Arabic Wikipedia

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Favicon of Wikipedia Arabic Wikipedia
The logo of Arabic Wikipedia, a globe with puzzle pieces featuring several glyphs from various writing systems. In response to the 2023 Israel–Hamas war, the pieces are in the colours of the Palestinian flag
Type of site
Internet encyclopedia project
Available inArabic
HeadquartersMiami, Florida
OwnerWikimedia Foundation
Created byArab wiki community
Launched9 July 2003; 20 years ago (2003-07-09)[1]

The Arabic Wikipedia (Arabic: ويكيبيديا العربية) is the Modern Standard Arabic version of Wikipedia. It started on 9 July 2003. As of April 2024, it has 1,231,299 articles, 2,570,520 registered users and 54,065 files and it is the 17th largest edition of Wikipedia by article count, and ranks 8th in terms of depth among Wikipedias. It was the first Wikipedia in a Semitic language to exceed 100,000 articles[2] on 25 May 2009, and also the first Semitic language to exceed 1 million articles, on 17 November 2019.[3]

The design of the Arabic Wikipedia differs somewhat from other Wikipedias. Most notably, since Arabic is written right-to-left, the location of links is a mirror image of those Wikipedias in languages written left-to-right. Before Wikipedia was updated to MediaWiki 1.16, Arabic Wikipedia had a default page background of the site inspired by Arabic/Islamic tiling or ornament styles. Switching from MediaWiki's new default Vector layout to the original MonoBook layout may restore this page background.

Three varieties of Arabic have their own Wikipedia: Standard, Egyptian, and Moroccan. Additionally, Maltese, derived from Arabic, has its own Wikipedia.

"Edit" button on Arabic Wikipedia screenshot, old background in 2008


Arab Wikipedians meeting during Wikimania conference in Hong Kong

At the emergence of the Wikipedia project in 2001, there were calls to create an Arabic domain raised by Arab engineers.[4] The domain was created as "" but no serious activity took place except with anonymous users who experimented with the idea.[5] Until 7 February 2003, all contributors to the Arabic Wikipedia were non-Arab volunteers from the International Project Wikipedia[6] that handled the technical aspects. Elizabeth Bauer, who used the user name Elian in the Arabic Wikipedia, approached many Arabic speakers who potentially might be interested in volunteering to spearhead the Arabic project. The only group who responded was the ArabEyes team who were involved in Arabizing the Open Source initiatives. Elian's request was conservatively received and the ArabEyes team was ready to participate but not take a leadership role[7] and then declined to participate on the second of February 2003. During this negotiation time, volunteer users from the German Wikipedia project continued to develop the technical infrastructure of the Arabic Wikipedia backbone.[8][9]

In 2003 Rami Tarawneh (Arabic: رامي عوض الطراونة), a Jordanian PhD student in Germany who originated from Zarqa, encountered the English Wikipedia and began to edit content. Contributors encouraged him to start an Arabic Wikipedia.[10] The Arabic Wikipedia opened in July 2003.[11] By that year a significant group of contributors included Tarawneh and four other Jordanians studying in Germany.[10]

On 7 February 2004,[12] one member from the ArabEyes, Isam Bayazidi (Arabic: عصام بايزيدي), volunteered with 4 other friends to be involved with the Arabic Wikipedia and assumed some leadership roles. In 2004, Bayazid was assigned the SysOp responsibilities and he, with another 5 volunteers, namely Ayman, Abo Suleiman, Mustapha Ahmad and Bassem Jarkas[13] are considered to be the first Arabs to lead the Wikipedia project and they are attributed for working on translating and enforcing the English policies to Arabic. The Arabic Wikipedia faced many challenges at its inception. In February 2004, it was considered to be the worst Wikipedia project among all other languages. However, in 2005, it showed phenomenal progress by which in December 2005, the total number of articles reached 8,285.[14] By that time, there were fewer than 20 contributors and the administrators and contributors made efforts to recruit new users.[10]

In 2007 the secret police in an unspecified country detained Tarawneh and demanded that he reveal the IP address of a contributor. To protect the Wikipedian, the administrators forged a dispute that was the presumed reason for Tarawneh losing his administrator access, so the secret police was unable to obtain the IP. In response to the incident, the rules now state that no one user may have access to all information about the Wikipedia's users.[10]

In 2008 the Wikipedia had had fewer than 65,000 articles and was ranked No. 29 out of the Wikipedias, behind the Esperanto Wikipedia and the Slovenian Wikipedia. Noam Cohen of The New York Times reported that, to many of the attendees of the 2008 Wikimania conference in Alexandria, Egypt, the "woeful shape of the Arabic Wikipedia has been the cause of chagrin."[15] Cohen stated that out of Egyptians, fewer than 10% "are thought to have internet access" and of those with internet access many tend to be knowledgeable in English and have a preference of communicating in that language.[15] The Arabic Wikipedia had 118,870 articles as of 15 January 2010.

