Can you find out if you have Arab ancestry?

Most Arab people are aware of their Arab ancestry and genes, but if, for some reason, you are not, or you want more clarity about where your ancestors came from, this article is a great place to start.

The Arab world has contributed many wonderful things to civilization, from astronomy and algebra, to calligraphy and medicine. It has also contributed horticulture, instruments, coffee, optometry, toothbrushes, and so much more. It may also have contributed… you!

In short, can you actually find out if you have Arab ancestry?

Yes! Thanks to DNA testing kits like the ones we provide here at Living DNA, you can perform a simple oral swab to send away for laboratory analysis. Our expert testers will compare your DNA with thousands of other samples to provide accurate gene information that reveals the incredible story of your ancestors.

Is it a simple process to find out about your Arab genealogy?

Discovering the intricate mysteries of your Arab ancestry all starts with this simple swab. Purchase your kit, swab your inner cheek, and send the kit to our lab for testing. Here’s what we’ll be able to tell you through your genetic markers:

- Recent ancestry - exploring as much as 500 years of ancestry

- Sub-regional ancestry - providing further details on what regions your ancestors lived in. Please note that Living DNA offers the most detailed sub-regional ancestry details in the industry

- Extended ancestry - taking a look back tens of thousands of years on your ancestors’ global journeys to see how they ended up where they did

- DNA matches - seeing if any other DNA testing customers come up as a biological match with you!

What does your Arab ancestry mean for you?

If we go very, very, very far back, we all have some Arab ancestry, much as we all have some African ancestry. That’s because around 125,000 years ago, people started leaving Africa via coastal routes, and passing through what is now the Arab world, like North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and the Middle East.

The Arab world consists of 22 countries, who collectively form ‘The Arab League’. The countries are: Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates, and Yemen.

Having Arab ancestry would mean that your ancestry comes from one, or a mixture, of these countries. However, historically speaking, many historians agree that the term ‘Arab’, and the original tribal unit that most Arabs can link a common ancestor to, was a group from Syria in the 9th century.

Which genetic markers is the test looking for?

Y-DNA J is the main gene that exists in the Arab world, showing up in high percentages in the Middle East, Turkey, North and Northeast Africa, the Levant, and Southern Europe.

This J haplogroup then splits into J1 and J2, with J1 being more prominent in Arabs living further south, such as in Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Ethiopia, Iraq, Qatar, and Sudan. J2 is more closely associated with Arabs from the Levant, such as Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Turkey.

Many groups who are today considered Arab, have very little Arab DNA, as their Arab-ness is more of a political one, with their regions having fallen under Arab rule or the power of a caliphate at some point, changing their cultural makeup more than their biological one. The Arabisation that took place roughly a millennia ago gives us a lot of information about how regions like the Levant, which were not Arab, came to be so.

Which regions around the world have significant Arab populations?

You might be surprised to know that the biggest populations of Arabs outside of the Arab league (the 22 countries we mentioned before), are:

- Brazil - 15-20m people with Levant Arab ancestry (making it a larger Arab population than 15 members of the Arab League!)

- France - 5m people with North African Arab ancestry

- Turkey, Indonesia, Argentina - all around 5m with Arab ancestry

- Colombia - 3m people mainly of Lebanese descent* (more Arabs than Qatar!)

- Niger - 2m people with Arab ancestry (more than Bahrain!)

*Colombia’s Lebanese descendants include Shakira, former world #1 doubles tennis player Robert Farah, and a Miss Universe winner.

Can Arab ancestry get you a second passport?

If you are an Arab of Israeli-Jewish ancestry, this will be a fairly straightforward process, as Israel regularly offers citizenships. Another benefit of this is that Arabs do not have to take part in compulsory military service. Please note that Israel is not a member of the Arab League, though many of its citizens consider themselves Arab.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a bizarre statistic that 90% of its residents were born overseas. Quite the diaspora! For this reason, they have a very, very busy immigration department that is used to awarding citizenship, however, this comes in tiers. Having only one Emirati parent, being stateless (bedouin), or failing to submit an ancestry certificate can all result in being given a lower status, if accepted at all. There’s a second consideration regarding naturalisation. Arabs from friendly countries Oman, Qatar, and Bahrain can naturalise after 3 years, all other Arabs require 7 years to naturalise, and all non-Arabs will require 30 years!

Saudi Arabia has tightened up its citizenship process over the last few decades, making it quite complicated and exceptional for anyone but pure-blooded Saudis to hold the passport.

Qatar is recognised as one of the most difficult places to get a passport in the world. If your mother is Qatari and your father is not Qatari, you are not considered Qatari. On top of that, the naturalisation process takes 25 years and you are not allowed to leave for two consecutive months during that time! Once you have naturalised, you are a second-class citizen who still will not receive the same benefits. An average of just 50 foreigners are naturalised each year!

How to prove Arab ancestry?

Taking a DNA test is the first step in a much longer process that varies from country to country. If your ambition is to apply for citizenship based on your ancestry, we advise you to contact a specialist immigration lawyer for that country. If, however, your mission is founded in curiosity and wanting to know more about who you are, you can prove Arab ancestry with our service.