James Schipper: Many people believe that the Moors, that is Northern Africans, are black. Of course, the Moors are the Berbers and Arabs, who are definitely not black. Before the Arab conquest of all of Northern Africa, there were various people white peoples there and they were all Christianized.
The Romans possessed all of Northern Africa. They didn’t refer to that part of their Empire as black. Were the inhabitants of Carthage black? Was Cleopatra black?
If we look at the inhabitants of the 5 Northern African countries today, we will find that they vary between white and brown. Anwar Sadat could be described as brown, and el-Sisi could easily be Italian or Portuguese. This is surprising since the Arabs imported so many slaves from black Africa.
I believe moor just meant “dark.” And the Berbers were quite probably darker than the average Spaniard. They average 13% Black blood. They basically just look like Arabs.
Egypt has quite a bit of Black blood. 30% overall. 20% in the north and 40% in the South in Lower Egypt.
Libya also has a lot of Black blood, especially in the south. The south of Algeria is very Black, as is the south of Morocco. Most of those countries get a lot Blacker as you get into their southern regions.
The Sheltering Sky is an excellent movie by Bernardo Bertolucci, adopted from a novel by the great Paul Bowles.
In the movie, a European couple go to Tangier. The husband gets sick of some disease, maybe cholera, and dies. The wife becomes lost and takes up with a camel caravan heading south. They head down into lower Morocco, Algeria, and Niger. In the movie, that area is very Black. It’s also deeply Islamic. The photography and the movie in general is spectacular. Highly recommended.
Anyone here read Paul Bowles?
I read a book of his short stories. They’re too much! He was basically gay and his wife Jane Bowles was basically lesbian. Nonetheless they stayed married for a long time. Jane Bowles only wrote one novel and a book of short stories, but they are both said to be excellent. He spent his time picking up teenage Moroccan boys to have sex with.
William S. Burroughs lived in Tangier too for quite some time. In fact, that was where he wrote the famous Naked Lunch. Anybody read it? It’s bad, man!
Burroughs also spent his time smoking hashish and picking up teenage Moroccan boys to have sex with. This behavior is somewhat tolerated in Morocco because women are not accessible to most men, hence there is a lot of situational homosexuality. Nevertheless, the neighbors didn’t take kindly to Burroughs having sex with all those teenage boys, and they used to yell and throw things at him when he was out in the street.
There’s a lot of situational homosexuality in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Syria. Homosexuality is very much proscribed in the region, especially in the Shia parts of the Middle East. Nevertheless, in many Sunni countries, if you keep it on the “down low,” people look the other way.
Bowles spent a lot of time smoking hashish, or kif, as it is called. I had some kif for a while and I was selling it, of course. What else does a drug dealer do with any dope he gets? It was a light green powder, unlike most hashish which comes in blocks that have the consistency of extremely hard chocolate. You carve off pieces of the stuff with a knife and put it in a “hash pipe.” I had a special hash pipe like the kind they use in Morocco.
The stuff’s practically legal in Morocco. If you go to the Atlas Mountains in the north where the Berbers grow the stuff, you will find it everywhere. Photos of Berbers in that part of Morocco show that they are very White.
The Bowles’ both lived in Morocco, mostly in Tangier. This was during a time when Tangier was an “international city” under some sort of “international administration.” As such, there was not much police presence, and it was a haven for drug users and addicts, smugglers, and other low level criminals, street people, beatniks, fugitives, etc. It was a pretty shady place!
The Beats, including Ian Summerville, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, and Burroughs, used to go to Tangier in the 1950’s to visit Paul Bowles. Most of those men were either gay or bisexual. Burroughs and Ginsberg were gay, Kerouac was definitely bisexual, and Ian Summerville looks suspect to me. The Beats were gay as Hell! Far gayer than the hippies, most of whom looked down on homosexuality.