Marginal Notes on: Safaitic Inscriptions from Dhuweila (Al-Zoubi and Al-Maani, 2018)

This belongs to a series of “marginal notes” I will post on recently published Safaitic inscriptions.

This post will re-edit two new inscriptions published by Al-Maani and Al-Zoubi in the recent issue of the Saudi Arabian journal Adumatu (#37, January 2018). The texts come from the Dhuweila region, 60km to the east of al-Safawi.

Inscription 1

The first inscription (#5 in the edition) under review is beautiful example of the square script. The editors read and translate the inscription as follows:

l-’bjr bn sly w-’šrq b-ʾṯr ġnm h-bd’ f-hl[t]..l w-dšr slm w-b-brʾ mn qfy{t}

 ‘For ’bjr son of sly and he migrated to the inner desert in the trace of ġnm, O lt…l and dšr (grant) security and (so) for my sons from behind’

(Photo from Al-Zoubi and Al-Maani 2018:11)

I noted the following issues with the reading of the inscription:

  • The word h-bdʾ is not given an interpretation
  • The n of bnʾ should in fact be read as an r

Given these issues, we can suggest a new reading and translation with the following commentary:

Al- Jallad reading and translation:

l-ʾbgr bn s1ly w-ʾs2rq b-ʾṯr ġnm h-bdʾ f-hl[t]..l w-ds2r slm w brʾ mn qfy{t}

‘by ʾbgr son of Sly and he set off to the inner desert in pursuit of spoil at the beginning of a military expedition so O Lt and Ds2r may he be secure and immune from tracking’


b-ʾṯr ġnm: The substantive ʾṯr is common in the inscriptions; translated neutrally as traces, it can refer to a grave, an inscription, or any evidence for the presence of a person. I would suggest that it is the infinitive of the verb ʾaira, meaning in CAr ‘to apply, or give, one’s whole attention’ (Lane, 18a-b). While the CAr usually takes an object introduced by the preposition l-, Old Arabic often uses the accusative in such situations (Al-Jallad 2015:70-71). ġnm should probably be understood as equivalent to CAr ġunmun or ġanīmun ‘spoil’; the more common form in Safaitic is ġnmt /ġanīmat.

Alternatively, the translation of the editors ʾs2rq b-ʾṯr ġnm ‘he migrated in the trace of ġnm (a personal name)’ is possible, but perhaps render better as ‘he migrated following the traces of ġnm. Lastly, and perhaps most unlikely, one could take ġnm as meaning ‘goats’. While migrating with goats is attested in the inscriptions, it would be rather strange for the author to be following the traces of his goats, suggesting that they were out  of sight.

h-bdʾ: In line with the military interpretation of this inscription, I would suggest regarding bdʾ as the equivalent of CAr badʾun ‘beginning, or outward course, of a military expedition’ (Lane, 164b). This would explain well the appearance of ġnm. I will, moreover, publish in the near future an inscription demonstrating the use of ʾs2rq in a military context.

w brʾ mn qfy{t}: The closing prayer attests brʾ, which is previously attested in a similar construction:

HaNSB 156

brʾ m-bʾs dʿy

‘may he who reads (this writing) aloud be free from misfortune’

We can interpret qfyt as an abstract noun from the verb qafā ‘to track, follow’ (Lane, 2991c), and so the phrase would translate as: ‘and immunity (lit. freedom) from tracking/following’ i.e. as a prayer that their raid not be anticipated and tracked by the enemy.

I have translated an identical word in a prayer to shayʿ– haq-qawm as ‘path’ in KRS 68 (Al-Jallad 2015: 255, 307, 313, 318, 329). While this works well in such a context, and it is trivial to understand the development of a noun ‘path’ from ‘following a trace’, if we wish to see the two as one and the same, then it is possible to translate the latter inscription as thus:

KRS 68

{ʾ}{n}k bġy -h w qf{y}t h {w} b- frt -k fltn m-mt

‘you (the god) are indeed the one he seeks (lit. his seeking) and the one he follows (lit. his following) and through your guidance comes deliverance from death’

Inscription 2

The second inscription is under review is numbered 2 in the edition and is accompanied by a drawing of a mounted warrior with a lance. The text is read and translated by the editors as follows:

l-snmn bn slm bn g h-mhrt w-’qm w-tr h-smy h-gzy -twrt

‘For snmn son of slm son of g this filly, and he settled down and awaited the recompense of the rain which is concealed’

(Photo from Al-Zoubi and Al-Maani 2018:9)

The reading is sound with the exception of the fifth glyph from the end of the inscription. The editors read this as a but the photograph clearly shows an h. This slightly alters the reading and translation to the following:

Al-Jallad reading and translation:

l-PN h-mhrt w-ʾqm w tr h-smy h-gzy h-twrt

‘By PN is this filly and he alighted (here) and awaited the rains, satisfaction, the flow of water’


The interpretation of all words by the editors is sound with the exception of the following:

gzy: This should no doubt be connected with CAr jazā ‘it paid, rendered, satisfaction’ (Lane, 422a), here referring to the sky and rains.

twrt: This hapax legomenon could be connected with CAr tāra ‘it ran, or flowed’ said of water (Lane, 322b), and fits nicely with the previous phrase.

This formulation is so far unique, with the verb taking several objects not connected with the conjunction w. But this is surely a more satisfying interpretation than the one provided by the editors considering that the relative pronoun cannot be maintained in the new reading.


Al-Jallad, A. 2015. An Outline of the Grammar of the Safaitic Inscriptions. (SSLL 80). Leiden: Brill.

Al-Zoubi, M. and S. Almaani. 2018. Some New Safaitic Inscriptions from Dhuweila – Jordan. Adumatu 37: 7-16.

[HaNSB] Ḥarāḥšah [Harahsheh], R.M.A. Nuqūš ṣafāʾiyyah min al-bādīyah al-urdunīyah al-šimālīyyah al-šarqīyah dirāsah wa-talīl. Amman: Ward, 2010.

[KRS] Inscriptions recorded by Geraldine King on the Basalt Desert Rescue Survey in north-eastern Jordan in 1989.