Egypt is an Arab country. At least it's assumed to be. This may seem rather obvious, given that its official name is the Arab Republic of Egypt, it is a member of the Arab League and its people speak Arabic. To an outsider, Egypt is in fact an Arab country.
The reality on the ground, though, is slightly different. Many Egyptians prefer to call themselves Egyptians and some shun the Arab label completely.
The most adamant "Egyptian, not Arab" camp are the Christian Copts. In a region that is overwhelmingly Muslim, the terms Arab and Muslim have become almost synonymous, despite the presence of large numbers of Christians in several countries.
Most of Egypt's Copts maintain that they are the purest bloodline to have descended from the ancient Egyptians. As one Coptic friend tells me: "I maintain that I'm not an Arab. I'm an Egyptian and of pharaonic descent. The only thing that ties me to the Arabs is the Arabic language."
Studies on modern Egyptian DNA support the view that neither Egyptian Muslims nor Copts are Arab. All the invasions that Egypt has experienced over millennia, including the Arab invasion, do not seem to account for more than 15% of modern Egyptians' ancestry.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
Modern Egyptian ancestry
The Guardian, UK (Baher Ibrahim)