Arabic is a name applied to a group of languages and/or dialects of Central Semitic. Spoken Arabic varieties have more speakers than any other group in the Semitic language family. They are spoken by more than 230 million people as a first language, most of whom live in the Middle East and North Africa. Literary Arabic is the official language of 26 states, and the liturgical language of Islam since it is the language of the Qur’an, the Islamic Holy Book.
Arabic has many different, geographically distributed spoken varieties, some of which are mutually unintelligible. Modern Standard Arabic (also called Literary Arabic) is widely taught in schools, universities, and used in workplaces, government and the media. Modern Standard Arabic derives from Classical Arabic, the only surviving member of the Old North Arabian dialect group, attested in Pre-Islamic Arabic inscriptions dating back to the 4th century. Arabic is written with the Arabic alphabet, which is an abjad script, and is written from right-to-left.
Egyptian Arabic, spoken by around 80 million in Egypt. It is one of the most understood varieties of Arabic, due in large part to the widespread distribution of Egyptian films and television shows throughout the Arabic speaking world. Closely related varieties are also spoken in Sudan.
Maghrebi Arabic includes Moroccan Arabic, Algerian Arabic, Saharan Arabic, Tunisian Arabic, and Libyan Arabic, and is spoken by around 75 million North Africans in Morocco, Western Sahara, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Niger, and western Egypt; it is often difficult for speakers of Middle Eastern Arabic varieties to understand. The Berber influence in these dialects varies in degree.
Iraqi Arabic, spoken by about 29 million people in Iraq, eastern Syria and western Iran is called Mesopotamian Arabic.
North Mesopotamian Arabic is spoken by around 7 million people in northern Iraq, northern Syria, northern Iran and southern Turkey.
Levantine Arabic includes North Levantine Arabic, South Levantine Arabic, and Cypriot Arabic. It is spoken by almost 35 million people in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, The Palestinian territories, Israel, Cyprus, and Turkey.
Gulf Arabic (Khaliji Arabic), spoken by around 4 million people in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Sultanate of Oman, Yemen, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iran.
Other varieties include: Yemeni Arabic, spoken in Yemen, southern Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, and Somalia. Sudanese Arabic has 19 million speakers and is spoken in Sudan. Najdi Arabic (9.9 million speakers), spoken in Nejd, central Saudi Arabia. Hejazi Arabic (6 million speakers), spoken in Hejaz, western Saudi Arabia and Eritrea. Hassaniya Arabic (2,8 million speakers), spoken in Mauritania, some parts of Mali and Western Sahara. Bahrani Arabic (310,000 speakers), spoken by Bahrani Shia in Bahrain, where it exhibits some differences from Bahraini Arabic. It is also spoken to a lesser extent in Oman.