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Moroccan Phrases: Lesson No. 2 - Bs7a wa ra7a!

Bs7a wa ra7a - (May you be blessed) With good health and comfort.

[For the non-Arabic speakers here, recall from our first lesson that 7 represents the harsh ‘h' and 3 represents 'ayn in Arabic.]

Bought a new outfit? Bs7a wa ra7a!

Perhaps some new trainers? Bs7a wa ra7a!

Heck, maybe just a new haircut: iwaa, bs7a wa ra7a!

For just about anything new, Moroccans will congratulate you with our phrase-du-jour: bs7a wa ra7a!

In Arabic, this is written as: بصحة و راحة

Naturally, the Darija accent being what it is, we manage to mangle the Arabic into near incomprehensibility. Although, I must add, that as a Moroccan, this isn’t always a bad thing. For this particular phrase, the mutilation is not hugely obvious since my friend Fatima Zahra understood me.

[Note: The test for general Arabic mutilation is to try any given Moroccan phrase or word on an Egyptian - if they don’t get it, chances are no other Arabic speaker (outside of the Darija clique) will either. This test has a 95% confidence interval and does not account for intra-dialectal phrases since Shamaliyeen (Northerners) have some weird words I don’t understand either. In using this test, you accept liability for the outcomes of applying said test, including - but not limited to - misunderstandings, personal embarrassment and annoyed Egyptian friends.]

What does it mean, again?

Bs7a wa ra7a literally means, “with good health and comfort/relaxation”.

Let’s break it down: bi means ‘with’, s7a is ‘good health’, wa means ‘and’ and ra7a is, clearly, ‘comfort’.

As it is said on occasions where new things are bought/received, the bracketed “may you be blessed” part in the sub-heading is sort of implied. The idea is that, with your new item, you will continue life a little more blessed with the good health and comfort that said item brings you. These items tend to be relatively small in nature i.e. you wouldn’t say ‘bs7a wa ra7a' to someone who's just bought a new car or a house. 'Mabrook’ (“Congratulations!”) is more fitting.

The phrase is commonly abbreviated to ‘bs7atek’, which just means “with your good health” or, properly speaking, “to your good health”. Whilst ‘bs7a wa ra7a' is used mostly in situations that involve new objects, 'bs7atek' has a slightly more general meaning and can also be used to respond to appreciative comments or praise, specifically about something that you have made and that the praisers are enjoying. More on this later.

A final situation where ‘bs7a wa ra7a' is used in a specific context, outside of new objects, is… for coming out of the bath. Sorry, fellow Moroccans, I simply had to leave the most obvious ‘til last.

Coming out of the bath, did you say? Yep, being squeaky clean warrants a ‘bs7a wa ra7a' in Moroccan culture.

Traditionally, when having a ‘Moroccan’ bath at home, (the public baths, known as hammams, are a slightly different experience as highlighted in this incorrectly titled article - no, Morocco is not in the Middle East), the average Moroccan will spend at least an hour soaking and sweating it out in the tub, whilst scrubbing their bodies, to take out the week’s worth of wosakh (that’s dirt and dead skin, by the way) that has accumulated. That’s not to say that Moroccans only wash every Sunday or something (we shower daily, too, don’t worry) but rather, the ‘Moroccan’ bath/hammam offers a more intense, deeper clean than normal bathing would, so as such isn’t needed as often.

But I digress.

Once you emerge from the bathroom, slightly steaming in your bathrobe, any person you bump into on your way to the bedroom is prone to say, “Bs7a wa ra7a!”

This may have something to do with the fact that, having scrubbed off so much old skin, there’s actually a new you and this new you qualifies as as one of the ‘objects’ you can say ‘bs7a wa ra7a' for.

The stock response, when you hear this being said, is: “Allah ya3tik s7a!" (God give you good health!)

or “Bousou bideek!" (A kiss to your hand! i.e. a symbolic phrase of deference and respect to the well-wisher. Back in the day, you literally went and kissed your well-wisher’s hand but nobody does that anymore.)

Examples of “bs7a wa ra7a” and “bsa7tek”

Here are four basic scenarios that will hopefully clarify how and when to use “bs7a wa ra7a” and “bsa7tek” properly.

Case 1: “Bs7a wa ra7a” (for new items)

Whilst trying on your new jacket, your mum is likely to compliment your good taste and say, “Bs7a wa ra7a!”. This will inevitably be followed by her asking how much you spent and the phrase from Lesson 1, “Ah, weeli!”.

Case 2: “Bsa7tek” (for new items)

Same as Case 1, but replace “Bs7a wa ra7a!" with "Bs7atek!”, and “Ah, weeli!" with "Willy-willy-willy!”.

Case 3: “Bsa7tek” (in response to praise)

Whilst tucking into your successfully made, slow-cooked lamb tagine, complete with delicious marqa, prunes and toasted almonds, the in-laws will say: “Allah ya3tik s7a! Rah bneen!" (God give you good health! This is delicious!)

This is a form of extremely high praise or appreciative comment, especially if you’re a guy, because if your lamb tagine sucked, they would have remained silent.

To this, you should respond, “Bs7atkom" which is the plural form of ‘bs7atek’.

Case 4: “Bs7a wa ra7a” (having just had a bath)

Whenever you realise somebody has just had a bath, say “Bs7a wa ra7a.

In turn, they will respond with either, “Allah ya3tik s7a!" or "Bousou bideek!" Alternatively, they may not respond at all because they are too busy sipping their cup of post-hammam mint tea.

The period for well-wishing lasts from physical exit of the bathroom up to the time it takes for their hair to dry naturally, or for the smell of clean soap to dissipate from their person completely, whichever of the two comes last.

Conclusion

To recap, there are quite a few social situations where you should be wishing others good health and some of them might be a bit different to what you’re used to.

In any case, positivity is good all round and hopefully you’ll be able to impress your Maghrebi friends a little bit more when they bring their new phone into work. Either that, or you can annoy your Egyptian ones.

Filed under Moroccan Phrases No. 2 Bs7a wa ra7a Darija Arabic language bath-time hammam culture personal educational humour

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