Cultural Connectives – Rana Abou Rjeily

We shall never understand one another until we reduce the language to seven words.” ~ Khalil Gibran

Arabic is a Semitic language, spoken by about 280 million people in a large number of countries. While several dialects are spoken, there is but one official, written version. The mysterious Arabic script is famed to be very complicated, because of the stark differences with the Latin alphabet. The Arabic alphabet consists of 28 letters and is written from right to left.

The characters of the script are connected with the adjacent letters; Arabic does not have a printed script with individual, isolated letters like the Latin script. There are, however, different writing styles, such as Naskh, Ruqʿa and Kufic. Just like the alphabets of other Semitic languages, Arabic primarily represents consonants. In dictionaries and some other books vowels are indicated, but with marks above and under the consonants.

Sounds complicated?

Rana Abou Rjeily makes it easier with her book ‘Cultural Connectives’, for which she devised a new, useful typeface: the Mirsaal Arabic. This font brings together the two scripts in typographical harmony. With the typeface, the Arabic script is compared to the Latin. This way, one can effortlessly learn the basics of Arabic: rules for writing, grammar and pronunciation. It is an introduction to Arabic for anyone who finds it difficult to learn.

The different Arabic of the typeface are inspired on the Naskh style, one of the most readable and simplified cursive Arabic scripts. The Mirsaal typeface conveys the cultural essence and conventions of the Arabic script. While Arabic is always written in a cursive style, Mirsaal takes away the connected feature to approach the Latin script.

By ‘simplifying’ Arabic to make it more accessible, Rjeily helps to overcome cultural barriers. The book offers a new perspective and explains the differences between Arabic and Latin scripts.

The book is beautifully designed and encourages learning Arabic. It is also crammed with facts and tidbits about the Arabic and Latin scripts, the differences and similarities. We can highly recommend it!

The author

Rana Abou Rjeily is active as a graphic and letter designer and is interested in researching and developing the tradition of simplifying Arabic. As a student at the Central Saint Martins College of Arts and Design in London, Rana Abou Rjeily devised the Mirsaal typeface. She grew up in Lebanon, where apart from Arabic, French and English are widely spoken. Of these three, she found Arabic the most difficult to learn.

Mark Batty Publisher, 2011, ISBN 978-1-9356131-3-8, 112 p., € 30,99.

Pictures: Rana Abou Rjeily

Article translated by Mark Eijkman

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