What have the Africans done for Sicily?

Africans are so often portrayed as the underdogs, nowadays, that we sometimes forget they conquered southern Europe twice and ruled it for centuries.

The Sicilians don’t forget, though, for the Africans invented pasta as we know it, shaped their language and gave them the word Mafia, and brought them their citrus fruit trees, taught them to make dazzling coloured ceramics and founded street markets that still flourish like chaotic souks in central Palermo today.

The Capo market in Palermo, founded by Africans over 1,100 years ago.
The Capo market in Palermo, founded by Africans over 1,100 years ago.

The first wave of Africans were the Carthaginians. Carthage is now Tunis, in Tunisia. They spoke Phoenician, a Semitic language related to Hebrew, and were a cultural and ethnic mix of colonists from Lebanon and indigenous African Berbers. They never ruled Sicily without a fight, but first started founding cities here in the 8th century B.C. and always had a foothold on the island to the 2nd century B.C.

The Romans conquered Sicily eventually, and then later came a second wave of African invaders. By this time they were Muslim and they spoke Arabic, and the Europeans called them Moors. This is a vague term which applies to all the various races of northern Africa, including some sub-Saharan Africans as well. They ruled the Emirate of Sicily from 827 till 1061 A.D.

In Sicily, you see Africa all around you, even if you don’t recognise it.

COUS COUS: Cous cous is a Sicilian staple. In Sicily it is most often eaten with fish. The charming coastal town of San Vito Lo Capo has an annual cous cous festival in June, during which free cous cous is served in the streets for three days. There are also public cous cous making workshops (it’s a very fiddly, iterative process), a cooking tournament, and food markets. Oh yes, the Sicilians do like their food!

FACIAL GESTURES: If you ask a Sicilian a question, he may say nothing, but just tip his head back, look down his nose at you, and make a “tut” noise. English people do this to express disapproval, but when Sicilians do it, it just means “no”. Anyone who has travelled in the Middle East or North Africa will know that the Sicilians learned to do this from Arabic people.

Sicilians are generally the most hand-waving and emotional of all the Italians. A lot of their extremely tactile ways were picked up from the North Africans.

LANGUAGE: The Sicilian language is packed with Arabic words. They are too numerous to list. I’ll give you one, though…

THE WORD MAFIA: The Arabic word mahyas means “aggressive boasting or bragging.” This evolved into the Sicilian adjective mafiusu, which means arrogant, with a determination to dominate others through intimidation and bullying. And of course, people who have incorporated this behaviour into their way of life are the Mafia.

PASTA: I bet you didn’t know modern pasta was invented by Africans!

Records of pasta being eaten in Greece and Palestine go back to the 2nd century. It seems to have been widely eaten all around the Mediterranean in ancient times. They made it from flour and water, then boiled and ate it immediately. Italians still occasionally buy fresh pasta like this (pasta fresca) from small, local “pasta laboratories,” as they are amusingly called.

The Carthaginians introduced durum wheat to Sicily in the 8th century BC. It was soon being exported all around the Mediterranean. When the Moors came to Sicily, they realised durum wheat pasta can be dried hard. This makes it highly mould- and insect-resistant for long term storage and transportation. It was ideal for their export business and meant they could charge more for a value-added, ready-to-eat product. It also has the advantage of being ideal for toddlers’ art projects at kindergarten.

They opened large pasta factories in Sicily, particularly in Palermo and Trabia, to mass produce this dried pasta (pasta ascuitta), which is of course pasta as we now know it. In 1154, Mohammad Al-Idrisi wrote: “West of Termini there is a delightful settlement called Trabia. Its ever-flowing streams propel a number of mills. Here there are huge buildings in the countryside where they make vast quantities of itriyya [pasta] which is exported everywhere: to Calabria, to Muslim and Christian countries. Very many shiploads are sent.”

Pasta is still one of Sicily’s major exports. Have you seen Tomasello pasta in your supermarket? That’s made in Sicily, with production in several towns where the Africans first opened pasta factories over 1,000 years ago.

Ahhh! Just like the Africans made it!
Ahhh! Just like the Africans made it!

I have seen some claims that Marco Polo brought pasta to Italy, inspired by Chinese noodles. As you now know, this is blatant poppycock. Written records and archaeological evidence prove the Africans were mass-producing it in Sicily centuries before he was born.

CERAMICS: The Africans were experts in multi-coloured ceramic glazing techniques. They brought master craftsmen to establish potteries and train locals in Sicily. They replaced the ancient lead-oxide glazes with tin oxide glazes and added manganese purple and copper green to the color palette.

One of the typical ceramic artifacts they made looked like this, and people in Sicily still make them today:

A "Moor's Head" vase from Caltagirone; apparently the Africans in those days liked using fruit as hair grips.
A “Moor’s Head” vase from Caltagirone; apparently the Africans in those days liked using fruit as hair grips.

Their techniques later spread throughout Italy and the style of pottery was named Maiolica. It is still a major craft in Sicily, especially in Caltagirone, the centre of the Moorish pottery industry in Sicily, and Santo Stefano di Camastra. These two small towns are packed with hundreds of ceramics shops in every street. My husband displays signs of intense panic when I ask him to take me to either of them.

“The kitchen walls are already full,” he protests. “We’ve got no more room.”

ARCHITECTURE: The legacy of the architecture brought over from Africa remains not only in the old buildings that still stand in Sicily, but in the architectural designs and buildings technology that worked their way all through Europe and even up to the medieval cathedral builders of Great Britain.

The baths at Cefala Diana, just south of Palermo, were built by the Moors and look like this:

Ancient baths which still stand in the wild middle of nowhere. You won't get pestered by rival tourists if you come here.
Ancient baths which still stand in the wild middle of nowhere. You won’t get pestered by rival tourists if you come here.

They were constantly refilled with water from several natural springs. The spring water surged at various different temperatures, a different one for each of the pools.

Palermo Cathedral, which the Africans converted into a mosque, has some Arabic inscriptions on its exterior and examples of Islamic art.

An Arabic plaque which can be seen on the exterior of Palermo cathedral. can anyone translate it? Answers in the comments box, please!
An Arabic plaque which can be seen on the exterior of Palermo cathedral. Can anyone translate it? Answers in the comments box, please!

The Normans who conquered Sicily so greatly admired Moorish architecture that they employed African architects, artists and craftsmen for their buildings. As a result, some of Palermo’s churches look like this:

La Martorana Church in Sicily. Martorana means marzipan, which allegedly the nuns from the neighbouring convent used to sell.
La Martorana Church in Sicily. Martorana means marzipan, also invented by the Moors, which allegedly the nuns from the neighbouring convent used to sell. The martorana sweet, usually shaped very attractively into fruits, is named after the church, not the other way round, apparently.

And this:

A view of the Arabic garden in the courtyard of Monreale Cathedral.
A view of the Arabic garden in the courtyard of Monreale Cathedral.

The Castello di Zisa and La Cuba, also in Palermo, are in pure Fatimid style and surroundeded by Arabic gardens.

PALERMO AND ITS STREET MARKETS: The Carthaginians of Tunisia founded Palermo in 734 B.C. and gave it the catchy name of Zyz. Some of their city walls still survive in the city centre. Then in the 9th century A.D., the North African Moors invaded again, built new neighbourhoods, and filled the town with buzzing street markets that sold local foods and imported products.

Of these, the Capo and the Ballaro’ are still thriving markets with a real chaotic, souk-like vibe. Stall holders and customers alike wave their hands manically, shout their heads off and throw food and stuff all over the place. Your shoes will get wet gubbins on them. Don’t look too closely! It could be fish guts! I have a ridiculously high pair of pole-dancerish looking sandals which I wear for wading through the slurry when I go there to do my shopping.

Sensible footwear for a Sicilian Housewife to go grocery shopping

You can buy fresh fruit and veg, spices, meat or sea food, and eat local delicacies such as a spleen sandwich or a small intestine kebab, freshly cooked in front of you. (When I say small, I mean it’s the small intestine. The kebab is fairly large. As I have already mentioned, Sicilians DO like their food.)

SURNAMES: Arabic surnames survive in Sicily. Salimbeni, Taibbi, Sacca’, Zappala’, Cuffaro and Micicchè are all derived from North African families. They often have the stress on the last vowel, which of course breaks all the rules of pronunciation in Italian.

