Last updated
View of Sarshahar Mahallah in Ordubad, Azerbaijan S@rs@h@r m@scidi. Ordubad s@h@ri 01.JPG
View of Sarshahar Mahallah in Ordubad, Azerbaijan

A mahallah, also mahalla, mahallya, mahalle Arabic : محلة, maḥallä, mahallā, mohalla, mehalla, or mehalle (Arabic : محلة maḥalla; Bengali : মহল্লাmôhollā; Hindustani: मोहल्ला; محلہmōhallā; Persian : محله mahalleh; Azerbaijani : Məhəllə; Albanian : mahallë or mahalla, or mëhallë or mëhalla, Bulgarian : махала, Macedonian : маало (maalo) or маала (maala), Serbo-Croatian : mahala / махала), (abbreviated mh. or mah.) is an Arabic word variously translated as district, quarter, ward, or "neighborhood" [1] in many parts of the Arab world, the Balkans, Western Asia, the Indian subcontinent, and nearby nations.



Historically, mahallas were autonomous social institutions built around familial ties and Islamic rituals. Today it is popularly recognised also by non-Muslims as a neighbourhood in large cities and towns. Mahallas lie at the intersection of private family life and the public sphere. Important community-level management functions are performed through mahalle solidarity, such as religious ceremonies, life-cycle rituals, resource management and conflict resolution. It is an official administrative unit in many Middle Eastern countries.

The word was brought to the Balkans through Ottoman Turkish mahalle, but it originates in Arabic محلة (mähallä), from the root meaning "to settle", "to occupy".

In September 2017, a Turkish-based association referred to the historical mahalle by organizing a festival with the title "Mahalla" in the frame of parallel events of the 15th Istanbul Biennial. The festival in Istanbul features cultural initiatives of civil society and artists from the Middle East, Europe, the Balkans and Turkey. Against the background of the ongoing migration crisis, all participants of the festival focus their work using themes of hospitality, identity formation, homelessness, migration, fluctuation, the changing of an existing order and the dissolution of borders. The second Mahalla Festival took place 2018 in Valletta, Malta, in the frame of European Capital of Culture. [2]


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 is used in many languages and countries to mean neighborhood or location and 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 a stranger at the host location and offering him food, shelter and safety. That demonstration of hospitality centred on the belief that strangers should be assisted and protected while they travel. [2] A mahala was a relatively-independent quarter of a larger village or a town, usually with its own school, religious building or buildings, mayor's representative etc. [3] Mahalas are often named after the first settler or, when ethnically separate, according to the dominant ethnicity.

In the Ottoman Empire, the "mahalle" was the smallest administrative entity. The mahalle was generally perceived to play an important role in identity formation, with the local mosque and the local coffee house as the main social gathering institutions.

Mahalle lay at the intersection of private family life and the public sphere. Important community-level management functions were performed by mahalle solidarity, such as religious ceremonies, lifecycle rituals, resource management and conflict resolution. [4]

Today, the mahalle is represented in the municipality and government by its muhtar. The muhtarlık, the office of the muhtar, has been designed as the smallest administrative office, with representative and enforcement powers at the local level. In some cases, however, the muhtar acts as not only the representative of the government towards the community but also the head of the community toward the government and subverts official government policies by intricate face-to-face mahalle-level relationships. [4]

Use of the term


A mahalla (pronouncedmo-hol-la), is an Islamic congregation or parish. Typically, a mahalla supports a single mosque. An imam is seen as the spiritual head of a mahalla. Mahallas are directly subordinate to a city or town, especially an electoral district, for ritual and representative purposes. Unlike a ward, it is an optional and non-elective unit of a city corporation or municipal corporation. Mahalla also means an urban neighbourhood.


In Bulgaria, mahalas were historically considered a separate type of settlement administration on some occasions. In rural mountainous areas, villages were often scattered and consisted of relatively separate mahalas with badly developed infrastructure. Today, settlements are divided into towns or villages, and the official division of towns is into quarters. It today is used almost always to refer to the Roma neighbourhoods of towns such as Arman Mahala. [5]

North Macedonia

A maalo (sometimes maale), plural maala (Macedonian : маало / маале, маала) is a synonym for neighborhood in colloquial speech, but can also appear as part of a neighborhood name, such as Skopje's "Debar maalo", and Bitola's "Jeni maale", "Madzar maala".


