Just a few months ago, we were minding our own business scrolling through Instagram when Bella Hadid surprised us when she posted some casual photos of herself sporting a brand new addition to her shoulder. Later, her tattoo artist, Dr. Woo, posted two clear shots of the supermodel’s novel twin Arabic tattoos on opposite shoulders.
Arabic is not just a beautiful language to speak and hear, but Arabic script is art and poetry in and of itself. So it’s no wonder that quite a few celebrities, Arab or otherwise, have chosen to ink their skin with the beautiful language. However, the job doesn’t always turn out the way it should when non-native speakers commit a text to their body they cannot read. Note to self: Don’t trust Google Translate for permanent ink.
We’ve rounded up your favorite celebrities with the best Arabic – or Arabic-ish – tattoos for your viewing pleasure and perhaps a little chuckle. Now, if you don’t mind, we have an appointment to catch with Dr. Woo.
أحب نفسك أولاً
For her fourth tattoo, Selena Gomez inked “أحب نفسك أولاً” – meaning “love yourself first” – onto the upper right side of her back. Gomez has 14 tattoos to date, all of which hold special meaning for the singer, whether they are inspired by her family, friends, faith, or music.
Angelina Jolie has 16 tattoos. She even had a couple erased after her divorce from actor, Billy Bob Thornton – a tattoo that said “Billy Bob” and a picture of a dragon. But on her right forearm, just below her elbow crease, is the word “العزيمة” which is Arabic for “determination” or “strong will power.” That’s fairly appropriate. Definitely better than “Billy Bob.”
أريد أن أسألها
Zoe Saldana tattooed “أريد أن أسألها” on her right foot, which curiously looks like it means “I want to ask her.” We want to ask her as well what in the world she means. It could be someone’s name, but we aren’t quite sure. Her rib cage also sports an Arabic-ish looking tattoo… only, it appears to have been written left to right instead of how Arabic is read (which is right to lef)t, the characters are not connected, and some of them aren’t even really Arabic characters (and they are also not Farsi as has often been mis-reported). So basically, she has either created her own secret language or she has tattooed gibberish onto her ribs.
Hadid put “أحبك”, meaning “I love you”, on her upper left arm, and “حبيبتى” which means “my love” or “Beloved” in the feminine on the upper right arm. So her arms together say, “I love you, Beloved.” Awwww, we love you too, Habibti. (Okay, okay, so perhaps she is missing the two little dots under the ‘yaa’ character in “Habibti,” but you know what, it’s forgivable because 1) it’s still beautiful and 2) she can always add them in a retouch.
View this post on Instagram
/والتر / خاي
One Direction star, Zayn Malik, just immortalized the name of his daughter – “خاي” or “Khai” – who was born last September onto his wrist. Gigi Hadid, Malik’s partner, only recently revealed the name of their daughter when she discreetly inserted it into her Instagram bio. This isn’t Malik’s first Arabic tattoo, however. His very first tattoo was his grandfather’s name, “والتر ” or ‘Walter’ on the right side of his upper chest.
The singer also has tattooed “بتروي تو وهو يو ار” onto his left collarbone, which makes no sense in Arabic because, well, it is not Arabic the language, but it is written in the Arabic alphabet. Sounding the characters out loud sounds like “bbeetruu tohoo youh arrrr.” Therefore, and we’re going out on a limb here, we think he meant to write “Be true to who you are” in English, but with Arabic characters. It’s that or “beetroot salad.”
الحرية في المسيح
Rihanna herself is an admitted “tattoo addict”, with over 20 tattoos inked onto her body. On her left rib cage is the phrase “الحرية في المسيح”, meaning “Freedom in Christ.”
أنا لحبيبي و حبيبي لي
Leona Lewis shares a secret tattoo with her ex-boyfriend, Lou Al Chamaa, whom she has known since she was a child. When asked what it meant, Lewis said, “It’s incredibly private and something we both had done. I can’t reveal what it is. Some things need to remain private for me.” But, it’s a tattoo in plain sight and some of our editors speak Arabic, so, you’re welcome. On her wrist, she and Al Chamaa tattooed”أنا لحبيبي و حبيبي لي”, which translates to “I am my lover’s, and my lover is mine,” a lyric from the famous Lebanese singer Feirouz‘s song, “Ana la Habibi.”
Supposedly after reading the novel, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Christina Perri was inspired and had the word “مكتوب” which means “destiny” or “it is written” inscribed on her left forearm because, as she said, “everything is pre-ordained by God.” It’s beautiful, and we love the meaning, but Coelho is Brazilian.
دع الحب القاعدة
A for effort? Zoë Kravitz tattooed “دع الحب القاعدة” onto her left shoulder, which she must have found out was slightly grammatically incorrect. Roughly translated, it says “Let the love the rule” instead of ” Let the love rule.” Rookie mistake for someone who has nearly 60 tattoos. Unfortunately, it looks like the mistake cost Kravitz the tat, as she removed it in 2019 and covered it with a dragonfly.