There is also the name Fricano, which is extremely common in Bagheria where I live and in a few nearby towns. It is pretty easy to tell that this is derived from “African”, the name the Romans gave to Carthaginian Africans who remained in Sicily after the Romans conquered the island. Strangely, though, the Romans also gave this title to several generals of theirs as an honourary additional surname for conquering the Carthaginians in Africa.

CITRUS FRUIT: The North Africans brought citrus trees with them and planted them all over Sicily and particularly in the bay of Palermo, which came to be called the Bay of Gold because of the glowing fruit that filled it. Once the world discovered the cause of scurvy, selling citrus fruits to sailors from all over Europe made Palermo one of the richest cities in Europe.

The Sicilian word for orange blossom – zagara – derives from the Arabic word zahr. Sicilians make the zagara into a beautiful toilet-water type perfume, also invented by the North Africans.


IRRIGATION: The North Africans were experts in irrigation. They used a technique which was first employed to reclaim the deserts all over Persia (I’m deliberately not saying Iran, because Persia back in those days was much bigger), digging out gradually tilting tunnels under the whole bay of Palermo area and lining them with stone. The depth to which the channels were sunk and the subtle gradient gathered water from a wide area and made the Palermo bay into one of Europe’s most fertile farming areas.

A qanat under the bay of Palermo.
A qanat under the bay of Palermo. Bring your wellies.

These tunnels, called Qanats, are sometimes opened to members of the public who have an abnormally high level of resistance to claustrophobia. Before being turned into Sicily’s number one Terrifying Tourist Attraction, they were sometimes used as escape routes by the Mafia, who violently wrestled into ownership of the citrus industry in the 1980s (ruining its profitability), bought houses above the qanats’ entrances, and took control of the extensive network as a means of escaping the police.

PLACE NAMES: Sicily is full of towns with Arabic names. For example:

Marsala, where the wine comes from, is Mars’Allah meaning God’s Port;

Alcamo was founded by the Muslim General Al-Kamuk;

Mislimeri signifies the resting place of the Emir (Manzil-Al-Emir);

Caltagirone, Caltanisseta, Caltabellotta and Caltavuturo derive from the Arabic calta meaning castle;

Tommaso Natale, a place which means “Tommy Christmas,” has nothing to do with the Arabs; I presume it got its name simply because the Sicilians do sometimes just let their sense of humour get the better of them;

Mongibello, Gibilmanna and Gibellina’ stems are all in the mountainous, expressed in the Arabic word gibil;

Regalbuto, Racalmuto and Regaliali derive from rahl, meaning area or village;

Polizza Generosi is a charming mountain town which means “generous policy,” and also has nothing to do with the Arabic speaking Africans, yet I couldn’t resist including it. (It’s policy as in insurance policy. What happens if you crash your car there? Do they give you a new one plus a free motorbike as well?)

CAKES: The Arabs and North Africans sure do love their sugar! The Africans brought sugar cane to Sicily and cultivated it widely, including for export back to Africa. They built sugar refineries which stayed in business till the 17th century, when global sugar production moved over to the West Indies.

The Moors also incorporated it into a famous Sicilian ricotta cheese cake known as qashatah in Arabic, which means “cheesy” and which is now called cassata in modern Sicilian. It is so sugary and fatty that it contains 2,3456,876 calories per bite and is guaranteed to cause type 2 diabetes in under 24 hours or your money back. But look at it! How could you resist?

40% fat cream cheese mixed with sugar, iced with royal fondant icing and covred in candied fruit, topped with sugar icing. Fully compatible with the Atkins diet.
40% fat cream cheese mixed with sugar, iced with royal fondant icing and covred in candied fruit, topped with sugar icing. Fully compatible with the Atkins diet.

The other type of desert introduced by the Africans was little cakes made from ground nuts. They have no flour, just almond or pistachio flour, egg white and sugar. I’ve recently signed up to a ten-step programme to try to conquer my addiction to them.

CROPS: The Africans imported plants and established crops of almonds, aniseed, apricots, artichokes, cinnamon, oranges, pistachio, pomegranates, saffron, sesame, spinach, sugarcane, watermelon and rice to Sicily. Today, raisins and pine kernels are fundamental to lots of classic pasta and fish recipes.

They also brought in palm trees of all types: short fat pineapple-looking trees, middle sized bushy ones and gigantic date palms, everywhere, date palms! The dates don’t ripen in Sicily because (can this seriously be possible?) the climate isn’t hot enough. I wonder why they brought so many, given that fact. Was it hotter back then? The Sicilian Housewife swoons and chokes for air at the very thought of it. Maybe they were just trying to stave off homesickness. I am not complaining about the date palms, of course. They are beautiful, elegant and often provide an ideal shady patch just the right size to park your car in.

All in all, the Africans brought a great deal to Sicily. A lot of it worked its way up through Italy and spread out into Renaissance Europe.

I sometimes wonder how the modern world might look if the Carthaginians had won the power struggle in the Mediterranean, instead of the Romans. They started out as well-matched empires, so the struggle dragged on for several centuries and Rome only won by a whisker. If Carthage had won, maybe modern America would be populated by brown-skinned people speaking some modern dialect of Phoenician, that Semitic language similar to Hebrew.


Evil Eye paper cover


150 Comments Add yours

  1. Pecora Nera says:

    When I first met Mrs Sensible, she would tut at me. I couldn’t believe it, not only did my mother tut at me, but my soon to be wife also tutted at me. I am not sure when she realised it was rude to tut at your boyfriend. Maybe I sulked for a day or two.


    1. I had to train hubby in a similar manner. He rarely dares to tut at me these days and, come to think of it, even the Godmother has stopped doing so! A small victory for the little Englanders!!! Now I just need to figure out how I’ll stop them shouting…


      1. Pecora Nera says:

        Not possible. Sometimes it is difficult to understand if they are just talking or arguing.

        Mrs Sensible doesn’t shout at me, because she knows I will sulk. Dreadful I know.


      2. I don’t sulk at all. It’s pointless because hubby never notices!!
        I think you’re right about the shouting, I’ll just have to withdraw to a safe distance when it all becomes too much!


      3. Anonymous says:

        as always the English try to change others peoples cultures , you are disrespectful to your husbands roots ,however ,,my story is that ,l live in the UK , at first and still ,even married twice to native women [ Anglo Saxon ] l have no hatred , England is my home , but after 40 yrs here ,l could never express myself the way l feel , l do use hand gestures when conversing ,we do shout even when chatting , tut ,is normal for me ,my ex wife never understood that , or l say clack with a tongue for yes , tut tut means no . , head gesture are used all the time , my daughter looks like me , dark brown eyes , silky black hair , my hair is or was curly when young ,but not silky , bit dry , Arab /Sicilian ,my immediate grand mother was a berber/Sicilian from north Africa , to be very honest , l was never very happy living iN the UK , l did assimilate very profoundly , at the end l retreated on my own with few friends , one can never say the brits are an open minded society, on the contrary , love your site , can tell u so much , but … l do not speak Sicilian ,shame, nor Arabic , but l will visit my ancestors lands shortly , ..
        you may help me if you can dig up my gran ‘s ancestry , name [hers ] Deminici . or similar , or Hideche ,
        thank you .


      4. Thank you for commenting on my blog and I am glad that you love my site.

        When you say “you are disrespectful to your husbands roots” you are completely wrong about that, PARTICULARLY not in this article! I make jokes about Sicily the same way that we English people like to make jokes about everything (including ourselves) but never with a lack of respect.


  2. tomsimard says:

    Enjoyed that. Learned a lot!


    1. Even after living in Sicily all these years, I learned a lot researching this post. It turned into a monster post, but I couldn’t bear to miss anything out!


      1. Tony says:

        North African people especially Moroccans use their hands a lot, and while talking it seems like they are fighting

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The Rider says:

    Thanks for the visit and the follow- I love your blog!


    1. Thank you! I love the look of your blog too, and will be back again 🙂


  4. I LOVE YOUR POSTS!!!!!!


    1. 🙂 Thank you!
      It had this idea for a post in the back of my mind for ages, but it was when you mentioned your Sicilian-African heritage in your other comment that I suddenly thought – NOW! I must write it now!


      1. Let’s not forget that the pizza is also from Africa. Dough spread out on a big round stone, covered with vegetables and spices and put into a stone oven. Still today they use that in several African countries.


      2. Oh that’s very interesting! I didn’t know that!
        There’s a description in the Aeneid where Aeneas and the other first colonists of Rome, when sailing over from Turkey, stop off in north Africa and then end up making something that sounds a lot like pizza. they made flat, round loaves of bread and the women heaped them with fruits and vegetables. I wonder if this was Vergil making a joking reference to pizza originating from Africa? (the Aeneid is full of such jokes.)


