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A wilayah (Arabic: ولاية) or ولایت (velâyat) in Persian, vilayet in Turkish or vilayat in Urdu, is an administrative division, usually translated as "province", rarely as "governorate". The word comes from the Arabic "w-l-y", "to govern": a wāli — "governor" — governs a wilayah, "that which is governed". Under the Caliphate, the term referred to any constituent near-sovereign state.
Use in specific countries
The governorates of Iraq (muhafazah) are sometimes translated as province, in contrast to official Iraqi documents and the general use for other Arab countries. This conflicts somehow with the general translation for muhafazah (governorate) and wilāyah (province).
In the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of the People's Republic of China, 9 prefectures take the name Wilayit (Uyghur Language) which is rendered as Diqu (地區) in Chinese. Thereby demoting the term to a prefectural level, which is one level lower than the provincial level.
Altay Wilayiti 阿勒泰地区
Tarbaghatay Wilayiti 塔城地区
Turpan Wilayiti 吐鲁番地区
Qumul Wilayiti 哈密地区
Qeshqer Wilayiti 喀什地区
Aqsu Wilayiti 阿克苏地区
Xoten Wilayiti 和田地区
Kenya and Tanzania
In Kenya, the term wilaya is a Swahili term which refers to the administrative districts into which provinces are divided.
Malaysia and Indonesia
In Malaysia, the term Wilayah Persekutuan, often shortened to "Wilayah" in colloquial speech, refers to the three federal territories under direct control of the federal government: Kuala Lumpur, Labuan and Putrajaya.
Traditionally the provinces of the Ottoman Empire were known as eyâlets, but beginning in 1864, they were gradually restructured as smaller vilâyets – the Turkish pronunciation of the Arabic word wilāyah. Most were subdivided into sanjaks.
The current provinces of Turkey are called il in Turkish.
Central Asia and Caucasus
- Provinces of Afghanistan (Pashto: ولايت wilāyat, plural: ولايتونه wilāyatuna), subdivided into districts (Pashto: ولسوالۍ wuləswāləi or Persian: ولسوالی wolaswālī)
- Provinces of Tajikistan (singular: viloyat, plural: viloyatho), subdivided into districts (Tajik: ноҳия, nohiya or Russian: район, raion)
- Provinces of Turkmenistan (singular: welaýat, plural: welaýatlar), subdivided into districts (Turkmen: etrap)
- Provinces of Uzbekistan (singular: viloyat, plural: viloyatlar), subdivided into districts (Uzbek: tuman)
In the Tsez language, the districts of Dagestan are also referred to as "вилайат" (wilayat), plural "вилайатйоби" (wilayatyobi). But the term "район" (rayon), plural "районйаби" (rayonyabi) is also used.
In Iran, the word is also used unofficially.
In Urdu, the term Vilayat is used to refer to any foreign country. As an adjective Vilayati is used to indicate an imported article or good. In Bengali, the term Vilayat and 'Vilayati further change to bilet and bileti (archaic bilaiti), referring exclusively to Britain and British-made. The British slang term blighty derives from this word, via the fact that the foreign British were referred to using this word during the time of the British Raj.
- Stuart Thompson, Andrew (2005). The Empire Strikes Back? The Impact Of Imperialism on Britain from the Mid-Nineteenth Century. Pearson Education. p. 180. "Other Indian words include blighty ('one's home country', from the Hindi word 'bilayati' meaning 'foreign', whence 'British')"