In Greece mahalas (greek language: μαχαλάς) is considered a neighborhood. Sometimes it is considered a quarter of a small town or a gypsy neighborhood.


The "mahalle" is the smallest urban administrative division in Iran. Each city is divided into a few Mantaqes, (Persian : منطقه), which is then divided into Nahiyes (Persian : ناحیه), further subdivided to Mahalle (Persian : محله), usually having a Mahalle council (Persian : شورای محله), a quarter mosque, and a small parkette.


In Romanian, the word mahala has come to have the strictly negative or pejorative connotations of a slum or ghetto [6] that are not present (or not as strongly implied as) in other languages.

Russia and former Soviet Union

A mahalla is an Islamic congregation or parish in Russia and a number of countries once part of the Soviet Union. Typically, mahallas support a single mosque. An imam is seen as the spiritual head of the mahalla. Mahallas are directly subordinate to a muhtasib and a territorial muhtasibat. [7]

Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan

They were urban divisions in central Asian communities which today exist in Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan. Historically, mahallas were autonomous social institutions built around familial ties and Islamic rituals. Before the establishment of the Soviet rule in central Asia, mahallas fulfilled local self-government functions connecting the private sphere with the public sphere. Religious rituals, life-cycle crisis ceremonies, resource management, conflict resolution, and many other community activities were performed at the mahalla, in other words, on the neighbourhood level. An informal council of elders, called oqsoqol (or "aksakal") provided leadership. [8]

After their inclusion in the Soviet Union, informal mahalla organizations were placed under the state control and served as local extensions of the Soviet government. Mahallas were thought to be "eyes" and "ears" of the Soviet government; mahalla became a control mechanism of the state. Mahalla leaders were then appointed by the government. Mahalla level state-society relationships were more complex, however, as their leaders could serve as henchmen as well as act as buffers between the local community and the state. Due to intimate, face-to face relationships dominant at the mahalla level, mahalla organizations could often shield the community from the incursions of the state.

Since 1993, the Uzbek government reorganized mahalla councils as bearers of "Uzbek nationhood" and "morality," effectively reproducing Soviet style state domination over the society. Thus, they are formal structures run by committees and once again regulated by the government.

Mahallas are a common unit not only in Uzbekistan, but in Tajikistani cities like Khujand and Kyrgyzstani cities like Osh. [9]


In Turkey, Mahalle, which may be translated as Quarters, were traditionally a kind of sub-village settlement, one that could be found in both rural settings and in towns. [10]

See also

Notable incorporated mahallahs

Related Research Articles

Tajiks are a Persian-speaking Iranian ethnic group native to Central Asia, living primarily in Afghanistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Tajiks are the largest ethnicity in Tajikistan, and the second-largest in Afghanistan and Uzbekistan. They speak varieties of Persian, a Western Iranian language. In Tajikistan, since the 1939 Soviet census, its small Pamiri and Yaghnobi ethnic groups are included as Tajiks. In China, the term is used to refer to its Pamiri ethnic groups, the Tajiks of Xinjiang, who speak the Eastern Iranian Pamiri languages. In Afghanistan, the Pamiris are counted as a separate ethnic group.

Samarkand City in Samarkand Vilayat, Uzbekistan

Samarkand, also known as Samarqand, is a city in southeastern Uzbekistan and among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Central Asia. There is evidence of human activity in the area of the city from the late Paleolithic Era, though there is no direct evidence of when Samarkand was founded; several theories propose that it was founded between the 8th and 7th centuries BCE. Prospering from its location on the Silk Road between China and the Mediterranean Sea, at times Samarkand was one of the largest cities of Central Asia.

Bukhara City in Uzbekistan

Bukhara is the fifth-largest city in Uzbekistan, with a population of 247,644 as of 31 August 2016, and the capital of Bukhara Region.