As of July 2012 there are around 630 active Arabic Wikipedia editors around the world. Ikram Al-Yacoub of Al Arabiya says that this is "a relatively low figure."[16] At the time there were hundreds of thousands of Wikipedia articles on the Arabic Wikipedia.[10] The Wikimedia Foundation and the nonprofit group Taghreedat established the "Arabic Wikipedia Editors Program" intended to train users to edit the Arabic Wikipedia.[16] By the end of June 2014, the number of articles had reached 384,000[17]

Iraqi volunteers have translated much of English Wikipedia into Arabic Wikipedia.[18] More recently, a project named Bayt Alhikma has translated more than 10,000 articles about science and other topics in Arabic. The number of active users in Arabic Wikipedia is increasing quickly, reaching the 10,000 mark for first time on 10 February 2021.[19]

On 23 December 2023, Arabic Wikipedia colored its logo with the colors of the Palestinian flag and initiated a 24-hour pause in editing in solidarity with the Palestinian people and calling for a ceasefire in the 2023 Israel–Hamas war.[20][21][22]

Evaluation and criticism[edit]

The countries in which the Arabic Wikipedia is the most popular language version of Wikipedia are shown in teal.

At Wikimania 2008, Jimmy Wales argued that high-profile arrests like those of Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer could be hampering the development of the Arabic Wikipedia by making editors afraid to contribute.[23]

In 2010, Tarek Al Kaziri, from Radio Netherlands Worldwide, believed that the Arabic Wikipedia reflected the Arabic reality in general. Low participation lowers the probability that the articles are reviewed, developed and updated, and political polarisation of participants is likely to lead to biases in the articles.[24]

According to Alexa Internet, on 26 November 2014, the Arabic Wikipedia is the 10th most visited language version of Wikipedia in terms of percentage of visitors on all of the Wikipedias over a month, with the "" subdomain attracting approximately 1.8% of the total visitors of the "" website,[25] despite being ranked no. 22 in term of the article count. In terms of page views, it is ranked 12th with the same 10 Wikipedias above it plus the Polish and Dutch ones.[26]

In mid-2020, Arabic Wikipedia was criticized for deletion of the article about Sarah Hegazi. Some Arabic LGBT activists on social media accused Arabic Wikipedia of bias against the Arab LGBT community, and considered the action to be part of censorship, hate-speech and homophobia in Middle East. The news website Raseef22 criticized Arabic Wikipedia's policies, and said that the project was controlled by prejudiced administrators who reject articles about minorities and women.[27][28]


Saudi Arabia[edit]

Example of Saudi Arabian ISP blocking a website

On 11 July 2006 the Saudi government blocked access to Wikipedia and Google Translate for what it said was sexual and politically sensitive content.[29][30] Google Translate was being used to bypass the filters on the blocked sites by translating them.[31][32] Though Wikipedia is not blocked currently, specific pages on Wikipedia were reported to be censored by Saudi Arabia in 2011, such as one page discussing the theory of evolution.[33][34] Encrypted connections denoted by "HTTPS" made censorship more difficult for these pages and today there is no evidence that individual pages are still being blocked.[34]

In September 2020, two Wikipedia volunteer administrators were arrested on the same day: Osama Khalid was sentenced to 32 years in prison while Ziyad al-Sofiani was sentenced to eight years, according to Smex, a Lebanese NGO to advance self-regulating information societies in the Arab-speaking world, and Democracy for the Arab World Now. A subsequent investigation by the Wikimedia Foundation identified 16 users who seemed to routinely engage in conflict-of-interest editing—reportedly including spying for the Saudi government.[35]


Access to the Arabic Wikipedia was blocked in Syria between 30 April 2008 and 13 February 2009, although other language editions remained accessible.[36][37]

Usage and page views by country[edit]

Page views on the Arabic Wikipedia, breakdown by country over time.