  5. Rosaria in South Florida says:

    Thanks for this really fine article. It’s amazing that the Moors continue to have a singularly profound affect on Sicily, especially given that the Emirate lasted little more than 200 years. Other conquers spent more time hanging around while taking away more and leaving less in comparison. Equally interesting is the genetic history of the island that may be gleaned from current populations through the Y chromosome. Moors generally did not colonize in the usual sense. Instead, they left their women at home and collected “wives” along the way thus introduced their genes into local female populations. BTW my favorite Sicilian word of Arabic origin is mammalucco which originally meant a Turkish mercenary and has morphed in a typically Sicilian way to mean “a fool”. Also thanks for the analysis of the origins of “tut” .


    1. I agree, it is amazing how much of a lasting influence the Moors had when they only ruled for 200 years. They seem to have spent that time being spectacularly hard working; founding new cities and developing whole new industries with the latest technologies, building major factories, and of course their massive import-export network. I bet Sicily was a very exciting place to live at that time, because the rate of change must have been tremendous. There was modernisation and enrichment all over the island, all the new types of foods available and all the cities springing up.
      That’s very interesting info on the genetic/demographic side. I wondered about about that when writing the article but I avoided mentioning it as I knew nothing on the subject!
      I like that word mammalucco – it’s hilarious how the meaning changed! I’ve never heard that before – I’ll have to try it out on my husband some time 😉
      I was amazed the first time I saw my husband doing that “tut” thing – I used to live in Turkey and immediately recognised it from there. Being English, it took me age to get over feeling it as a reproach!


  6. Jules says:

    Another well written piece with a wire of English humour on also educating Sicilians onto their heritage. You did miss one thing out though, Ice cream was invented by the Arabs in the 6th century on Mt. Etna – when they put cream into the snow…. and it went from there. i will enjoy educating the north eastern part of the island on the thanks they need to give to Africa – especially where there precious food is concerned. I particularly loved the insight into the “tut”, if you don’t get the “bu” you get the “tut”…I just tell them I’m not Doctor Dolittle..


    1. Good, spread the education widely! I can just imagine it:
      “Did you know the Africans invented ice cream?”
      “Did you know the Africans invented pasta?”
      “Do you know what the Sicilians invented?”


      1. Tony T says:

        You’re pretty ! You have a nice smile and a nose that looks like my fiancée. Although she is a blond (LOL). I always wanted to know what connection Sicily had with Africa and in doing so, I stumbled across your photo several times. We are both half Sicilian. I was very miss informed about things in that there was a war between the two countries. I’m relieved to know how the food and culture in Sicily all started in North Africa. We hope sometime to visit Sicily and check out our roots.

        Tony T


      2. VH says:

        Thank you for the nice comments about me!
        You and your fiancé should definitely visit Sicily. It is such a great place for a holiday, and still very overlooked by most tourists so you get to see the unspoiled traditional lifestyle and the locals living as they have done for generations.


    2. And I almost forgot to say…. aarghhh! How could I have forgotten ice cream???? It should have come top of the list!


      1. Jules says:

        it’s easy to forget as there’s probably many more, I’ll ask the local Senegalese, I’ll never forget the day when they were still holding strong in the world cup, and whoops Italy was kicked out, I think I was the only one giggling in the city’s piazza, (sick of telling people not everyone is from Morocco, let alone not every dark skinned lady is trafficked in from Nigeria…if you know what I mean, back in Britain, they say ignorance is bliss, ” I’ve got better adjectives for it after living on the island for over a decade…).
        Let me know if you are ever going to do a “What the Brits have done for Sicily…. would love to contribute, bear in mind I live near the English castle and canal, and local dialect words stem from their arrival in WW2 too.
        Ciao for now!


      2. Oh I would LOVE to do a “What have the Brits done for Sicily” article! What a fantastic idea!!!
        Please definitely give me as many ideas as you have. In fact, would you be interested in writing a piece together? Or doing an article as a guest blogger?
        Whatever you have time for, please let me know. I am REALLY excited about your idea!

        Ah, yes! How simple the world looks to Sicilians, when everyone north African looking is a “Moroccan”, all East Europeans are “Romanian” and don’t forget, anyone from the far East is “Chinese” or “Japanese”, randomly interchangeable as they both mean the same thing!!!


      3. Jules says:

        Oh no, not a guest blog, we’ll write it together, or we may be able to accumalate facts from all legs, I’m sure there’ll be a Brit moseying around a village down there, in fact I think there is an Irish lady in the Siracusa region.
        No rush though I need to get to the summer holidays to breathe a little….
        “A later!”


      4. Summer holidays – amen to that!
        I’m spending over 2 months in England this year, with my mother in the cotswolds. That’ll give me a good dose of England to strengthen me for the following year… 🙂


  7. yangszechoo says:

    I loved this article!! And of course, I immediately had to practice the “tut”! What is the noise exactly? Is it more like a “tch” sound? I can’t wait to try this on my unsuspecting family…


    1. Yes, I think you could call it a “tch”, definitely! You put the tip of your tongue to your top teeth and make a little noise by sucking some air inwards instead of forcing it outwards. Do tell me your family’s reaction when you test it on them!!!

      By the way, I heard the men doing it in Barbados too and, as in England, I gathered it means something totally different there, too. Based on context, I think it means “I like the look of your buttocks!” of something like that!!!

      Now, I think you’ll have to invent a new meaning for it in Malaysia and see if it catches on 🙂


      1. yangszechoo says:

        I just snorted up a glass of water over “I admire your buttocks”!! Yes, I think the world needs more positive affirmations like this! I’m going to compliment my unsuspecting husband in this manner right now!


      2. If his buttocks are admirable, they should most certainly be complimented!!! 😉
        How’s your search for a handsome butler going? A butler with admirable buttocks would truly be an great addition to any household!!! And perhaps you could figure out a tutting sort of code language to order him around….


  8. i just read this [email backlog!] and you made me laugh, homesick & ‘tut’ in a matter of minutes! My Zio would ‘tut’ at us and follow it with a shake of his index finger, for the silly american girls. My cousins are in Misilmeri [my homebase when we visit] and in Bagheria as well. Next time i visit, please please please allow me to take you to Cent anni {?} for a gelato..


    1. What a coincidence that you have relative right where I live!
      Yes, I would love to meet you next time you come over. (Maybe you meant “Anni Venti” for the Gelato?) I would like to reciprocate by treating you to a spleen sandwich!! Or I would settle for an arancina if you prefer 😉
      So please definitely let me know next timeyou come for a visit!


      1. it was Anni Venti, the name popped into my head at 3am EST. though you were probably awake. my weakness is pane e panelle. as in stop the car in palermo on way home from the airport to get me one! i have strong ties with your town. My zio worked for Guttuso & every time we visit we have dinner at a place called maybe franco’s? its a small restaurant, on a small street , but quite yummy. if you find yourself in Misilmeri to look at the [horribly done] rebuilt castle, stop at Cherry Gold, near the piazza nuova & tell Filippo or Agostino that Marcella [l’americana] sent you. Hands down best gelato ever!


      2. I love panelle too! Yum!
        Sometimes I get such a craving that I stop off at the friggitoria on the way home from school with my son and we have them for lunch. Shockingly unhealthy I know! we only do it occasionally 🙂

        I don’t know Franco’s. I’ll have to look out for that. Abd I’ll be sure to mention you if I go for an ice-cream in Misilmeri!


  9. ericmaroney70 says:

    Regarding the Arabic inscription, I have found that it is the Fatihah, or opening verse of the Qur’an. So, these verses: http://quran.com/1


    1. Thank you for that info!


  10. feetree says:

    About an Arabic plaque which can be seen on the exterior of Palermo cathedral.

    What written on gate pillar of Palermo Cathedral is Al Fatihah (the opener), first chapter of the Qur’an.
    The translation is:
    “In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful.
    All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds, The Gracious, the Merciful, Master of the Day of Judgment.
    Thee alone do we worship and Thee alone do we implore for help.
    Guide us in the right path.
    The path of those on whom Thou hast bestowed Thy blessings, those who have not incurred Thy displeasure, and those who have not
    gone astray.”


