Lisān al-‘Arab (لسان العرب), the famous dictionary of Classical Arabic, contains 9273 roots (and 4,493.934 words). A huge playground for people who are passionate about Arabic such as…

Sami Morcos

سامي مرقص

The man who created a great website that converts any number into Arabic text.

Sami Morcos
  • Date of birth: 1st November 1981
  • Place of birth: Latakia, Syria
  • Place of residence: Latakia, Syria
  • Website: https://tafqit.com

How would you introduce yourself to someone who doesn’t know you?

I was born in Syria and studied Computer Science in Lebanon. Later, I worked in Dubai in the IT industry until I returned to Syria in 2010 to join a family business in maritime shipping and tourism.

I have done some freelance work in programming and worked on some web related projects including tafqit.com. Tafqit is a tool which helps people to avoid mistakes when they need to convert numbers into Arabic text (which, by the way, is difficult for many native Arabic speakers as well).


What was your first Arabic grammar book?

Some official elementary schoolbook.


What is your favorite Arabic book (novel, etc.)?

Azazeel (عزازيل), a novel by Youssef Ziedan.


What is the book Azazeel about?

Azazeel won the Arab Booker Prize. Set in the 5th century AD, Azazeel is the story of a Coptic monk’s journey from Upper Egypt to Alexandria and then Syria during a time of massive upheaval in the early Church.

Azazeel tells you how the history of our civilization has been warped by greed and avarice since its very beginnings and how one man’s beliefs are challenged not only by the malice of the devil, but by the corruption with the early Church.

Excursus: Who is Azazel?

The name Azazel (עֲזָאזֵל) is mentioned in the Old Testament. He is a demon or evil spirit. In the ancient rite of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), a scapegoat was sent bearing the sins of the Jewish people. Two male goats were chosen for the ritual, one designated by lots for the Lord, the other for Azazel (Leviticus 16:8).

Azazel was the personification of uncleanness and in later writings, he was also described as a fallen angel.

And in ISLAM? Also in Islam, Azazel (عزازيل) is a fallen angel or Jinn in the legendary tradition of Islam. The name does not occur in the Qur’an. However, it is related that Azazel is the name of Iblis (the devil) before his fall from heaven, a tradition which is traced back to Ibn Abbas.


How much time does a native speaker of English need to master Arabic?

I am not qualified to answer this. I am a native speaker and never taught the language nor have I learned it as a second language. But I think mastering Arabic must be hard. The language is so different from English and has many more complicated constructions to learn to be able to use it properly.

To learn a good part of it, you may need to study Arabic at least three years (full time).

To master it you will have to add a few more years.


What is your favorite Arabic word?

Amal (أمل). It means hope.


Which Arabic word do you like least?

Manjaneeq (منجنيق). It means catapult.

Remark: It is indeed a strange word. In English or German, you may know the term Mangonel which describes a type of trebuchet. The word is probably derived from Greek (mágganon/μάγγανον or mangonon), basically denoting an engine of war.



Sami’s website: https://tafqit.com

Tafqit converts Arabic numbers into a written form (words). If you don’t know how to write, for example, the number 397869, just go to tafqit.com and you’ll get the answer in a second (see picture below).

What is really great: tafqit takes the gender into account!

Furthermore, you can adjust the writing of the Arabic word for hundred.

If you want to know more about tafqit.com and other similar tools, check out my article about this topic:


Which Arabic dialect do you like best?

Egyptian. It feels smooth, fun and playful.


What is your favorite Arabic colloquial word or expression?

Yalla (يلّا). It means let’s go or come on.

Super easy to pronounce whatever your native language is. We use it in so many circumstances, like when we need to initiate something, push something to happen or start, or to emphasize a request.


What is your favorite Arabic quote or proverb?

إذا كان حبيبك عسل ما تلحسوا كله

Literal translation: If your friend was honey, don’t lick him all up. It means that you should not abuse the kindness of a friend.

Remark: This proverb is found in many Arabic dialects in various forms. In Egypt, you may hear: إن كان حبيبك عسل ما تلحسوش كله. It is a very old proverb that was already mentioned by the 14th century author al-Ibshihi (الأبشيهي) in one of his works in the form of: إذا كان صاحبك عسل لا تلحسه كله


What is the best thing that was ever said about the Arabic language?

“Algebra has a lot more in common with Arabic than just the fact that the word Algebra is an Arabic word. In Arabic, you solve equations too.”

Gerald Drißner (2020)

(thank you! :-D)


What is the best piece of advice you were ever given?

Start now!

Many times, I was advised to do something on the spot and not to postpone it. On many occasions I had postponed things and ended up not doing it.


Which three people would you like to invite for dinner?

That would probably be old friends who left Syria during the war and never returned.


What was the last great meal you had?

كباب كعب الغزال (Kebab Ka3eb Alghazal) which is translated as Deer’s Heel Kebab.

Don’t let the name fool you! It is made of Lamb not deer’s meat.

Kebab Ka3eb Alghazal
picture credit: Sami Morcos

I had this during my visit to Aleppo two weeks ago; it was delicious. I had never heard about it before. It is a local dish of Aleppo, probably hard to find outside Aleppo.
It is made mainly of Lamb kebab, Greek yogurt (laban), and Tahina. And it is eaten with Arabic bread.


What is your favorite city?

Luang Prabang – Laos.

I stayed a week there during an extensive journey in South East Asia, and it blew my mind away.

picture credit: pixabay (anniiikaa)

It is a quiet small UNESCO World Heritage city nestled in the confluence of two rivers, with many beautiful temples and great Indochina era architecture.


Which book would you give to a dear friend?

The Prophet by Gibran Khalil Gibran (جبران خليل جبران).

  • The Prophet

What is your all-time favorite movie?

The Return (Russian: Возвращение, romanized: Vozvrashcheniye).

It is a 2003 Russian drama film directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev. It tells the story of two Russian boys whose father suddenly returns home after 12 years of absence.


What music do you listen to?

I love everything of Radiohead.

Some other bands I listen to frequently are MGMT, Mutual Benefit, Arcade Fire, Bon Iver, Coldplay, The Decemberist, The Rural Alberta Advantage.

Actually, I am always on the lookout for the best recent albums especially in the indie music scene.


If you are a programmer or developer:

Sami has released an API (application programming interface) that offers the same service as his website tafqit.com.

You can access it here: https://rapidapi.com/postscripter/api/tafqit

This is for any programmer to embed tafqit (convert numbers to 
arabic words) into their app, software, website, etc.

It is free for limited usage, and subscription based for higher number of queries. If anyone is interested in implementing it, please contact Sami directly.

When were you happiest?

Landing safely after a very scary turbulent flight, I thought I may not make it. Then the happy emotions were multiplied getting surprised with best friends meeting me at the airport!


What is your greatest fear?

Cancer.


What is your life motto?

Life is short. Seize the day.


Sami Morcos, thank you for your time.

People who were also interviewed:


Note: This page was last updated on Aug 10, 2020 @ 15:02.

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