What’s up? Or as they say in the Khaleeji Gulf dialect here in Dubai, Halla walla!
If you’ve ever had to text your boss to tell them the jerk in front of you pulled into your driving lane while holding up a hand with his fingers together in the Khaleeji sign for understanding, well, there’s now an app for that.
It’s called Halla Walla and it comes with emojis and stickers, and attempts to bring translate popular elements of the region’s culture into shareable expressions. So you can tell your boss to “Shway shway”.
Best of all, like most things in Dubai and the wider Gulf, it’s available in Arabic and English, and works with both Android and iOS.
Yasmine Rasool, one of the people behind the app says the idea came from a desire to express life as it is lived in the Gulf. “We wanted to create something that we know well and give the Khaleeji culture a boost through our creativity. When it came to representing the modern Middle Eastern voice, we felt there was a real gap in social messaging platforms,” she says. “From our loud families, endless cousin gatherings and shared meals, to signature phrases, fashion statements, football, shisha and late night shawarma runs – our lives are brimming with inside jokes and over the top emotions that needed a platform to be expressed.”
Halla Walla is being launched on February 22 with a Khaleeji childhood party at Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz with DJs, street food and game previews.
“Arabs have such a rich culture, but no emoticon to express online. In any situation – we use hand gestures, which are laden with emotion. So, to express that stress to hurry up when you are waiting hours for your friend to meet you at the coffee shop – what better way than by screaming Yalla! Hence the reason why Halla Walla was born,” says co-founder Eriko Varkey.
Not the first
Sure it isn’t the first app of its kind. A similar Dubai emoji app launched in 2015 but that seems to have disappeared off the app stores now.
A total of 200 emojis are available, representing everything from blingy gold watches and the Hand of Fatima to Chips Oman and kabsa. There’s also a gold bar (naturally), henna, shisha and almost anything you can think of, including a flying carpet. Four characters have been created to represent the Khaleeji family: Ahmed, Shaikha, Lulu and Waleed can be found doing different things.
But our favourite has to be the tiger in the car belly dancer sticker. Yes, an actual belly dancer! Hizzi hizzi aiwa!