    *(page 8)


    nb: below that pillar we can find “Da Ruggero II di Sicilia”


    1. Thank you for the translation!
      Seeing how specific it is to Islam, it’s all the more surprising that they left it on the cathedral. I love the cosmopolitan nature of this kind of mixing though, and I wish people of different religions widely applied this level of mutual tolerance in real life. Imagine what a nice place this world could be…


  11. Michael says:

    Hi! Michael here, I enjoy reading your post about Sicily it has such an amazing culture and history and i’ve always wanted to visit. I have roots from Palermo, Sicily. I notice you mentioned a few of the different imported surnames in Sicily. My surname is Despenza, but some also spell it Dispenza. I was wondering are you familiar with this surname or ever came across anyone with the name. I’ve managed to trace my roots back to about 1850s in Sicily then it seems to hit a dead end there. Do you think it could be an imported surname?


    1. Hi! That’s exciting that you’ve managed to trace your ancestry that far back.

      Linguistically, this is a completely Italian name/word so its origin is most unlikely to come from another country. It doesn’t have a specific meaning, so it is unlikely someone translated their foreign surname into Italian.

      There are plenty of Dispenzas and especially Despenzas in Sicily. I asked my husband if it is specifically a Sicilian surname or a general Italian one, and he didn’t know.

      I did some searches and found this website:
      which shows by far the largest concentration of Despenzas in Sicily, which I think is enough proof to say it is definitely a Sicilian surname.
      I don’t know where this site gets its info and how reliable it is, but it says there are 139 Despenzas in Italy altogether and of these, 92 are in Sicily.

      The version Dispenza is far rarer than Despenza. Have you tried tracing back using Dispenza instead?
      Illiteracy was so common in Sicily until recent times (even among people officials who wrote birth certificates!) that many families have different spellings, even in the same generation. My husband has loads of cousins whose surname is spelled differently from his, because in his grandfather’s generation two brothers were spelled differently on their birth certificates.

      Do you know the city your ancestors were from? Many surnames in Sicily, especially the rarer ones, tend to be very heavily concentrated in one town or small area. If you can locate the epicentre of the Despenzas, you may hit the motherlode and tap into local knowledge. This happened to my husband when we happened to visit a village where, it turned out, over two thirds of the people had his surname! When they found out, the locals demanded to know the names of his grandparents and great grandparents until they knew the connection, after which they practically told him his ancestry back to Adam and Eve!!!

      What I can do – but give me some time – is ask around among some Dispenzas 8they may be Despenzas) in case they have any clues. I’ll post any info back here, so check in to see if I have news!


  12. Michael says:

    Hi! It’s definitely is a rare surname in the states so i was able to find out from some other family members i recently met that most of our ancestors came from Palermo, Agrigento, Siracusa, and Trapani. When i search Despenza on ancestry.com for Sicily it gives me few results. I came across a family that was uploaded by a family member and noticed that my great grandfather Sylvester Despenza’s father Louis spelled it Dispenza. I tried to search for Louis’s fathers name, but i didn’t show up although it was unknown the surname was spelled Dispenza which made me search using that spelling and it gave me pages of Dispenzas mostly from Agrigento and Palermo, Sicily.

    The website link you posted is that showing how many Dispenzas are still living in Sicily today? Thats pretty amazing and i’m going to definitely share this information with my family. Many of us didn’t know much about the family, because many of the elders passed on before we we’re born.

    Also, thats very interesting about your husbands family, because not to long ago a relative did mention to me that some family members spelled it differently, but said its the same family. If they can tell him that far back to around adam and eve thats some strong oral histroy. Thats just amazing to me.

    I’ll be looking foward to hearing what you find out from the families. Thank you so much for your help and the information my friend. Take care.



  13. Anonymous says:

    Isn’t it great that Sicilians don’t harp or resent the fact that the invaders had influence over their present culture? We move on and flourish, perfect and prosper while the northern Africans remain third world. We continue to grow and prosper and co-mingle with any country that we decide to live in.


    1. Great positive attitude! And I agree, I love the way Sicilians embrace all aspects of their heritage and are equally proud of all of them. The extraordinary cosmopolitan cultural and racial mix that the Sicilians have has made them exemplary in this respect.
      Though….. I am not totally convinced there’s such a big contrast between “prospering Sicilians” and “third world North Africans”. I’ve seen hospitals in north Africa which were better beyond all comparison than the ones I’ve been a patient in here in Sicily!!!! When I went to Cairo with my husband he compared it to Palermo in his head, and the shock of seeing how rich and modern (and organised!) Cairo looked made his mouth fall open and not close again for about an hour!!!!
      Also, this may be my inagination, but I sometimes look at the North Africans here, who probably went through hell to get here convinced they were going to reach somewhere far better, and they seem to have this look on their faces all the time that says…. WTF?


      1. So there in Cairo you didn’t tell the amazed husband that that city was founded by another Sicilian guy?


      2. I didn’t know that! Who was it founded by?


      3. The name is Jawhar ibn Abdallah, but generally known as al Siqilli, which means, well, “the Sicilian”, sometime al Siqilli al Rumi, a sottolineare la provenience etnica. Shipped as a slave to Northern Africa he rose through the ranks, gained his freedom, became a Vizir and then the field Marshall of the Fatimids, went to become the greatest general of his age, conquering for them Morocco, Egypt and Palestina. Jawhar founded Cairo, and the al Azhar mosquew.


      4. The name is Jawhar, Jawhar ibn Abdallah, sometime Gohar, but generally known as al Siqilli, which means, well, “the Sicilian”, sometime al Siqilli al Rumi, which is also suggesting his ethnicity. Shipped as a slave to Northern Africa he rose through the ranks, gained his freedom, became a Vizir and then the Field Marshall of the Fatimids, went to become the greatest general of his age, conquering for them Morocco, Egypt and Palestina. Jawhar founded Cairo, and the al Azhar mosque.


      5. That’s fascinating! Thank you so much for that info… I shall have to research it more, I think I feel a new blog post coming on….


  14. casiolove2012cd says:

    Peace and Love…
    I was looking for some information, and stumbled across this post…… and I am SO GLAD I did!! I have been trying to learn more about my heritage as much as I can; my father was Sicilian, and my mother is Black/Irish. My father past away in 2010, before I could learn any more from him, and I have been seeking information on my own… Folks look at me and seem somewhat confused.. lol.. however, I love my mixture greatly.
    Everything said on this page helped me more than a lot of the information I have come across… I want to thank you for giving us your valuable insight. It is appreciated greatly.


    1. I am so glad to have helped you learn a bit more about your personal heritage. 🙂 That really means a lot to me and makes writing my blog all the more worthwhile. You are actually not the first person with a mix of Sicilian and African in their roots to enjoy learning how it all came together in Sicily!
      Sicily really is a fascinating place, do keep reading up about it. Have you ever visited Sicily?


      1. Anonymous says:

        Unfortunately no I havent; that would have been my next trip with my father- however that is my near future plans. 🙂 i’m currently teaching my husband a few Italian words, and he’s learning, slowly but surely lol..


  15. casiolove2012cd says:

    Unfortunately no I havent; that would have been my next trip with my father- however that is my near future plans. 🙂 i’m currently teaching my husband a few Italian words, and he’s learning, slowly but surely lol..


    1. Good luck with teaching your hubby – I hope he’s faster than mine! I’ve been teaching him English for ten years. I calculated a while ago that, if he keeps up this speed, he will be a fluent English speaker by the time he is 230 years old.


  16. Fai says:

    Nice article , and I like to comment on some points:

    Semitic language is a family group that includes ( Phoenician , Aramaic , Arabic and Hebrew ) and Phoenician (extinct) not related to Hebrew, however, they are all part of the same family group such as, Aramaic (older than Hebrew).

    The Muslims who spoke Arabic weren’t African.
    In Fact, Asad ibn Alfurat who led the expedition to Byzantine Sicily was Arab born in Harran North Syria .

    Aghlabid Emir of Ifriqiya (Tunis today) who ruled southern Italy, Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and Malta was Arab Dynasty from Banu Tamim tribe (from Najd Arabian Peninsula)

    African genes are strong and dominant , if Sicilians were invaded by Africans they would have obvious African features in their looks such as Pardo in Brazil who make up 40% of the Brazilian population and have African and native background.

    North Africans are of Berber Amazigh and Arab ,both are not Africans , if they were Africans they would look like the rest of most African countries such as Nigeria, Mali etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is very interesting, and thank you for taking the time to comment.

      I am a bit confused by what you say about the phoenician language, because you say it is from the same family group as Hebrew, Aramaic and Arabic, but then you say it is not related to Hebrew. If it from this family of languages, it IS related, as also mentioned by Wikipedia:
      “Phoenician is a Semitic language of the Canaanite subgroup; its closest living relative is Hebrew, to which it is very similar.”

