Connect with us

Egyptians: Are We Arabs?

Food Review: The Best Burgers of Cairo

Cars on Egyptian Streets: Then and Now

6 Fast Food Spots in Cairo that are Just Plain Awful

Idiocracy Luke Wilson Joe Bauers President of America

You Should Watch (And Learn From): Idiocracy

Fatma Koshary Egyptian proverbs

11 More Egyptian Proverbs Explained in English Detail

Quiz: How “in Love” Are You for Real Though?

Car on Cairo street covered in Valentine's day gifts

5 Delightful Dating Ideas in Cairo for Valentine’s

Grandpa Kitchen cooking chicken

6 Delightfully Unorthodox Cooking Channels on Youtube

Wienerwald Backhendl meal with mushroom soup and baked potato

Wienerwald: When Fried Chicken Meets German Ingenuity

Dead Cells Main Character and Castle

Dead Cells: A Game Where You Die to Learn About Life

Stephen Chow in Kung Fu Hustle Cover

You Should Watch: Kung Fu Hustle

Pepperoni Pizza from Cook Door PizzaRia

Cook Door’s PizzaRia is Underrated AF

11 Egyptian Proverbs Explained in English Detail

Command & Conquer 2 Red Alert Yuri's Revenge

Revisit Red Alert 2 with These 5 Fun Mods

Flea, Anthon Kiedis, Josh Kilnghoffer, and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers

6 Things You Shouldn’t Do at a Red Hot Chili Peppers Concert

You Should Watch: Redline

Chinese Shanghai Noodles

4 Authentic AF Chinese Restaurants in Abbaseyya

Red Hot Chili Peppers Performing Live

15 of the Most Underrated Red Hot Chili Peppers Songs

5 Unusual Zombie Films You Need to Watch

A pizza, a burger, some fries, and two donuts

QUIZ: What Should Your Otlob Order Be Today?

Factorio: Every Would-Be Engineer’s Dream Game

Puppycat wearing his motorcycle helmet

You Should Watch: Bee and Puppycat

Cairo Then and Now: How Our Cities Evolved Over Time

A hamburger with fries

5 Egyptian Fast Food Items Worth Every Penny

Gun and Sensei about to eat ramen

You (Absolutely) Should Watch: Tampopo

Everest the pun dog

Quiz: Which Breed of Dog Can You Actually Raise?

Top 10 articles el konafa 2018

Take a Look at Our (and Your) Top 10 Articles of 2018

New Year's Resolution

6 Alternative New Year’s Resolutions for a Healthier 2019

The Raid: Redemption

You Should Watch: The Raid: Redemption

Mich Mich Effendi

Mich Mich Effendi: Egypt’s First Cartoon Character

The Long Dark

The Long Dark: A Wonderfully Snowy Spin on Survival

الكبسولة: البلاك فرايداي

الكبسولة: رأفت الهجان

الكبسولة: مولد السيد البدوي

!الكبسولة: جايزة نوبل للطب 2018 – علماء اكتشفوا طريقة فعالة لعلاج السرطان

إيه ازمة NIKE ديه؟

الكبسولة: كابتن ماجد

الأعراض الجانبية للتنمية البشرية

مخترعين لم ولن تسمع عنهم ناسا

اعرف عيبك على حسب برجك

When You’re Classy AF but Mahraganat Are Life

!جو رعد هنولعها

My Only 2 Moods

My Brain at 3 AM

Yay or Ya3 – EPS 2 – The One With Halawa…

Yay or Ya3 – EPS 1- The One With Chipsy Shatta & Lemoon

GQ Mohamed Salah

5 Good Things to Close 2018 With

Ritha poetry

Creatively Sad: Heartfelt Goodbyes from Arabic Ritha Poetry

Arab Poetry

Creatively Mean: Sick Burns from Arabic Hija Poetry

QUIZ: Which Type of Mahshi Perfectly Embodies You?

Egyptians: Are We Arabs?

Discussing a crisis of identity, solidarity and principles.

This opinion piece does not aim to tell the history of Arabs nor define the term “Arab”. It seeks to tackle the Arab obsession with how the West views them, hear from so-called Arabs themselves, and last but not least criticize the evidencing lack of loyalty between Arabs.

Egyptians and Arabs

After a decade of designing and analyzing DNA samples from hundreds of native Egyptians, the National Geographic Genographic Project concluded that only 17% of Egyptians are genetically Arabs, contrary to what many believed. The research also claims that 68% Egyptians are from Northern Africa, 4% from the Jewish Diaspora and 3% from Southern Europe as shown below:


Egyptians and Arabs


It is assumed that Egypt is an Arab country, hence its official name, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the fact that its population speaks Arabic and that it is part of the Arab League. But is this enough to identify Egyptians as Arabs?

The Western View

The Roget Thesaurus defines in its 1960s and 1970s editions the word “Arab” as “roughneck, cad, clumsy, deceitful, naïve”. These stereotypical descriptions have been developed by the Western world’s accumulated perceptions, rumors and experiences with Arabs, which have contributed through the years to the loss of essence of the term. Whether it was a problem with how the West views Islam, the propagation of a negative image of Arab immigrants in Western countries or the deadly eight year war between Iraq and Iran that caused more than a million casualties, the term had explicit negative connotations which summed Western views. Arab and Muslim organizations in America worked hard to change the connotation of the term and put an end to a rumor that was now defined in academic books. In a book entitled “Media Coverage of The Middle East”, Jack Shaheen discusses the effect of mass media by giving examples of how television programs, movies, and comics have promoted the image of “deceitful” Arabs. Nonetheless, a sense of “Arabness” still exists, and has existed for a long time, albeit discussed and debated by every generation for more than a millennium. Nonetheless, Arabs have also been related to poetry, art and nomadism in some Western books, artifacts and stories.

