Friday, July 24, 2009
These days the arabic speaking inhabitants of every country tend to get called Arabs. Insofar as the term Arab means anything as an ethnic category that is probably a misnomer. Most North Africans are of Berber descent and the Egyptians were certainly a distinct and separate group, but complex as befits a civilized and much conquered trading hub, before the Islamic conquest. It was only after that event that two tribes were moved from the Arabian Peninsula to the Nile valley. There was to be sure commerce and genetic exchanges between the two sides of the Red Sea for thousands of years. Still it can help to divide the Semites into groups. There are the Jews descended from some original Northern tribes and the original Canaanites. There are the South Arabs of what is now Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Oman and the Gulf coast. There are the North Arabs of the Levant and Iraq, who are probably descended from Aramaic speakers. In North Africa there is a mixture of the original populations, who predominate in the interiors, and Arab imports. The percentage of Arab blood present varies but is generally stronger to the East and thins out as you move West.
Did Omar Sharif change from being a Copt to being an Arab when he converted to Islam?