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Dabova Mahala, a mahala-turned-village in Montana Province, Bulgaria Dubova mahala.jpg
Dabova Mahala, a mahala-turned-village in Montana Province, Bulgaria

The word Mahala or Mahalla is used in many languages and countries meaning neighborhood or location originated in Arabic محلة(maḥalla), from the root meaning ‘to settle’, ‘to occupy’ derived from the verb halla (to untie), as in untying a pack horse or camel to make a camp. In ancient cultures hospitality involved welcoming the stranger at the host location and offering him food, shelter, and safety. This meaning of hospitality centers on the belief that strangers should be assisted and protected while traveling. [1]

Mahala is also a Balkan word for "neighbourhood" or "quarter", a section of a rural or urban settlement, dating to the times of the Ottoman Empire. It was brought to the area through Ottoman Turkish mahalle, but it originates in Arabic محلة (mähallä), from the root meaning "to settle", "to occupy". It is rendered as follows in the languages of the region: Bulgarian : махала (makhala); Serbo-Croatian : mahala/ махала; Romanian : mahala; Albanian : mahallë or mahalla, or mëhallë or mëhalla; Greek : μαχαλάς (mahalas); Macedonian : маало (maalo) or маала (maala); Romani : mahala; Aromanian : mãhãlã. A mahala was a relatively independent quarter of a larger village or a town, with its own school, religious building or buildings, mayor's representative, etc. [2] Mahalas are often named after the first settler or, when ethnically separate, according to the dominant ethnicity.

In Bulgaria, mahalas were administratively considered a separate type of settlement on some occasions; today, settlements are only divided into towns or villages, and the official division of towns is into quarters. In rural mountainous areas, villages were often scattered and consisted of relatively separate mahalas with badly developed infrastructure.

In Romanian, the word mahala has come to have the strictly negative or pejorative connotations of a slum or ghetto [3] that are not present or at least not as strongly implied in other languages.

In the Bengali language, mahalla (pronouncedmo-hol-la) also means an urban neighbourhood. In Iran, mahalla is widely used in the same ways as mentioned above for urban neighborhoods.

In South Africa, Mahala is commonly used as a replacement for the word FREE.

See also

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Mahala is a word used in many languages and countries meaning neighborhood or location.


  1. "Mahalla Festival". InEnArt. Retrieved 2017-08-30.
  2. Чолева-Димитрова, Анна М. (2002). Селищни имена от Югозападна България: Изследване. Речник (in Bulgarian). София: Пенсофт. pp. 20–21. ISBN   978-954-642-168-5. OCLC   57603720.
  3. "Free Online English<>Romanian Dictionary — Dictionar Englez Roman". Industrial Soft. Retrieved 2008-10-09.