Language used in UAE - Names of towns, cities, wadis, mountains, etc. The Law requires that they be recorded in Arabic + English

We are having problems with some users who insist on using only the Arabic language for the names of various toponyms, and for commercial establishments, airports, universities, etc.
It is necessary to remember that the UAE Law requires that all these place names and indicators of commercial establishments and others, ALWAYS appear MANDATORY, in Arabic + English.
This is why OSM must respect the Law, and always use both languages to define all place names and other names that appear on the maps.
Attached is a photograph, as an example, of a small town: Al Jaroof.
On OSM maps, this town should appear with the name: Al Jaroof - الجروف. If we only put الجروف we would be breaking the Law, and we would also be making it difficult for thousands of users who do not speak Arabic to understand our maps.


Is this the place you are talking about? For the avoidance of doubt, that place has had both Arabic and English names since 2018. Neither has been removed.

Which name field a particular third-party map chooses to display is a matter for that third-party map alone; you can’t dictate it externally. There are seven different maps available via the layer switcher and many more elsewhere.

You presumably are complaining about the removal of part of the “name” field (without changes to name:ar or name:en) here. The person you are discussing with there says “The only official languages of the United Arab Emirates and Oman according to its consitution is Arabic”. I clearly can’t comment on that but did suggest you raised the issue here, so thanks for doing that!

The problem is not that names in a certain language are eliminated. That doesn’t usually happen. What is happening is that when both languages appear in the Name field (e.g. Jabal ar Rahrah - جبل الراعي OpenStreetMap
Some users remove the English part of the name, leaving only the Arabic.
By doing so you are breaking the law.
This is what the UAE government says, regarding place names, on its website Request Rejected
Official language
Arabic is the official language of the UAE. In the courts, the other five official languages are Chinese, English, French, Hindi and Russian. All road and traffic signs, and signs on commercial outlets are in Arabic and English. Some of the other widely spoken languages include Bengali, Farsi, Malayalam, Turkish and Urdu.
Attached is a photo of another example, in thi

s case of a dam: As you can see, it is also in both Arabic + English languages. In this case, it is the Rahba Dam, to which I have just added the name in Arabic, because previously it only appeared in English.
All. Absolutely all road indicators, names of towns, mountains, wadis, commercial signs, etc. They are in English + Arabic because the Law requires it.

That fact sheet doesn’t say it is “the law”, merely that Arabic is the official language and it is customary for signs to be in Arabic and English (and note - “Arabic and English”, not “English and Arabic”). It’s up to mappers actually in the UAE to decide what should be in the OSM name field.

Incidentally, it’s fairly clear that your sign wasn’t written by a fluent user of English. :slight_smile:

Edit: Note the point below about Arabic being rtl - as written, both languages are “first” :slight_smile:


The signs requiring a place name be in both Arabic and English, doesn’t necessarily mean both languages should be put in the main name tag. For example, does the corresponding census agency mention the places by both the Arabic and English variant?


I believe that even if naming public objects in Arabic as well as English language is required by law it will still be sufficient if this is done in OSM by using the “name” key for the Arabic name (which is the native language) and the “name:EN” key for the English name. Showing both names on a map is just a problem of the rendering. If you use this map for instance you will see all the names in both languages, for places as well as for roads and other objects:


So I do not think it is mandatory to put both English and Arabic name together in the “name” tag.


OSM is a database of spatial data. Like most (all) databases we have a “schema”, that is, roughly speaking, standards for what information goes in what fields (OSM doesn’t have fields per se, but our tagging is similar). The schema that the community consensus has arrived at says that the name field is for the one name that is primarily used by people local to the area being mapped, and that names in other languages should be placed in the name:xx tag, where “xx” is the two letter language code, e.g. “en” for English. Alternate names can be placed in the alt_name=* tag, or it’s more specific variants, e.g. short_name=*

Perhaps you coulld find a hiking app that displays the value of the name:en key.


It would be best to contact wikiloc about their design problems instead of trying to change the standard OSM map rendering by altering the name tag values for your use case. Now they will probably reply to use the Apple map in their app, but they may just include more basemaps (e.g. with English labels) like (as a good example for your use case) Thunderforest Outdoors. Or you may just change the app you use. Wikiloc is just one of many many apps out there.


FWIW, I suspect that a significant number of hiking apps show names matching the phone’s current language.


and if you do some mapping there to add new features, it would be best to put the Arabic name into name=… and name:ar=… and the English name into name:en=… (and you may check the English names on maps like the aforementioned map (that will use the English name if it does not have a German one) or at e.g. Relation: ‪دبي‬ (‪4479752‬) | OpenStreetMap or where you’ll see the English (and Arabic) name or English name only respectively.

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I use OSMAND for hiking (and other map things). It has an option where you can select the language that is used to label things, it even says that if there isn’t a name:xx=* tag for the language you selected, it will attempt to do a translation. There is a free version, but if you subscribe, or if you make lots of OSM edits, you can get a version where you get updates nearly every hour, which means the night before you go for a hike, you can double check the area in OSM and make necessary edits have have those on your phone the next morning before you head out on the trail!

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Actually, the OSMF wiki has a section in the “disputed territories” policy that says that OSM, as one database for the world, can’t follow all local laws (because they contradict).

For example, what the Indian government thinks is “India” differs from neighbouring countries. In OSM we try and create data that anyone can use to create a map that works for them, but lots of OSM maps are “illegal” in lots of countries.


The fact that Wikiloc doesn’t offer the features you desire is not an excuse to abuse the OSM schema. We call that “tagging for the render”, and consider it a bad thing to do. What if I read neither Arabic nor English, would I be justified in adding my language to the name=* tag? What if I was in a country that had dozens of official languages, should they all be entered in the name=* tag? What a mess that would be!


I would suggest asking for the ability to add your own layer, the way that Vespucci and OsmAnd allow. Tell them lots of their competitors already support that :slight_smile:


As the sign shows, both arabic and english languages are indicated. For the name tag content, it is up to the local community to establish a standard. The best is also that the community contacs contributors to assure they follow the name tag standard. No problem if you prefer english on the left, arabic on the right as one reads from left to right and the other right to left. This is the rule applied by the Marocco community using french and arabic.

But as said, various softwares using OSM can use their own rule often based on the prefered language of the user. Gladly when I search OSM for marrakech, maroc, the OSM website recognize my preference and show the french version that I can read. I also like to use the Americana website wich let me move the map around the world and have a french or english version of names. Otherwise, for many countries around the world, I cannot read. OpenStreetMap Americana

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Perhaps it is worth noting that even leaving aside the language issue, it would be useful to many users to offer more options than the standard OSM tiles, which do not have outdoor recreation as a high priority.

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