Odd question

How much are Egyptians Arabs?

Not for any particular reason but just pondering. In the same sense that we English are a mixture, Celt, Anglo Saxon, Jute, Viking, Norman and so on. But there’s a very great chunk of it that is still Celt. The rulers may have come in but the population (perhaps, at times, only the female) endured.

And with Egypt. How much are they Arabs, from the conquest, and how much Egyptians from before?

And, actually, I could imagine that the Circassian and Alan genetic influence is greater than the Arab. Imagine that is, not prove. For the Mamluk armies etc were all recruited, first generation, from the steppes as slaves. And children of them could not join the army at all, or administration, so must have gone off into the general population. So I could imagine that that influence was greater than the Arab.

Anyone know?

25 thoughts on “Odd question”

  1. Bloke in Germany

    Oh Tim, there’s a whole world of White Power types out there who bang on about the Egyptians being white Celts. I suspect SMBS can tell you a bit more about it.

    Part of it is a reaction to the even more odd doctrine of Afrocentrism, part of it is that they had one of the earliest ever cultures so they must be of “our stock”. Funnily enough, that doesn’t apply to the sand niggers in Mesopotamia though.

    It’s a truly wyrd world out there among the Racial Theorists. Always has been.

  2. Has anyone done the genetics?

    What we can say is there’s certainly a total cultural disconnect between ancient and modern Egyptians. Different to particularly Iran, where a lot of Persian culture survived Islamisation.

  3. As Ian B says, it doesn’t matter what their race is. Their culture is Islamic, so it’s fucked until they abandon it or Islam gets an Enlightenment.

  4. Read Winifred Blackman’s ‘The fellahin of upper Egypt’ for a consideration of the continuity of ancient Egyptian population with the ruling caste replaced by waves of invaders.

  5. What is amusing is to listen to an Egyptian’s opinion on the Saudi claims to be the natural leader of the Islamic world by virtue of their being custodians of the two holy mosques. It goes something like this:

    “What, those bunch of f*cking camel herders? They are a bunch of illiterate, ignorant desert mongrels who happen to have stumbled upon some oil and are now strutting about telling the rest of us what to do. Egypt has had universities and a civilisation for thousands of years, the Saudis were still living in tents two generations ago!”

  6. A new Army Captain was assigned to a remote outpost in the Egyptian Desert. During his first inspection, he noticed a camel hitched up behind the mess tent. He asked the Sergeant why the camel was kept there.

    The nervous sergeant said, ‘Sir, as you know, there are 250 men here on the post and no women. Sometimes the men have urges. That’s why we have Molly The Camel.’

    The Captain said, ‘I can’t say that I condone this, but I can understand about the ‘urges’, so the camel can stay.’

    About a month later, the Captain starts having his own ‘urges’. Crazed with passion, he asked the Sergeant to bring the camel to his tent. Putting a ladder behind the camel, the Captain stands on the ladder, pulls his pants down and makes passionate love to the camel.

    When he’s done, he asked the Sergeant, ‘Is that how the men do it?’

    ‘No sir. They usually just ride the camel into town. That’s where the girls are.’

  7. I think you need to rephrase the question. I’d try ‘if given the choice between being Egyptian or Arab, which would the inhabitants of Egypt choose?’

    The majority seem to see themselves as Egyptians (and perhaps Moslems or Coptic Christians) rather than as part of a wider Arabic group. Perhaps best shown by the lack of popular support for the Palestinians in Egypt.

    And genetics have sod all to do with identity. There is no genetic signal for any race or ethnicity on the planet that I know about (because there is no perfect match of a genetic signal with a particularly held race or ethnicity). Only cases that might dispute this are mutations limited to isolated tribal groups – but then as with animal extinctions, islands provide the exceptions not the rule.

  8. PS I am not denying ethnic idenities are a matter of descent, but it should be noted that they are not as tied to descent as genetics. I have a Scottish surname, and assuming none of my female ancestors in my paternal line lied about paternity, Scottish ancestors five generations back. Yet I am British and English, not Scottish…

  9. Ian B, that is my treasured & favourite joke. But the punchline is:
    “No, no sir! You’re supposed to ride her into Cairo!”