      Asad ibn al-Furat, who took a key role in the colonisation of Sicily as you say, was indeed born in Harran (Mesopotamia, now Syria) but when he was a child his family moved to Ifriqiya, nowadays called Tunisia, and that is where he grew up. We could debate whether that makes him Tunisian or Syrian. There are millions of people in my country today who originally came from somewhere far away and we could hold a similar debate about whether they are British or Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi/Nigerian etc.
      I personally take the view that people can be two things, and this is why I deliberately used the term “Africans” and “Arabs” interchangeably in my article. I tried to make it clear that I was talking about North African Arabs. To me they are distinct from other Africans and also from other Arabs.

      Your comparison with Brazil is not valid since the African ethnic contrinution to Brazil was almost entirely Sub-Saharan Africans. They are a different gene stock from the North African Berber tribes and they do, as you say, look very different.
      The Berber element and the presence of genes from other North African tribes, as well as Middle Eastern people, in the people of Sicily is most definitely evident. Many of the people here are dark skinned and it is also quite common to find frizzy hair, even on the white skinned ones. We have a lot of recent immigrants to Sicily from North Africa in the last few years, and by the end of summer, you can’t tell the difference between north Africans and a lot of Sicilians, because once they are fully tanned at the end of August they look exactly the same. There are some paler Sicilians too, of course. Remember, the Africans/Arabs invaded Sicily about a thousand years ago and since then, the place has been invaded by many other nations including the French, the Germans and other light-skinned people.
      Nobody here knows the ethnic details of their ancestry and nobody cares either, but you can see it all mixed up in Sicilian families. When a dark mother has a blonde child, for example, she may jokingly say “This one’s a Norman” and if she has another darker one, she’ll say “This is my Moorish one”.

      This comment is confusing:
      “North Africans are of Berber Amazigh and Arab ,both are not Africans , if they were Africans they would look like the rest of most African countries such as Nigeria, Mali etc.”
      So you think only Sub-Saharan Africans are actually African?
      If you think these people are not African, what are they? Where do you think they came from originally? Or rather, not originally, since all humans came from Africa originally; where do you reckon they went between leaving Africa and then going back there?


      1. Fai says:

        Thanks for your reply
        Phoenician is an extinct language, and no one could prove if it was related more to Aramaic, Hebrew or Arabic ,Although Aramaic is spoken by people of Aram is what is now Syria, would be geographically next to Phoenicia and not Mesopotamia (where Abraham from). That’s why
        Hebrew is not a Canaanite language, but Mesopotamian originally via Abraham

        I have noticed some people relate every Semitic language to Hebrew as if it was the mother of the Semitic languages which is not true.

        Even Maltese nationalists claim Maltese language which is 75% Arabic is of Phoenician and not Arabic which is funny because they know it’s not true.

        Back then there wasn’t Tunisian or Syrian citizenships, they were all the same no borders and no differences, people from Syria used to move to north Africa or Arabia and vice versa most of them spoke the same language share the same tribe (roots), culture and practice the same religion till today.

        Ifriqiya; is an area that included Tunisia, part of Libya and part of Algeria not specifically only Tunisia.

        Being British citizens of Indian/Pakistani/Nigerian origins doesn’t mean they are of English decent or race or origins or the old inhabitant of England.

        If North African Arabs are distinct from other Arabs how come most of the used to go back and forth to the Middle East (Yemen,Arabia, Syria, Iraq) carry their tribe names and culture such as Banu Hilal, Banu Sulaym etc. Who played a major role in the history of North Africa .

        Sub-Saharan Africans are the actual African. Arabs migrated and took over north African 14 centuries ago and most of them obviously came from (Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq) during the Umayyad’s and Abbasid’s dynasties.
        Romans and Phoenicians Settled way back before Arabs in North Africa, and mixed with berber Amazigh (who some claim they originally from Yemen and some claim they originally from Europe) but definitely not Africa and you can find some academic studies regarding the origins of Berber.


    2. Anonymous says:

      North Africa, South African, East and West African is still Africa


    3. slanzieri says:

      Very well said !!!!! You said exactly what I tell people here in America who tell me I’m part black because Southern Italy is so close to Africa that I must be part black !! What people don’t talk about is that these were mainly Syrian Arabic Muslims spreading Islam and Speaking in ARABIC ! Not subsaharan negroids speaking Swahili and spreading Voodu !!!!! We would look so much different if that were the case!! I can see resemblance in many Arabs to Soutern Italians ! But I can’t see any in black Africans !!!!


  17. Jack Curtis says:

    That’s informative, interesting and fills a number of gaps for me. It has long seemed that the ancients knew more, were more sophisticated and got around a great deal more than we have credited them. In a place like Sicily, all that must come alive!


    1. A friend of mine who recently visited me in Sicily commented “When you learn the history of Sicily, you realise it explains everything that ever happened in Europe.”
      I think Goethe said something similar.


    2. Anonymous says:

      Because the original Man is the African Man. I don’t understand why when it comes to ancient History. European History is widely praised. But when it comes to Africans people are in denial.


  18. The Arabic inscription (which is on a column in the cathedral of palermo) is from the Surah Al-Fatihah, the opening verse of the qur’an


  19. Marlena says:

    Loved this post. My father’s family is from Trabia, and I was able to visit there in 2011 to work on our geneaology. They still make pasta in Trabia and sell it during the festival of the cross in September.


    1. Antoinette says:

      My father is from Trabia, as well as my mother’s family. So interested to hear about the town and your work on geneaology.


  20. Roberto Aloi says:

    I enjoyed the post! I have always been intrigued by the northern african influences in Southern Italy. It’s amazing how many individuals do not realize this. Looking forward to more of your posts.


    1. Josh says:

      Unfortunately the people who conquered the Iberia peninsula and southern europe weren’t Africans, the were Arabs and berbers through north Africa, even the word mafia as you mentioned theoretically might come from Arabic “ma’fi” which means except.

      Most of towns and cities name came from Arabic.

      I’ve noticed many north americana believe that the moors were africana but in fact they weren’t , even most of the rulers were from Umayyad dynsty who have nothing to do with africa.

      Maybe we should call them asians then since they were rulling from south west asia continent and moved from there!


      1. Although the people who conquered southern Europe had very strong cultural influences from the Middle East and also a significant ethnic input from that region, the fact is that by the time they invaded Europe, they no longer had any political ties with the Middle East and were completely independent emirates. Thus calling them “Arabs” is exactly the same as calling Americans “English” – they were English once, but not any more!

        This was pointed out to be my a very distinguished Sicilian historian called Gaetano Basile, who has published many books on the subject and presented TV documentaries, too. he read this post and said he liked it, but I randomly said Arab or African and it was not the same thing!!
        We feel instinctively we should call them Arabs because they spoke Arabic and their culture had its roots in Arabic culture, but really it is incorrect and, the most convincing thing of all, in their writing, they called themselves Africans.


      2. Josh says:

        Calling them “Arabs” is a completely different than calling Americans “English”.

        First of all, because simply they are ethnically Arabs and Berber ,and were Emirates under the caliphate for a while such as Iraq , Sham/Levant, Hijaz (west of Saudi Arabia ) , Yemen Emirates which means states in English.
        Most of these states got politically independent due for a while to conflicts and other reasons. So according to you all these countries weren’t Arabs and only been influenced by the language which doesn’t even make sense.

        Second of all, English were part of the empires who conquered North America along with the French, Dutch and Spanish empires and North America was already inhabited by the natives before the Spanish arrival and invasion .Therefore English or British empire was only part of other nations in North America and their people make up less then quarter of the population.

        The Turks/Ottoman empire for example thy weren’t Arabs and didn’t speak Arabic, they conquered most of the Arab world today from Iraq to east Fes in Morocco for centuries, no one ever claimed that the people in these states were of Turks ethnicities because they were and are of Arabs and Berber origins.

        Let’s start with the conquer of Iberia peninsula :
        Tariq ibn Ziyad was a general under the orders of the Umayyad Caliph Al-Walid in Damascus, he even died there.

        Musa bin Nusayr was born and raised in Syria and Arabia.

        After decades the Iberian peninsula torn by tribal dissensions among the Arabs ( Adnanite and Yemenites) till it was controlled by emir Yusuf ibn Abd alRahman al Fihri who was a descendant Uqba ibn Nafi (born in Mecca in the prophet era)

        Abd al-Rahman I ( who was Umayyad born and raised in Damascus ) defeated emir Yusuf and started the Umayyad dynasty for 5 centuries.

