A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Egyptian Male Naming Patterns: A Cultural Note

A cultural aside prompted by events in Egypt. When I first lived in Egypt back in the 1970s, in those remote eras before Husni Mubarak was even President yet, I eventually started to wonder why so many men in their 50s seemed to be named Saad, while relatively few of the males my age were. Eventually I asked a couple (a used bookseller and another acquaintance in that age group), and realized they were presumably all, as these two were, named after Saad Zaghloul Pasha. I also noted a lot of younger men and boys born in the 1950s and 1960s, named Gamal. Obviously after Nasser. I suspect this includes the late-40-something former banker who has apparently taken up residence in London this week and whose political prospects are now nil.

A question for more recent Egypt hands: in the last 30 years, when my visits have usually been under a week and have not allowed thorough research on this abstruse onomastic issue, has there been a wave of Husnis born, or, as I suspect, not outside the ruling circles?

I also like an excuse to say "onomastic." Not a word I get to use every day: relating to the study of proper names, to save you the trouble of Googling.

Oh, and for now, I intend to fly the flag in the Egypt posts.


McDevite said...

Because Hosni Mubarak's reign has been like thirty years of Richard III?

Btw, I'm blogging over at http://noelmaurer.typepad.com/

Michael Collins Dunn said...

Interesting blog. If you keep following the Middle East I might blogroll it, but if it's temporary on the subject it may not fit.

Long before I got married I dated a girl who was committed to defending Richard III as a victim of Shakespearian propaganda. Just saying, since you brought him up.

McDevite said...

I'll probably be attached as the Middle East Correspondent.

I'm not unsympathetic to such a portrayal of Richard III, because the War of the Roses does mean that the roughest character wins the day.

Rashad said...

Mohammed is dominating all other names so thoroughly in Egypt these days that it is hard to tell if there are any other patterns besides Ahmad, Ashraf and Khaled.