Egyptians and Arabs

The 21st century, marked early by the terrorist attacks of 9/11 did not pave the way positively for a different western view of Arabs. Even though dictionaries have changed definitions of “Arab” to “members of the Semitic people of the Arabian Peninsula” and “members of an Arabic-speaking people” the term adopted a direct negative connotation. The term is often aligned with “Islamism” and “fanaticism” which has been greatly marketed and branded by ISIS. The latter’s animalistic agenda of firstly executing innocent people and secondly digitizing the acts, has also drawn arguments castigating Islam, Arabism, and Arabs as a barbaric religion, a heinous movement and a violent ethnic group respectively. While populist movements in Europe have been on the rise, it is safe to say that some Arabs all over the world as well as some Muslims might not feel welcomed everywhere. Western and liberal news outlets lead the fight in stating that “Islam is not terrorism” to counter conservative news companies in the West opening up a wide range of content for them to produce and adopt the image of the tolerating European/American (think CNN vs. Fox News). But what is happening on the ground and in politics is completely different from what is happening on the television screen.  

The “Arab” View: In Their Words

N. Khedr, an Egyptian woman who firmly believes she is not Arab, said: “If we are going to be labeled as Arabs because we speak Arabic, then the Americans, British and Australians should all be called English, and the Brazilians should be called Portuguese”. On the other hand, Omran, also an Egyptian, told me that he is not convinced of being categorized as an Arab, but that in the eye of the world he is one.

Aaliyah Dorda, who identifies as a Libyan Muslim, a North African second and an Arab last, describes Arabism as a “panethnicity”. Panethnicity is a new political term used to group various ethnic groups based on their related cultural origins (geographic locations, linguistics, religions, and ‘racial’ similarities). Dorda also made an interesting statement: “There’s a lot of discrimination whether it be ethnic, religious, tribal or cultural. Arabs and Africans share one poisonous trait and that’s pride. Everyone has a superiority complex. We all want to believe that our cultural, ethnic or religious methods are superior to the other when ironically enough the overwhelming majority of us share one religion,” she said. She also added that “Arabs are each other’s worst enemy”, edging us closer to wondering why it is increasingly hard to define the term today, with the lack of cooperation between so-called Arab states. Some non-Muslim Arabs might also be confused. Is a Coptic Egyptian or a Maronite Syrian an Arab? What about Jewish Arabs? There is a clear identity crisis for many young people on the Arab self and persona.

Arab Loyalty? Who? Where?

Egyptians and Arabs

Nizar Qabani’s quote (“Are we Arabs, one big lie?”) is adding salt to the wound. Arab loyalty today is in question over many things: The intra-regional fight for hegemony between Sunnis and Shias, the proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the financing and sponsoring of terrorism through non-state actors, and last but not least the ditching of Arab and Muslim refugees from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia and other countries. In one month and a half of 2018, the UNHCR reports that around 382 people died while crossing the Mediterranean to reach Europe. This also means that more than 15,000 people, including women and children have died in the Mediterranean Sea between 2014 and 2017. This controversial number has not been in the midst of the Arab debate enough. The debate was oriented towards Trump, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen and the Klu Klux Klan’s comments about Muslims, Arabs and other minorities.

The obsession with how Arabs are viewed in the West has troubled them deeply and disoriented them from the real debate, which is how to help war refugees and accommodate them here in the Middle East. The E.U. stated that taking in refugees is very difficult logistically and politically, but Arab countries including Northern African, Levantine and Gulf states have not focused on that nor on their direct or indirect implications in this Middle Eastern war and in the manufacturing refugees. Small countries like Lebanon and Jordan have taken in around 1.5 million refugees each, while Turkey has taken in most, around 2 million. Lebanon is unstable and faces many problems related to water, electricity and shelter. The rich Gulf countries have on another hand not done anything to accommodate immigrants. Even though Syrians can apply for tourist visas there, the process is costly and immigrants are often restricted when it comes to visas. BBC reports that in 2012, Kuwait announced a strategy to reduce the number of foreign workers in the emirate by a million over ten years, while Saudi is seeking to prioritize the employment of locals. These countries in addition to Qatar and Bahrain have also made naturalization of their nationalities almost impossible to obtain, closing many doors to refugees. These methods of isolation to prevent hosting refugees have not been discussed here in the Middle East enough.

Egyptians and Arabs

Arabs became agitated by men and women who do not know them nor care about them. They shouted angrily at Trump for his travel ban while their own states have drafted policies to deny refugees. And yet they are attached to the term of Arabism, which is abundantly weak. In May 2017, while the Donald had been meeting up with leaders from the Arab world, he was given the opportunity to change his public image by talking about Islam and the Arab world in a completely different way than in his one-year campaign where Muslims all around the world were demonized and insulted. And once again, Arab leaders were sweeping the stage for him so he could deliver this political message in search of a placid business environment. Hence, we bear the consequences of a devastated Middle East and of a much divided Arab nation, identity and interest.

It is definitely not possible to forget centuries of war and differences overnight. But constantly blaming the “khawajah” for their problems will not solve anything either. In the words of the rebellious UK Member of Parliament, George Galloway speaking to a group of students in Lebanon: “You are more than 350 million Arabs, who speak the same language, who believe in the same God, but you are not willing to unite. In Europe we speak more than 150 languages but we are united. Unity is strength!”.

Continue Reading
You may also like...

We’re a general entertainment platform with a talented team of storytellers and magic makers, and we like to dip our hands in a little bit of everything — hence why you’ll find everything from restaurant reviews and travel pieces to video game recommendations and even reasons to be happy about life.

More in



    To Top