        According to Ibn Khaldun ( a well known Andalusian Arab historiographer and historian) who was born in Tunis he described most of the people and rulers of al andalus and Maghreb as either Arabs or Berber and not Africans.

        Andalusian historian Ibn Hayyan always referred and described andalusian dynasties as Arabs and not Africans.

        Even The Aghlabids dynasty who ruled Tunisia and Sicily was Arab from Najid region belong to Bani Tamim clan , and Ziyadat Allah I him self was born in Iraq.

        Asad bin Furat who led the sicily conquest was born in Syria.

        Ifriqiya was a name of a region in Tunisia and part of Libya that’s all, and never referred to the people as Africans neither to Egypt or Morocco or Algeria.

        I never heard anyone stated that Romans were africans or Asians since they rulled these parts of the world or Hannibal for instance was african or Punic were africans because they were from Carthage.

        Show me resources that state they were Africans not Arabs or Berbers and only spoke Arabic.

        And i’m even surprised that they don’t even look Africans to me but rather Arabs or Berber.

        North Africa has very small minorities of Africans.


      3. You are right that they are ethnically Arabs and Berber. But you do know Berbers were, and are, indigenous Africans, don’t you? And that they never lived in the Middle East, or indeed anywhere except Africa?

        The human leukocyte antigen HLA DNA data suggest that 85% of Moroccans, and inhabitants of the other North African countries excluding Egypt (which has a higher ethnic Arab percentage in the population) are of a Berber origin and that Arabs who invaded North Africa and Spain in the 7th century did not substantially contribute to the gene pool. In other words, the people who invaded Sicily were genetically far more African (85%) than Arab (15%).

        Here is the genetic research:

        Ballais, Jean-Louis (2000) “Chapter 7: Conquests and land degradation in the eastern Maghreb” In Barker, Graeme and Gilbertson, David (2000) The Archaeology of Drylands: Living at the Margin Routledge, London, Volume 1, Part III – Sahara and Sahel, pp. 125–136, ISBN 978-0-415-23001-8
        Gomez-Casado, E.; Del Moral, P.; Martinez-Laso, J.; Garcia-Gomez, A.; Allende, L.; Silvera-Redondo, C.; Longas, J.; Gonzalez-Hevilla, M. et al. (2000). “HLA genes in Arabic-speaking Moroccans: close relatedness to Berbers and Iberians”. Tissue Antigens 55 (3): 239–249. doi:10.1034/j.1399-0039.2000.550307.x. PMID 10777099.

        The commonest haplotype in all the countries north of the Sahara is E1b1b1b, which is called the “genetic Berber marker” as it is found in Berbers, but also in a number of sub-Saharan Africans. Incidentally this is the haplotype that my Sicilian husband and our son both have.


      4. Josh says:

        Out of curiosity , how did you know they were indigenous Africans? And never lived anywhere except Africa?

        There’s no doubt that their origins are not clear till today and all these statements were based on theories .

        Their language has no roots or relation to African languages at all.

        The word Berber is a variation of the Greek and Latin original word Barbarian, earlier in history applied by Romans specifically to their northern hostile neighbors The Vandal (Germanic tribes) who settled in Carthage (in modern Tunisia) in the highlands (in modern Algeria) and they rule North Africa, adopted by the Arabs and is still in use as the name for the non-Arabs in North Africa.

        It might explain the light skinned European looking Berbers and i’m not talking about “Tuareg”, Zinedine Zidane as an example both his parents are Kabyle Berber.

        Every where i go in North Africa i see either Phoenician or Roman or Muslim heritage but i never seen these Africans ones? Where are they?

        Masinissa the old king of Numidia his tomb is in Roman Punic style ? If he was African shouldn’t they have buried him in their own African culture style other than Roman or Punic ?

        DNA analysis has found commonalities between Berber populations and those of the Sami people of Scandinavia showing a link dating from around 9,000 years ago. (Am J Hum Genet. 2005 May;76(5):883-6. Epub 2005 Mar 24)

        Maghrib in the second half of the eighth century werenot known generically as Berbers but had specific tribal names such as Hawwara and Zantana or banu Hilal , Sulayme and Hassan ( migrated from Arabia)

        Even Ibn Khaldun who is considered the oldest historian to describe Berber in details in his most important work “Kitab al-‘Ibar”, and of that the most significant section was the Muqaddimah “introductions” and it is one of the most important surviving sources for the history of medieval North Africa, the Berbers and, to a lesser extent, Muslim Spain never referred to them as Africans .

        When it comes to DNA online research studies it show you varieties of contradictions and some don’t even make sense. In 2008 DNA study shows 25 percent of Iberian ( http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/05/science/05genes.html?_r=0 )
        Which has no proof and logically doesn’t even make sense since
        unless these Moors were Jews.

        Most European historians referred to the Muslims of Iberia and southern Italy as either “Arabs” or “Moors” or “Saracens”

        I mentioned all the Arab dynasties who ruled Iberia and Sicily even the last Moorish King of Grenada 1492 was Arab.

        Could you provide me with some information regarding these African rulers or nations or dynasties?

        Because you mentioned before that Iberia was independent from the east Caliphate control, so who were these rulers of Iberia ???

        Yes Almoravid 56 years (1172-1212) and Almohad 40 years (1092-1148) who gained controlled over Alandalus from Morocco for sometime were of Berber Sanhaja and Masmuda tribes.

        There are some Moors settlements in some parts in Italy and Iberia even after the defeated and moved to some other places such as Lucera .

        Not too long ago i watched an interview with Luisa Isabel Álvarez de Toledo who’s one of the most prestigious noble families and Grandees of Spain, discovered that her great grandfather ( Alonso de Guzman) was in fact not Spaniard according the old documents and archives she had . She also said that her Great grandfather history might have been “cleaned up” in the sixteenth century to alter his origins, thereby making him more palatable to Spain’s Christian society.

        I think if southern Europeans have African blood they would look completely different than now because genes don’t lie.


  21. Wonderful post, I knew that there was an influence in Sicily from Africa but I did not know just how great the influence was. Thank you!-Whitney


  22. Latti Ice says:

    Love your article and wanted to point out how inaccurate Josh was/is.

    “Out of curiosity , how did you know they were indigenous Africans? And never lived anywhere except Africa?”

    Like you stated The Sicilian Housewife; The Berbers were Saharan African nomads, and North Africa is as much African as anywhere else within the continent.

    They even did a special of Lost kingdoms of Africa; ancient Morocco, and talked about Saharan Berbers.

    Here is the link: http://sincereignorance.com/2014/09/24/ancient-berbers-arabs-muslims-and-moors/

    Thanks again for the informative post, but why do you think so many try to deny this, when it has already been proven to be factual?


    1. Thanks for that link – I am looking forward to watching that when I get a peaceful evening!
      As for people who try to deny what the Africans did in history, or deny simple facts and definitions, I find it bewildering. I try to explain things clearly, but in the end, some people just put themselves in the same category as holocaust deniers, and I don’t know how to help them!!!
      I do think it’s a shame that African history is not part of the mainstream history syllabus, as it is so fascinating, and the extent of its influence on the development of European culture is generally overlooked. In Europe we just study Egypt, and that’s it. It seems Africa is still regarded as “The Dark Continent” – **mystery!**mystery!** – when really the history is all there in black and white, if only people can be bothered to read it.
      In Britain recently they have introduced something like the American “Black History Month,” during which kids could study the Ghana Empire, the Mali Empire with its famous libraries, the Songhai Empire, The Ethiopian Empire with its beautiful art work, Ancient Carthage which beat the Ancient Romans lots of times and came close to controlling the whole Mediterranean, and the legendary and truly amazing Kingdom of Kush. Plus about a hundred more….! But instead they teach them trivial factoids, like that a black bloke invented crisps and one of the nurses in the Crimean war was black – not that I want to do those people down, but they are kind of trivialising the history of black people in my opinion, and leaving people ignorant of the really impressive stuff.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Latti Ice says:

        That is awesome; I’ve been to the British museum once, and I get a lot of my resources from colleges, museums, galleries etc. It’s is so amazing what people in our society overlook. From my studies I’ve realized how diverse we are as humanity with many of us not noticing it or overlooking it. Years ago for example, I didn’t even know Alexander Pushkin had a great grandfather who was from East Africa and part of the nobility.


        But I’ll stop my rambling now lol; I really love what you are doing with your website!


