Monday, October 10, 2011

Guess who's Middle Eastern?

I've just about exhausted my Guess Who's Asian? series for the time being, so I'm going to cast my net a bit wider to the South-West part of Asia. There are lots of famous people who are not widely known to have Middle Eastern ancestry; here are a few. I'm pretty sure none of them are terrorists, in case you are worried about that sort of thing.

Steve Jobs (left) - the late co-founder of Apple was was adopted, but his birth parents were Abdulfattah Jandali, an Arab (Syrian) immigrant to the US, and Joanne Schieble, an American of Swiss-German ancestry.
Wentworth Miller (right) - the apparently drool-inducing star of Prison Break, Wentworth Miller's family tree reads like the Human Genome Project; a father of African-American, Jewish, Cherokee, English and German ancestry, and a mother of Russian, French, Dutch, Lebanese and Syrian descent.

Kelly Slater (left) - arguably the best-known surfer of all time, the Florida-born Slater has Syrian ancestry on his father's side and Irish on his mother's.

F Murray Abraham (right) - The veteran actor, best known for his Oscar for Best Actor in Amadeus, and his role in Scarface, was born to an Italian-American mother and Syrian Christian father. The F stands for Fahrid.

Casey Kasem (left) - if you are like me and grew up listening to the American Top 40, you'd know doubt remember this guy's archetypical radio DJ voice. He was born in Detroit to Lebanese Druze parents, and while his surname is a giveaway as to his Middle-Eastern heritage, he pronounced it in such an American way that it never occurred to me. His real name is actually Kamal Amin Kasem.
Paul Anka (right) - pop idol from the 50s and 60s, best known for the songs Diana and Put Your Head on My Shoulder. Anka is Canadian-born to parents of Lebanese parents.

Andre Agassi - former world number 1 Tennis player; his father, Emmanuel Agassi (originally Aghassian) was an Iranian-born Olympic boxer who was of Armenian and Syrian Assyrian descent.

Julia Sawalha (right) - the UK actress best known as the straight-laced daughter Saffron in Absolutely Fabulous. Her father is Jordanian actor Nadim Sawalha, and her mother is British.
Mitch Daniels (left) - Governor of India and formerly Republican presidential hopeful, Pennsylvania-born Daniels' paternal grandparents were Syrian Christians.

Colombian pop star Shakira (right) is usually thought of as Latin American, but her name (full name Shakira Isabel Mebarak Ripoll) also reveals her Arabic (Lebanese) origins; Colombia actually has over 800,000 people of Lebanese descent. She also has Italian, Spanish and Macedonian ancestry.


  1. Agassi has Assyrian ancestry, not Syrian.

  2. Wow, I had no idea that there were so many prominent Middle Eastern Americans.

  3. Not really surprising that so few people are aware of these celebrities "Middle Eastern" background. After all, a person of Middle Eastern descent who is Christian or Jewish effectively lacks any key bars to acceptance, be they racial (Middle Easterners and Europeans are both Caucasoids, and Southern Europeans and Middle Easterners overlap on a lot of phenotypal metrics)or religious.

    A few more Westerners of ME background:

    Teri Hatcher: mother is half Syrian.

    Ralph Nader: Lebanese

    Shannon Elizabeth: Half Lebanese

    Sarah Shahi: Half Iranian

    Catherine Bell: Half Iranian

    Arwa Damon : Half Syrian

  4. Mike from Southern CaliforniaNovember 7, 2011 at 3:40 PM

    Surf guitar king/legend & surfer, Dick Dale, who left Boston for southern california had a Lebanese father & Polish mother. He was an absolute star in the late 1950s & early 1960s with Frankie & Annette & the whole southern california hot rod/muscle car, surf music, beach party scene. Many people are familiar with his epic music Misirlou which is the opening theme song of the film, Pulp Fiction...a very talented half Middle eastern surf guitar player with lightening finger speed--an innovator, too!

    1. Hello, I am of Syrian anscestry and I know of someone else who is too. Bob Marley is part Syrian.

  5. Middle Easterners beg so much to be something they're not. These are all mixed race, and you're all begging to claim them. Some listed here aren't even 1/4 middle eastern.

    Beg some more ffs.

    1. Erm, here's the second line of the blog post:

      "There are lots of famous people who are not widely known to have Middle Eastern ancestry; here are a few.

      This whole series of posts I've done is about people with mixed ancestry.

      In summation, learn to read properly, ffs.

  6. it doesn't matter if they have middle eastern blood in their stream the truth is that: talent is not exclusive to any race.there are lots of famous talented Lebanese people out there. salma hayek 1/2 lebanese the actor of monk series is what!

  7. Not one of the above has ever claimed to be Middle-Eastern, so what's the point of claiming someone who does not want to be claimed!

  8. I think it is important to point out that there are famous Americans of Arab and Middle Eastern origin. I teach in a rural, all white, Eurocentric area and the young adults I talk with are unaware of how much diversity there actually is in America. A small amount of them display xenophobia and are unrealistic in their assumptions about various groups.

  9. Oh my god!! i am shocked...i live in middle east and i had no idea that steve jobs has origins from syria..most arabian people are talented though..there is diversity here too..Alot of arabians are actually mixed with other nationals so it is hard to tell their nationalities!!! :D

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