Florence Devouard, the former president of the Wikimedia Foundation, stated in 2010 that the largest number of articles on the Arabic Wikipedia were written by Egyptians and that the Egyptians were more likely to participate in the Arabic Wikipedia compared to other groups.[38]

Generally, Arabic Wikipedia, as of 2018, is the most popular language version of Wikipedia in most Arab countries, except Tunisia, Comoros, Chad, Lebanon, Qatar, Bahrain and the UAE. Arabic Wikipedia has its highest percentages in Egypt, Libya and the countries of the Levant (except Israel and Lebanon) and the Arabic peninsula.[39] This discrepancy happens because of the deficits of Wikipedia in Arabic regarding quality and quantity, while in the latter three the lead of English there is associated with the fact that most residents there are migrants from various countries, such as India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Philippines and other countries, where English is the most popular language there.

As of December 2022, Arabic receives around to 180 to 260 million pageviews per month, depending on the season. The most pageviews are recorded in winter and spring.[40]

Also, the Ideas Beyond Borders project, in cooperation with the I Believe in Science website, launched the Bayt Alhikma 2.0 project in December 2018 in order to translate science-related articles in Arabic.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ahmad, Abdullah (September 2013). "Arabic Wikipedia: Why it lags behind". Asfar e-Journal. London, UK. ISSN 2055-7957. Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  2. ^ "Wikimedia News/2009 - Meta". Archived from the original on 22 November 2021. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  3. ^ "Wikimedia News - Meta". Archived from the original on 23 January 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2019.
  4. ^ "المستشار / طارق قابيل". Archived from the original on 5 December 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  5. ^ Archived discussions about International languages. Refer to section "Provisional is Best, Sort by Population". Archived 8 December 2019 at the Wayback Machine Note the comment "Outside jokes, the french and german wikipedias is more developed than the one of hindi or Arab.". Last accessed 4 August 2014
  6. ^ "arabic wikipedia". Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  7. ^ "We have a problem!". Archived from the original on 7 November 2017. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  8. ^ "ويكيبيديا:الميدان". 1 August 2003. Archived from the original on 1 May 2021. Retrieved 4 August 2014 – via Wikipedia.
  9. ^ The discussion page of Svertigo that shows the non-Arab volunteers working on the Arabic Wikipedia in late 2003
  10. ^ a b c d e Su, Alice (14 February 2014). "In the Middle East, Arabic Wikipedia is a flashpoint – and a beacon". Wired. Condé Nast. Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 14 February 2014. (Archive)
  11. ^ Panović, Ivan (University of Oxford Faculty of Oriental Studies). "The Beginnings of Wikipedia Masry Archived 23 January 2016 at the Wayback Machine." al-Logha Series of Papers in Linguistics, 2010. 8: 93-127. (sourced content from p. 94)
  12. ^ "X!'s tools". Archived from the original on 14 May 2020. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  13. ^ These were Ayman, Abo Suleima, Mustapha Ahmad and Bassem Jarkas
  14. ^ Wikipedia Statistics - Arabic Wikipedia. Accessed on 4 August 2014
  15. ^ a b Cohen, Noam (21 July 2008). "In Egypt, Wikipedia is more than hobby". International Herald Tribune. Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 14 December 2008. (Archive)
  16. ^ a b Al-Yacoub, Ikram. "'Taghreedat' to offer Arab Tweeps their own search engine." (Archive) Al Arabiya. Thursday 19 July 2012. Retrieved on 24 August 2012.
  17. ^ "Wikipedia Statistics Arabic. Retrieved on 4 August 2014". Archived from the original on 6 August 2014. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  18. ^ Cuthbert, Olivia (8 October 2019). "Spread the word: the Iraqis translating the internet into Arabic". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 October 2019. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  19. ^ List of Wikipedias Archived 16 July 2021 at the Wayback Machine List of Wikipedias - Meta (10 February 2021 version)
