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Title: Wilayah  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Governorate, Masirah Island, Mawla, Shabiyah, Daïra
Collection: Malay Language, Types of Country Subdivisions
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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 1
    • North Africa and Middle East 1.1
    • China 1.2
    • Kenya and Tanzania 1.3
    • Malaysia and Indonesia 1.4
    • Ottoman Empire 1.5
    • Central Asia and Caucasus 1.6
    • Iran 1.7
    • South Asia 1.8
  • References 2

Use in specific countries

In Arabic, wilayah is used to refer to the states of the United States, and the United States of America as a whole is called "الولايات المتّحدة الأمريكية" (al-Wilāyāt al-Muttaḥidah al-Amrīkīyah) literally meaning "the American United States".

North Africa and Middle East

For Morocco which is divided into provinces and wilāyas the translation "province" would cause the distinction to cease. For Sudan the term state, and for Mauritania the term region is used.

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, nine 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.

ئالتاي ۋىلايىتى
Altay Wilayiti 阿勒泰地区

تارباغاتاي ۋىلايىتى
Tarbaghatay Wilayiti 塔城地区

تۇرپان ۋىلايىتى
Turpan Wilayiti 吐鲁番地区

قۇمۇل ۋىلايىتى
Qumul Wilayiti 哈密地区

قەشقەر ۋىلايىتى
Qeshqer Wilayiti 喀什地区

ئاقسۇ ۋىلايىتى
Aqsu Wilayiti 阿克苏地区

خوتەن ۋىلايىتى
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 both Malaysian and Indonesian, wilayah is a general word meaning "territory", "area" or "region".

In Malaysia, the term

Ottoman Empire

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

The Persian word for province (velâyat) is still used in several similar forms in Central Asian countries:

During the Soviet period the divisions of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan were called oblasts and raions, using Russian terminology.

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.

Caucasus Emirate, a self-proclaimed successor state to the unrecognized Chechen Republic of Ichkeria, is divided into vilayats.


In Iran, the word is also used unofficially.

South Asia

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.[1]


  1. ^ 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') 
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