  10. I understand that most ancient demographers – indeed, both of them – lean towards “elite transfer” over “mass migration”.

    So yes, no doubt there are some pure blooded Egyptian peasants still around.

  11. @Watchman,

    What support for the Palestinians is there anywhere outside Israel and the occupied territories?

    Jordan doesn’t want the West Bank back, Egypt doesn’t want Gaza back, and both countries have made a peace of sorts with Israel. Those territories are forever Israel’s problem – as the price of that peace. That tells you all you need to know about support for the Palestinians in the Arab bits of the middle east.

  12. The start of Egyptian agriculture was presumably either the work of immigrants from the fertile crescent, or import of their technology by indigenous North Africans, or a bit of both. Once that population burgeoned, it would need something far bigger than a conquest by a bunch of camel-jockeys thousands of years later to change them much (except culturally). Ditto invasions by Hyksos, Persians, Greeks, Romans and whatnot. All too small to matter.

    Anyway, that’s the way to guess if there were no evidence. The WKPD stuff linked to by Matthew L seems broadly consistent with that guess.

    You’d expect some sign of African descent from further south: I see that WKPD says that it’s mainly from Ethiopia. I’m not sure I’d have guessed that, not least because I couldn’t guess whether the effect would be largely from Nubia in dynastic times, or from the Islamic slave trade, or just many immigrations of small magnitude. Since the Muslims often castrated their male slaves, some disparity between mitochondrial DNA and Y chromosome DNA might give some insight.

    “because there is no perfect match of a genetic signal with a particularly held race or ethnicity”: ah, the idiotic demand for perfection. And perfection, apparently, to be sought in a single signal. Is there a single gene for being a bloody fool, I wonder?

  13. “How much are Egyptians Arabs?”

    The simple answer is that there’s no such thing as ‘Arabs’. Of all the bullshit attempts to group people into ‘races’ by dividing a continuous spectrum up into discrete classes, the ‘Arab’ one is one of the barmiest, with the most tenuous claims.

  14. Having worked in Egypt a couple of times I have to echo Tim Newman’s comment. Regardless of the actual mix, the Egyptians I worked with thought themselves distinct from Arabs and furthermore thought that Arabs would exclude Egyptians from that term.

  15. I was once given a job to take the van to Curzon St, Mayfair, there to pick up an Egyptian and large diplomatic bag, to be taken to Brize Norton (presumably for flight to Egypt).

    Upon driving down Curzon St I spotted a fellow standing on the corner who might as well have come from a painting on the wall of an ancient temple. “That’ll be the Egyptian I’m looking for!” – indeed he was.

    I took from this that as a diplomat he was a posh Egyptian and that posh Egytians are clearly descended from posh Egytians from the Pharaonic period.

    I’ve never been to Egypt but from what I see on tele, modern Egyptians do not look like the people on the pyramid walls, but this chap most certainly did.

    Interesting to note that other posts here assert the opposite, that the ruling classes have changed, my single observation survey says not, they haven’t, Egypt’s ruling classes are direct descendants of the people on the temple walls.

  16. Sam Adams the Dog

    The Q. is even better asked about the Lebanese, many of whom claim to be Phoenician.

    But see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archaeogenetics_of_the_Near_East.

    “Egypt’s NRY frequency distributions appear to be much more similar to those of the Middle East than to any sub-Saharan African population, suggesting a much larger Eurasian genetic component”

    But, if you look carefully at ancient Egyptian art, many of the figures have distinctly Negroid features.

  17. So Much for Subtlety

    Ian B – “What we can say is there’s certainly a total cultural disconnect between ancient and modern Egyptians. Different to particularly Iran, where a lot of Persian culture survived Islamisation.”

    I am not entirely convinced that is true. After all, Egypt has a large Coptic population which are descended from ancient Egyptians. If you look at things like FGM, so very popular in Egypt, it looks to be a pre-Islamic thing. There are mummies that may or may not have suffered it.