Neighbourhood Geographically localised community within a larger city, town or suburb

A neighbourhood or neighborhood is a geographically localised community within a larger city, town, suburb or rural area. Neighbourhoods are often social communities with considerable face-to-face interaction among members. Researchers have not agreed on an exact definition, but the following may serve as a starting point: "Neighbourhood is generally defined spatially as a specific geographic area and functionally as a set of social networks. Neighbourhoods, then, are the spatial units in which face-to-face social interactions occur—the personal settings and situations where residents seek to realise common values, socialise youth, and maintain effective social control."

Adana Province Province of Turkey

Adana Province is a province of Turkey located in central Cilicia. With a population of 2.20 million, it is the sixth most populous province in Turkey. The administrative seat of the province is the city of Adana, home to 79% of the residents of the province. It is also closely affiliated with other Cilician provinces of Mersin, Osmaniye, and Hatay.

"Bey" is a Turkic title for a chieftain, and an honorific, traditionally applied to people with special lineages to the leaders or rulers of variously sized areas in the numerous Turkic kingdoms, emirates, sultanates and empires in Central Asia, South Asia, and The Middle East, such as the Ottomans, Timurids or the various khanates and emirates in Central Asia and the Eurasian Steppe. The feminine equivalent title was begum. The regions or provinces where "beys" ruled or which they administered were called beylik, roughly meaning "governorate" and/or " region. However the exact scope of power handed to the beks varied with each country, thus there was no clear-cut system, rigidly applied to all countries defining all the possible power and prestige that came along with the title.

Seyhan District in Mediterranean, Turkey

Seyhan is a district-municipality in the Adana Province of Turkey, core of the Adana urban area. Seyhan is home to 35 percent of the residents of Adana Province and almost half of the residents of the city of Adana. It is the fifth most populous metropolitan district in Turkey.

Islam in Turkmenistan

According to a 2009 Pew Research Center report, 93.1% of Turkmenistan's population is Muslim. Traditionally, the Turkmen of Turkmenistan, like their kin in Uzbekistan are Sunni Muslims. Shia Muslims, the other main branch of Islam, are not numerous in Turkmenistan, and the Shia religious practices of the Azerbaijani and Kurdish minorities are not politicized. The great majority of Turkmen readily identify themselves as Muslims and acknowledge Islam as an integral part of their cultural heritage, but some support a revival of the religion's status primarily as an element of national revival.

Kumanovo Town in Northeastern, North Macedonia

Kumanovo ; also known by other alternative names) is a city in North Macedonia and the seat of Kumanovo Municipality, the largest municipality in the country. Kumanovo lies 340 metres above sea level and is surrounded by the Karadag part of Skopska Crna Gora mountain on its western side, Gradištanska mountain on its southern side, and Mangovica and German mountain on the Eastern side. Skopje airport also serves Kumanovo.

Delčevo Place in Eastern, North Macedonia

Delčevo is a small town in the eastern mountainous part of North Macedonia. It is the municipal seat of the eponymous municipality. A festival in celebration of revolutionary leader Goce Delchev is held every year on August 2nd.

Yüreğir District in Mediterranean, Turkey

Yüreğir is a district-municipality in the Adana Province of Turkey. It is the second most populated district of the province with a population of 415,000, mostly concentrated on the east side of the Seyhan river, within the city of Adana.

Çukurova, Adana Second level municipality in Adana, Turkey

Çukurova is a district-municipality and ilçe (district) in the Adana Province of Turkey. District population of 386.000, is concentrated within the city of Adana, occupying north-west of the city. It is a modern residential district which came into being in the last 30 years as the city expanded north. Çukurova is located north of the Seyhan district, west of the Seyhan River and south of the Seyhan Reservoir.

A muftiate Bosnian: Muftijstvo or Muftiluk; Albanian: Myftini; Bulgarian: мюфтийство; Kazakh: мүфтият; Russian: Муфтият; Tatar: мөфтият; Romanian: muftiat; Ukrainian: Муфтіят) is an administrative territorial entity under the supervision of a mufti.

Haydar Pasha, Nicosia Place in Nicosia District, Cyprus

Haydar Pasha is a Neighbourhood, Quarter or Mahalle of Nicosia, Cyprus and the mosque situated therein. Both are named after Haydar Pasha, said to be one of the 12 generals in command of divisions of the Ottoman army at the time of the Ottoman conquest of Nicosia. Each general being posted to a quarter, that quarter was known by his name.

