-dawlah

    The fact there is a “؁؁ث” (θ or th) beginning the second line (ثَرمامحڥلے) leads me to wonder if this might not be Albanian, which has that sound. Some Albanians apparently used the Ottoman Turkish alphabet, which would have inherited that letter from Arabic, but still did not include the “ڥ” character. A bit of a mystery…

  2. TJ says:

    The language is Farsi. I can’t understand much of it but the name “Mohammed Ali” is in the middle. On top says “Nasr-ullah” (victory of God).
    At the bottom it says “Sanat 1905” (Year 1905).
    There is a number as well (118), but I don’t know what is it exactly.

  3. TJ says:

    By the way, I just remembered that it might be Ottoman as well, since Turkish was written mainly in Arabic script before changing to Latin alphabet.

  4. Mohammed UK says:

    Love the Omniglot website and your blog.

    I don’t see a label for Gujarati, though!!

    Hasta la vista.

  5. Mohammed UK says:

    It’s not arabic. There’s a letter with a “subscript” of 3 dots. So, Farsi or Urdu maybe. Good point TJ about the Turkish.

  6. Mohammed UK says:

    I saw this tweet on twitter with 2 strange symbols:

    ‘UAE must adopt Arabic domain names’ on websites:

    And then I saw similar symbols on this website. Can anyone explain them?

  7. Lau says:

    Mohammed UK, I think they are quotation marks that got screwed up in a character set conversion somewhere.

  8. Christopher Miller says:


    I think you’re right about the name Muhammad Ali in the middle. The way it’s written in callligraphic style with the full “ح” and “ع” in non-final positions, plus the triple dot down below, is rather confusing. In fact, the Algerian grocer I talked to didn’t even recognise it! However, what is written at the top is definitely “نَصْرُ الدّولة”, not “نَصْرُ الله”. (The Algerian grocer read it immediately.) The second word, “الدّولة”, is broken into two parts: the first *can* be mistaken for “الله” but is just “الدّو”; the second part “لة” is down off to the left. And you’re right about the “١١٨”, which is 118, not 117 as I wrote, mistaking “٨” for “٧”.

    So, the name Muhammad Ali in the middle is written calligraphic-style as something like “مح مدع لے” but with all the letters joined together, rather than normal style “محمد علے”. (By the way, the “ے” here is a stylistic variant of final yaa’ “ي”.)

    The remaining text before the numbers, by line, seems to be:

    فرے with what looks like a م at the left, at the end of the line…
    طلر or طدر

  9. Christopher Miller says:

    Oops, I forgot the pesky three dots still nestling inside the bottom of the loop of the “ع”. Hard to tell where they belong…

  10. Christopher Miller says:

    By the way, to Mohammed UK:

    If you look on the Omniglot main page for “A-Z index” under “Alphabets and other writing systems”, you’ll find Gujarati there. In a couple of months I’ll be sending Simon some very interesting information about Gujarati, so keep your eyes peeled.

  11. TJ says:

    @Miller: Yes, I indeed see it not as نصر الدولة.
    In fact, I was connecting the “-Lah” part with the beginning of that line, that’s why it didn’t make sense.

    Away from the 3 dots (which by the way COULD be used for ornamental purposes and not really as an essential part of the letters), I am used to see (on Turkish coins and medals mainly) it is usually written, just befor the year of minting, دام ظله (Dáma Dhilloh), meaning “may his shade last” (i.e. may his reign last).

    The way of writing Mohammed-Ali with one stroke of line, I think it means it is a composite name (Persians and Turks and the rest of the orient are famous for composite names till this day), and the Ottoman rulers and sultans had this specific name in plenty I believe. One of the famous composite names for families of Persian roots in Kuwait is: Marafy, which comes from (Mohammed-Aarif) محمد عارف, combined together to make Marafy معرفي. How that is reflective for the original, I don’t know!

  12. TJ says:

    ops, “see it now” and not “see it not”


  13. TJ says:

    My brother made a point to something else as well… the 1905 could be in fact 905. The oriental world under the islamic or the ottoman rule mainly, used to use the Hejri calendar and not the Solar western one. Thus, the research should take another avenue I believe in dating the dish.

  14. Evans says:

    the calligraphic style looks very similar to that used in the personal lozenges of notable figures during the Qajar period. If the plate is indeed from 1905, it falls comfortably into the later part of the dynasty. my theory is that these dishes were commissioned for a Qajar nobleman, possibly named Mohammad Ali, whose court title was Nasr-ud-dawla. just a theory, however.

  15. Mohammed UK says:

    Thanks, Lau. They keep appearing in my browser.. Not sure where they’re coming from!

  16. TJ says:

    I agree with Evans.

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