      2. Oh wow, I didn’t know that either!
        I was fairly gobsmacked to find out a few years ago that Alexandre Dumas, who wrote “The Three Musketeers” (among other classics) and was a major celebrity in his day, was mixed-race black. His grandmother was a Haitian slave and his grandfather was a French aristocrat. He was shunned by some people for marrying her, and Dumas himself suffered quite a lot of racism, but he was always ready with a very witty put-down.


    2. Latti Ice says:

      Denying again.


      “It’s easy to think of Islamic North Africa as Arab, rather than African. But the land that is now Morocco once lay at the centre of a vast African Kingdom that stretched from northern Spain to the heart of West Africa. It was created by African Berbers, and ruled for centuries by two dynasties that created tremendous wealth, commissioned fabulous architecture, and promoted sophisticated ideas. But art historian Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford reveals how the very forces that forged the kingdom ultimately helped to destroy its indigenous African identity.”

      North Africa’s first arrivals were Saharan Africans and later other groups of people arrived. Stop denying factual history and what is your problem? Are you that insecure that you feel the need to constantly combat a truth that can’t be countered? Berber is African, Berber is Saharan African.

      Moors In Ancient and Medieval European History

      The oldest depiction of St. Maurice in the Cathedral of Magdeburg, Germany

      “The ancient Romans thoroughly documented the lives of indigenous Africans to whom they commonly referred as the Moors. By the 4th century AD, the Roman army heavily recruited Moors for their exceptional skill in battle. One such Moorish general, Aemilianus (207-253 AD) as described in Epitome de Caesaribus (390s AD), was so skilled that he was made emperor in the Roman province of Moesia (Balkan peninsula), albeit for only 4 months’ time. ”




      1. Latti Ice says:

        I gave you sources; watch and then get back to me. Don’t half skim through and not soak up what I gave you in its entirety. Because both answer your questions.


      2. Latti Ice says:

        No; the answer was given and you clearly didn’t read/watch or skimmed through.

        Sum up Lost Kingdoms of Africa; Morocco/link for me then, if you honestly watched/read.


      3. Latti Ice says:


        Thank you for proven my point; you didn’t watch or read the link. They go into detail that the Berbers were Saharan Africans and they also go into depth of the different sects within Africa and later the joining of Middle Eastern Arabs.

        Like I said before; both already answer your equations, and you failed to sum up what the “FACTUAL” information garnered.

        “It’s easy to think of Islamic North Africa as Arab, rather than African. But the land that is now Morocco once lay at the centre of a vast African Kingdom that stretched from northern Spain to the heart of West Africa. It was created by African Berbers, and ruled for centuries by two dynasties that created tremendous wealth, commissioned fabulous architecture, and promoted sophisticated ideas. But art historian Dr. Gus Casely-Hayford reveals how the very forces that forged the kingdom ultimately helped to destroy its indigenous African identity.”

        Again, watch and then get back to me.


      4. Latti Ice says:

        I’ve answered and you have yet to investigate; again, I’ll wait.


      5. Latti Ice says:

        You did, and I’ll wait until you give it a look. Simple.


      6. Latti Ice says:

        Still waiting.


      7. Latti Ice says:

        I can see this isn’t going anywhere; you will never read the informative information of learn about the Berbers. I’m not going to disrespect the author’s blog by have such a childish argument. I’ve answered your questions and I am done. Good day.


      8. Latti Ice says:

        From a person who couldn’t read a link and watch an informative video by the BBC, Historians, and Archaeologists.

        I don’t care what you speak; the fact you can’t comprehend the Berbers being Saharan African is sad and pathetic on your end. Anyone who attempts to throw out their credentials (That can’t even be confirmed) is insecure.

        Book: The Almoravids and the Meanings of Jihad by Messier, Ronald A.

        Book: Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) by Hsain Ilahiane

        Book: African Genesis

        Book: The Sahara: A Cultural History

        Video: (The one you didn’t watch that answered all of your questions)

        Alternate titles: Amazigh; Imazighen; Maxyes
        “Berber, self-name Amazigh, plural Imazighen, any of the descendants of the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa. The Berbers live in scattered communities across Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger, and Mauretania. They speak various Amazigh languages belonging to the Afro-Asiatic family related to Ancient Egyptian. At the turn of the 21st century, there were perhaps 14 million in Morocco, 9 million in Algeria, and much smaller numbers in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Mauretania; in the Sahara of southern Algeria and of Libya, Mali and Niger, the Berber Tuareg number about 1 million.”


        History of the Berbers

        “The Sahara, with 3.5 million square miles, is the largest “hot” desert in the world. The Berbers appeared on the scene at the dawn of the Sahara’s history. They are the original inhabitants of North Africa and occupied the region long before the arrival of the Arabs who brought with them their language, Arabic, and their religion, Islam,

        The Berbers, or Amazigh, (amazee), which they prefer to be called, have lived all across North Africa for thousands of years and are considered to be the original indigenous inhabitants of the region. Historical records trace them back to the time of the ancient Egyptian empires and even earlier to the fifth century B.C. Berbers, once a fierce fighting force, have survived various Christian, Muslim and French conquests of the region and continue to maintain large communities throughout Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. Today, although found all across the Sahara, they are especially concentrated in Sahara’s western countries.”


        This isn’t difficult Josh, but continue to embarrass yourself….scholar.


      9. Latti Ice says:

        “When it comes to the Berbers a lot of people seem to be misinformed. First and foremost the Berbers are Indigenous African people. Berbers are not Europeans and they are not Arab. They have had there own language and culture that predates Arab and European occupation. Like Tiger Beer said in the earlier post they often get put in a vague catch-all “Arabic” umbrella. The reason for that is that most Berbers today are Arabized due to the Arab invasions that happen around the 7th century AD. But even still, many Berbers still embrace their indigenous heritage and language.

        On the topic of what race are the Berbers. It is clearly evident that they are part of the same race as the rest of the indigenous people of Africa. I know many people are going to say ” How can they be black when they don’t look like the average black person?” or an even more ridiculous question; “How is it possible for a “Black African” to be indigenous in Africa that is not in Sub-Saharan Africa?”.

        The problem with society is that we put to much emphasis on blackness when it comes to African identity. Africa spans over 6,000 miles from North to South, and it would be complete ignorance to suggest everyone in Africa is going to have the same skin complexion. When people think Black African they think only of Jet Black skin and anyone who doesn’t fall into that category is somehow mixed or not a true African which is absurd. Also many people try to rely on the “Sub-Saharan” racial line divide as if that is somehow a great way to determine a racial divide between the “Black” Africans from the “Anything but Black” Africans.

        Africa is Africa and if you are indigenous than you should be part of the African race. I don’t know why most people in society go out of their way to refer to the Continent as “Sub-Sahara” or the even worse term “Black Africa”. When applying the same rederick to other continents it sounds silly(ex. Red America, White Europe, and Yellow Asia). Also here is a link if any of you want to learn more about the Berber people.


        By gwillyfromphilly

        So now I won’t have to repeat myself.



      10. Josh says:

        Now you changed the subject from the history of Andalusia to the Berber origins.

        I’m part Moroccan, and i’m not African at all neither my family or relatives.

        There are only miniorites who speak berber amazagh language in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisa and Lybia. 95% of the people speak Arabic as their first language.

        very small group who want to be separated and not really recognized or supported by the public.

        The origins of berber are either from Yemen migrated long time ago to north Africa or of Europeans origins and they are mixed of Roman , Phonecians and vandals.

        Some African american are obsessed for relating the moors to Africa, unfortunately you can’t and won’t even prove it.

        It’s exactly similar to the claim that Moses was black, and there are many blogs trying to prove it with no facts.

        Once you lack knowledge , facts and academic references anything you claim would be like a joke.

        No wonder you couldn’t reply or argue with my previous posts not even the very first question, because you have no clue of these names and references i provided to you, this is the result of education vs ignorance.

        Go to Morocco and teach them their own history and tell them you are Africans , and you’ll find the disppointing answer.


      11. Latti Ice says:

        I’ve never changed subjects.


        1) Berbers Saharan African
        2) Moors were Saharan African and Middle Eastern.
        3) People who were Saharan African were/are the native North Africans.

        “I’m part Moroccan, and i’m not African at all neither my family or relatives.”

        4) (Opinion) I don’t care what you consider yourself facts are facts.
        5) I’m a person of African descent

        “There are only miniorites who speak berber amazagh language in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisa and Lybia. 95% of the people speak Arabic as their first language.”

