The World Tour in Eighty Alleys

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Arabian Breeze in Genoa

In Genoa you can breathe not only salty air but also a cosmopolitan wind that brings influences from all over the world. Among them the Arabian one blows hard. Indeed many Arabian words entered the Genoese dialect.

Would you like some examples? Let’s start from the kitchen!
Do you know the Genoese pasta per excellence? The “trenetta”? Well, this word comes from the term “itriya”. It is Siryan word dated IX century that it was used to indicate an ancient version of our pasta!
Perhaps you don’t know the “scucuzzun”, it’s a typical Genoese dish that takes origin from the “cuscus”.

But the similarities with the Arabian world doesn’t end here! The area of the city and accordingly the words most influenced are bound to the harbour field.
“Camallo” from “hamal”=porter), “raiba” (from “rahaba”= market), “casana” (from “hazuna”= treasure/warehouse or jewel box), darsena ( means dockyard but came from “daras sinah”= industry house) and many others!

There are also a lot of similarities in the textile world! For instance “mezzaro” (from “mizar”= veil) and “macramé” (it is a kind of weaving whose name comes from “migramah” = knot/fringe).

What is fun is that many Genoese don’t know about the origins of those words!
Moreover many of them have a tendency to attribute Arabic origins to words that are not actually Arabic! So if you hear a Genoese say “gioxia”  (shutter), “massacan” (bricklayer) or “macadam”, you can surprise them saying that they’re pronouncing Italian terms!
Fun fact: the Italian word “macadam” comes from John Loudon MacAdam who’s the creator of that particular pavement.

Genoa wasn’t definitely only a crossroad of goods or people, but also of words!

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