    Watchman – “I think you need to rephrase the question. I’d try ‘if given the choice between being Egyptian or Arab, which would the inhabitants of Egypt choose?’”

    Nasser tried hard to persuade them that they were Arabs – and harder to try and persuade the other Arabs. As they have traditionally looked down on Egyptians. Someone like Peter Mansfield, a quasi-traitorous Arabist from the FO who wrote some good books on the Arabs, claimed back in the Sixties that the issue was resolved with the Egyptians now being Arabs. But I am unconvinced.

    “Perhaps best shown by the lack of popular support for the Palestinians in Egypt.”

    Not convinced that is true. Especially as the Palestinian movement was lead by the Egyptian-of-Palestinian origin Yasir Arafat for many years.

    “And genetics have sod all to do with identity. There is no genetic signal for any race or ethnicity on the planet that I know about (because there is no perfect match of a genetic signal with a particularly held race or ethnicity).”

    Ethnicity? That depends who you talk to. This sort of thing is perfectly acceptable if it works to the advantage of the minority, so there are Jewish authors who claim that there are unique genetic features of Jewish populations. Which I doubt. But in the US, if the police have any blood at all, they can reconstruct the suspect’s face – and race. Because as it happens race is highly linked to DNA.

    As you would expect when you have populations that were physically separated by things like the Sahara for tens of thousands of years.

    Watchman – “I have a Scottish surname, and assuming none of my female ancestors in my paternal line lied about paternity, Scottish ancestors five generations back. Yet I am British and English, not Scottish…”

    We all remember the fatuous idiot Boutros Boutros-Ghali? Egyptian as they come. A scion of an old political family in Egypt. The Boutros is the Arabic version of Petros – Peter. He was descended from a Greek youth taken from his family and enslaved by the Ottomans. So a Greek name does not indicate Greek identity.

    However you have to keep in mind 1. the population collapse in Egypt after the Arab conquest, and 2. the fact that urban population did not replace themselves until recently. So if you keep adding Circassian members of the ruling class it would have no impact as their children would live in Cairo and die of the plague. Only the farmers would have children to carry on their lines. So the Egyptian population, now overwhelmingly the children of farmers to moved from the countryside to places like Cairo, is likely to be close to that of ancient Egypt.

  18. So Much for Subtlety

    Sam Adams the Dog – “But, if you look carefully at ancient Egyptian art, many of the figures have distinctly Negroid features.”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingdom_of_Kush

    The Kingdom of Kush or Kush (/kʊʃ, kʌʃ/) was an ancient African kingdom situated on the confluences of the Blue Nile, White Nile and River Atbara in what is now the Republic of Sudan.

    Established after the Bronze Age collapse and the disintegration of the New Kingdom of Egypt, it was centered at Napata in its early phase. After King Kashta (“the Kushite”) invaded Egypt in the 8th century BC, the Kushite kings ruled as pharaohs of the Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt for a century, until they were expelled by Psamtik I in 656 BC.

  19. So Much for Subtlety

    Bloke in Germany – “Oh Tim, there’s a whole world of White Power types out there who bang on about the Egyptians being white Celts. I suspect SMBS can tell you a bit more about it.”

    This says a lot more about what *you* need to believe rather than what I actually do. However it was fairly mainstream anthropology/history in the 19th century that the founders of Ancient Egyptian civilisation must have been Aryan. Hitler did not come out of nowhere after all.

    And yes, it did apply to the people of Mesopotamia. Who were, after all, ruled by Indo-Europeans for a while.

    In the meantime can I ask you or Rusty, as our local political commissars, whether this bit in the Spectator is sufficiently racist to demand the writer’s firing:

    Greece before it joined the euro was pretty much what it had always been: a slightly ramshackle, inefficient Balkan economy, rife with cronyism and corruption. But it got by. It took the special magic of the euro to turn Greece into the epicentre of a major financial crisis.

    They say Balkan. I said Ottoman. What’s the difference?

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