Sunday, March 15, 2009


Wosta (also spelt, woster/ waster/ waster but all pronounced in the same way, [wass-ter]) is an Arabic word which describes a polite form of corruption.

Wosta is the non-monetary method way of circumnavigating the prevaling system, or, short cutting the rules and getting what you want without waiting.

For example, say you need a job. What you will do is go visit your friend explain your situation, suggest they might be able to help and their friend goes and sorts you out a job.

Or you need a specific police report to disapear which mentions you attacked your wife.  You go to your friend in the police/ traffic department and there it is, gone.

An 'old boy's network' if you will.

Grammar Points
In English, the term 'wosta' is used as a noun, for example; "He's got lots of wosta."
You can not say, "He's wosta-ing" (verb) or "She's a wosta-ly girl" (adjective)

Urban Legends
A friend of a friend worked for a very large shipping company. One day he received a phone call from a man who was shipping lots of fireworks from China to the Middle East for the opening event of a festival.

The shipment was late and the man who was supposed to be supplying the fireworks was beginning to panic and the pressure was beginning to build.

He asked,
“Why hasn’t the shipment arrived yet?” to which he replied,
“Fireworks aren’t just any old shipment, they need lots of paperwork and clearance. Surely you were aware of this before you said you’d ship the consignment?”
The man replied,
“Do you know who these fireworks are for? They are for xxxx, now do something.”
My friend had heard it all before, and so replied,
“I'm sure they’re not bothered in Hong Kong or Singapore about xxxx, they want the paperwork. And that’s why your shipment is stuck in Beijing.”

Years ago, whilst in an Australian railway station a friend was getting a cup of coffee when the Gulfie man ~man from the Gulf~ behind the counter spotted some Arabic writing on one of her posessions. He struck up a conversation and found out she worked in the Middle East and immediately suggested she find him a job.

A friend of a friend had an accident in her car and had the car fixed at the dealership garage. Several years later when she wanted to sell the car, someone went to the garage to make sure the car’s history would not be divulged to anyone who might come along and ask.  The car was now accident free.

Some Background Information
Al-Faleh (1987) found the Arab management style has the following characteristics:
1. Organisation members are motivated by friendship and power needs, rather than by performance objective
2. Social formalities are extremely important
3. Managers rely heavily on kinship ties to get things done4. Nepotism is regarded as natural and acceptable
5. Punctuality and time constraints are much less concern than in western cultures
6. Subordinates act with deference and obedience to those above them in the hierarchy

The Images
The Images on today's posting come from a variety of Arabic blogs including:


John Burgess said...

Another way to look at this is through the sociological lens of "Client/Patron Relationships".

This sort of system worked amazingly well for over 1,500 years. It's not working so very well these days, though....

wgaw said...

Maybe, but possibly no? I don't know anything about the client/patron relationships of Rome. But here goes a bit more about my understanding of wasta.

My understanding says wasta works across and then up.
e.g. someone you know has influence and you approach them for help. Or that person knows someone who can do something about helping you overcome your problem or getting your wants for you. Or even someone you know, knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone, who can acutally do something about it.

Wasta also works across (friends, relatives), rather than just upwards and downwards which is my understanding of the client/patron sponsorship relationship.

So, sometimes one person has influence and connections in the area you need influence and connections. At another time and place with different need, it would be another person who would have the influence and connections.

I think wasta is not a stable thing, it's quite fluid. And you can definately go out and find wasta from more than one person.