  20. ^ "'Arabic Wikipedia' shuts down for one day in solidarity with Gaza". Roya TV. 23 December 2023. Archived from the original on 23 December 2023. Retrieved 23 December 2023.
  21. ^ "Wikipedia Arabic closes it's site for 24 hours in solidarity with Gaza". Jordan News. 23 December 2023. Archived from the original on 23 December 2023. Retrieved 23 December 2023.
  22. ^ "ويكيبيديا بنسختها العربية... إغلاق مؤقت تضامناً مع الشعب الفلسطيني". The New Arab (in Arabic). 23 December 2023. Archived from the original on 23 December 2023. Retrieved 23 December 2023.
  23. ^ Noam Cohen (17 July 2008). "Wikipedia Goes to Alexandria, Home of Other Great Reference Works". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  24. ^ ويكيبيديا والعرب: خلل في المشروع أم في الثقافة؟ (in Arabic). Archived from the original on 10 October 2013. Retrieved 8 July 2011.
  25. ^ " Traffic, Demographics and Competitors - Alexa". Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 15 November 2012.
  26. ^ "Wikimedia Traffic Analysis Report - Page Views Per Wikipedia Language - Breakdown". Archived from the original on 25 December 2018. Retrieved 26 November 2014.
  27. ^ Babily, Dima (3 July 2020). "ويكيبيديا وقصة سارة حجازي تثيرويكيبيديا وقصة سارة حجازي تثير الجدل حول المعايير التحريرية وحرية التعبير" [Wikipedia and Sarah Hegazi's story spark controversy over editorial standards and freedom of expression]. BBC Arabic (in Arabic). Archived from the original on 7 July 2021. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  28. ^ Allam, Samla (23 June 2020). "بعد حذف صفحة التعريف بسارة حجازي… كيف تُدار "ويكيبيديا العربية"؟" [After the deletion of Sarah Hegazi's article... How is Arab Wikipedia managed?]. Raseef22 (in Arabic). Archived from the original on 26 July 2020. Retrieved 16 August 2020.
  29. ^ "What is Wrong with Wikipedia?". Archived from the original on 7 August 2011.
  30. ^ "Saudi Information Agency. Independent Saudi News". Archived from the original on 3 February 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2011.
  31. ^ "What is Wrong with Wikipedia?". Archived from the original on 7 July 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2011.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) Hassna’a Mokhtar, Arab News 19 July 2006 ("What is Wrong with Wikipedia?". Archived from the original on 7 August 2011. Retrieved 23 September 2011.)
  32. ^ "Saudi Information Agency". Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2011. SIA News Riyadh, 14 July 2006 ("Saudi Information Agency". Archived from the original on 3 February 2012. Retrieved 23 September 2011.)
  33. ^ Zittrain, Jonathan L.; Tilton, Casey B.; Noman, Helmi; Morrison-Westphal, Ryan J.; Faris, Robert M.; Clark, Justin D. (2017). The Shifting Landscape of Global Internet Censorship (Thesis).
  34. ^ a b "New Berkman Klein Center study examines global internet censorship". Harvard Law Today. 29 June 2017.
  35. ^ "Saudi Arabia jails two Wikipedia staff in 'bid to control content'". The Guardian. 5 January 2023. ISSN 0261-3077. Wikidata Q116039713. See also "In the Middle East, Arabic Wikipedia Is a Flashpoint – And a Beacon". WIRED. 12 February 2014. Archived from the original on 24 June 2018. Retrieved 24 June 2018.
  36. ^ Institute for War and Peace Reporting (3 June 2008). "Syrian youth break through internet blocks". Archived from the original on 2 April 2012. Retrieved 1 February 2010.
  37. ^ (in Arabic) Arabic Wikipedia Disappears From The Internet in Syria Archived 21 June 2019 at the Wayback Machine, Menassat, 19 May 2008 (English translation )
  38. ^ Samir, Amira (December 2009). "Le masri est-il contre l'arabe ?" [Is Masri contrary to Arabic?] (in French). Al-Ahram Hebdo. Archived from the original on 31 January 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2010. () "« Les Egyptiens sont effectivement les plus nombreux à participer dans la Wikipedia arabe, c’est-à-dire que les statistiques montrent que le plus grand nombre d’articles dans la Wikipedia arabe sont envoyés par des Egyptiens.[...]"
  39. ^ "Wikimedia Traffic Analysis Report - Wikipedia Page Views Per Country - Breakdown". Archived from the original on 1 May 2021. Retrieved 12 January 2023.
  40. ^ "Wikistats - Statistics For Wikimedia Projects". Archived from the original on 11 July 2020. Retrieved 12 January 2023.

External links[edit]

Media related to Arabic Wikipedia at Wikimedia Commons