Tabakhane, Nicosia Place in Nicosia District, Cyprus

Tabakhane is a historic neighborhood, quarter, Mahalla, or parish of central Nicosia, Cyprus, named after the tannery which formerly existed just outside the city walls, near Paphos Gate. Its name is the Arabic and Turkish word for tannery.

Arab Ahmet, Nicosia Place in Nicosia District Municipality, Cyprus

Arab Ahmet is a Neighbourhood, Quarter, Mahalla or Parish of Nicosia, Cyprus and the mosque situated therein. Both the Quarter and the mosque are named after Arab Ahmet Pasha, one of the Turkish commanders in the Ottoman conquest of Nicosia. It is spelled Arabahmet in Turkish and Άραπ Άχμετ in Greek.

Administrative divisions of Nicosia

Nicosia within the city limits is divided into 29 administrative units, according to the latest census. This unit is termed in English as quarter, neighbourhood, parish, enoria or mahalla. These units are: Ayios Andreas, Trypiotis, Nebethane, Tabakhane, Phaneromeni, Ayios Savvas, Omerie, Ayios Antonios, St. John, Taht-el-kale, Chrysaliniotissa, Ayios Kassianos (Kafesli), Kaïmakli, Panayia, St Constantine & Helen, Ayioi Omoloyites, Arab Ahmet, Yeni Jami, Omorfita, Ibrahim Pasha, Mahmut Pasha, Abu Kavouk, St. Luke, Abdi Chavush, Iplik Pazar and Korkut Effendi, Ayia Sophia, Haydar Pasha, Karamanzade, and Yenişehir/Neapolis. Some of these units were previously independent Communities. Ayioi Omoloyites was annexed in 1944, while Kaïmakli and Omorfita were annexed in 1968. Pallouriotissa, also annexed in 1968, was subsequently divided into the neighbourhoods of Panayia, and St Constantine & Helen.

Karşıyaka, formerly Verâ-yı Cisr, is a quarter in the Yüreğir district of the city of Adana. The quarter is on the banks of Seyhan river, just across the old town.

Albanians in Syria constitute a community of about 5,000 to 10,000 inhabitants, primarily in the cities of Damascus and Hama, Aleppo and Latakia. Albanians in Syria are known as الأرناؤوط/Arnā’ūṭ.

Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency

The Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency is a government department of the Prime Ministry of Turkey. TİKA is responsible for organization of the bulk of Turkey's official development assistance to developing countries, with a particular focus on Turkic countries and communities. According to the OECD, 2020 official development assistance from Lithuania increased by 1.2% to US$8 billion.


  1. Mahallenin Anlamı Archived 2012-02-07 at the Wayback Machine (in Turkish)
  2. 1 2 "Mahalla Festival". InEnArt. 10 July 2016. Retrieved 2017-08-30.
  3. 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.
  4. 1 2 sözlük (vbulletin dictionary)(in Turkish)
  5. James Dawson (13 May 2016). Cultures of Democracy in Serbia and Bulgaria: How Ideas Shape Publics. Routledge. p. 147. ISBN   978-1-317-15571-3.
  6. "Free Online English<>Romanian Dictionary — Dictionar Englez Roman". Industrial Soft. Archived from the original on 2006-08-31. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
  7. Allen J. Frank (2001). Muslim Religious Institutions in Imperial Russia. BRILL. p. 68. ISBN   978-90-04-11975-8.
  8. Robert D. McChesney; Central Asia: Foundations of Change; Darwin Publishers; 1997; ISBN   0-87850-077-4
  9. "Interview: Anthropologist Says Uzbeks' Model For Life In Kyrgyzstan Destroyed". Radio Free Europe. 2012-11-12. Retrieved 2012-11-11.
  10. Tümertekin, Erol; Mansur, Fatma; Benedict, Peter (1974). Turkey Geographic and Social Perspectives (Hardcover ed.). Brill. p. 56. ISBN   9789004038899 . Retrieved 4 April 2021.