        6) DUH! Lol, because of the Arab invasion…..derp; the information you again skipped over explains that. Like in the U.S no one speaks the Native languages of the indigenous people, doesn’t change the fact that they were the original inhabitants of the Americas.

        “very small group who want to be separated and not really recognized or supported by the public.

        Doesn’t Change factual history.

        Alternate titles: Amazigh; Imazighen; Maxyes
        >>>Berber, self-name Amazigh, plural Imazighen, any of the descendants of the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa. The Berbers live in scattered communities across Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Mali, Niger, and Mauretania. They speak various Amazigh languages belonging to the Afro-Asiatic family related to Ancient Egyptian. At the turn of the 21st century, there were perhaps 14 million in Morocco, 9 million in Algeria, and much smaller numbers in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Mauretania; in the Sahara of southern Algeria and of Libya, Mali and Niger, the Berber Tuareg number about 1 million.<<>>The Berbers, or Amazigh, (amazee), which they prefer to be called, have lived all across North Africa for thousands of years and are considered to be the original indigenous inhabitants of the region. Historical records trace them back to the time of the ancient Egyptian empires and even earlier to the fifth century B.C. Berbers, once a fierce fighting force, have survived various Christian, Muslim and French conquests of the region and continue to maintain large communities throughout Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. Today, although found all across the Sahara, they are especially concentrated in Sahara’s western countries. <<<>>Variants of the term “Moor” have been used by many Europeans since ancient times as a general description for indigenous Africans. Contrary to popular belief, the term is not synonymous with “Islamic” or any specific Arab or African religion, civilization, or ethnicity. <<<

        Moors In Ancient and Medieval European History

        The oldest depiction of St. Maurice in the Cathedral of Magdeburg, Germany

        The ancient Romans thoroughly documented the lives of indigenous Africans to whom they commonly referred as the Moors. By the 4th century AD, the Roman army heavily recruited Moors for their exceptional skill in battle. One such Moorish general, Aemilianus (207-253 AD) as described in Epitome de Caesaribus (390s AD), was so skilled that he was made emperor in the Roman province of Moesia (Balkan peninsula), albeit for only 4 months' time.

        The oldest depiction of St. Maurice in the Cathedral of Magdeburg, Germany


        "Once you lack knowledge , facts and academic references anything you claim would be like a joke.

        No wonder you couldn’t reply or argue with my previous posts not even the very first question, because you have no clue of these names and references i provided to you, this is the result of education vs ignorance.

        Go to Morocco and teach them their own history and tell them you are Africans , and you’ll find the disppointing answer."


    3. Don’t forget the Moorish Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. He was African (born in Libya) and ruled the Roman Empire for 18 years.
      They sometimes made statues of him from basalt (a black rock) rather than marble and historians say he had a strong African accent his whole life.
      He expanded the Roman Empire through Europe as far as Scotland, far into the Middle East, and across North Africa into Mauretania (Berber speaking Moorish people).


  23. Anonymous says:

    I love reading this blog…keep up the good work..I am proud to be of Sicilian Heritage…wish you all the best in future endeavors..I just have to ask..does this perfume “Zagara Di Sicilia” really exist? 🙂


    1. I’m glad you enjoy my blog! And yes, Zagara di Sicilia perfume really does exist. I love the stuff, partly because it only has natural ingredients and doesn’t set off my allergies!
      You can buy it on Italian eBay


  24. Reblogged this on A Light Beyond the Hedge and commented:
    This is a fascinating discourse on the African influence still evident in Sicily today!


  25. Love this blog. Doing some research on the Moors and came across this. The comments are just as interesting especially Latti’s who I felt knew her stuff. Also, do people acknowledge that the ancient Semites were of darker complexion (black) than they are now (although a lot of the Jews in Israel now are euro-converts)?

    I think Josh is like most people in the world fooled by the Eurocentric ideologies that have lead people to marginalized, frown upon and deny anything having to do with blackness.

    Thank you for your blog.


    1. Thank you for your comments. I am glad you like my blog.
      I was also excited to “meet” Latti, who is a goldmine of knowledge – she had her own blog BTW, just follow the link by her name.
      I agree with you that the Eurocentric history books seem to ignore everything Africa has contributed to world history, and even to European history. It has been a real learning experience for me living in Sicily and finding out so much culture and technology that the North Africans brought to southern Europe, which then spread northwards.
      I am periodically bewildered and disappointed by people who send me messages claiming the people who ruled southern Europe for 800 years were not Africans, but Arabs. The fact is they came from Africa so they were Africans! It’s not exactly complicated.
      And then some people also claim they were north Africans who are separate from sub-Saharans, like there is some great wall dividing Africa in two parts and the people never mix!! You only have to walk around north African countries looking at the people’s faces and hair to realise what a load of baloney that is.
      I do hope one day people will stop saying such silly things.


      1. Anonymous says:

        Beautifully said. Thanks. I’ll checkout her blog!

        Liked by 1 person

  26. Witwax says:

    I am quarter white, an Italian once told me I am not white enough, wish I was armed with this information at the time..


    1. Ha ha! You’ll be ready if it ever happens again (though I hope it doesn’t!)


  27. Kid says:

    Very interesting article, learnin’ every day! (hand gesture emphasis)


  28. Let me correct Josh, In Africa , the people were dark skinned. Arabs are Africans. All countries in African are African. The Moors ruled Spain for almost a thousand until Isabella and Ferdinand expelled them and the Jews near the end of the 15th Century. And those Moors who remained in Spain were forced to convert to Catholicism or die. And that was the beginning of the Spanish Inquisition by the Catholic Church. But the Moors revolted. There are two excellent Books about the Moors I think you should THE MOORS OF SPAIN and THE MOORS AFTER SPAIN by Stanley-Lane Poole. Another from Ivan Van Sertima called THE GOLDEN AGE OF THE MOOR. Those books discusses the history of the MOORS and the countries they cultivated. Including Sicily. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Josh says:

      No let me correct YOU. First of all, the Moors/Arabs/Saracens/Muslims ruled Iberia for almost 800 years and not a thousand as you said.
      Second of all half of the Arabs countries are on Asia continents and no one ever referred to them as Asians and obviously not Africans.
      Same thing goes with Armenians , Iranians and Russians they are not Asians.

      Why don’t you read books that i mentioned before? I studied history and I belong to a historian family of andalusian roots and my uncle is a well known historian in Morocco i don’t even have to mention his name to you.

      Finally, only few of the Muslim families were expelled and the rest remained and forced to Catholicism and you can see that in 50% of Spaniards features who don’t look european, but the spanish gov system started brainwash the people like any gov system in the world that they are a pure European Catholic nation.

      Even the mosque of Cordoba was changed officially few months ago in Spain and on Google map to the cathedral of Cordoba and many european historians protested against that.


      1. I don’t want to get into a debate with you because apparently you want to pick a fight. I know what is the truth. you should go on You Tube and watch lectures from John Henrik Clarke, Ben Johncanan, Ivan Sertima and many others. And you will know the history of African Presence in Europe. Nuff Said! On with the show!


  29. maitri says:

    This is a fascinating discussion (and the blog itself is fantastic and so funny!). What is also funny is that the other night, I happened to randomly say to my spouse ‘The real question is, who WERE the moors?’ And this somehow literally popped into my head for no reason that was obvious to me at the time. I am american living in California. A few days later, my twitter feed had a link to an American blogging in Rome, from which I found the link to your blog, Sicilian housewife. And here I am at the Moors! lol

    To me, this discussion seems to have both (all) parties a bit confused, in terms of the debates. From what I can see, both sides are right, depending on the context of the the discussion. People are responding to different ‘facts’ and historical contexts.

    For one, it’s true that any/most contributions historical or present that are ‘African’ and/or implying ‘black’ are heavily discounted ignored or outright denied. I lived in Kenya for a few years while studying international relations. It was a regular discussion/thorn in the side that coastal Swahili was considered arabic instead of bantu. However, historical evidence shows that there is a great deal of Arabic influence on the coast, not negating that there is bantu presence, as well. This ties into some of the Moor discussion, as well.

    1) Africa as a geography and indeed the continents themselves are eurocentric creations. So I don’t think we can selectively claim eurocentrism for some things and not others. We acknowledge this in post-colonialism, where tribes were often thrown together into a modern nation-state where previously they had no relation and often extreme cultural (and even language) differences. This despite the fact that they may have lived within fairly close geography to one another. In this way, it’s not hard to see that perhaps the Sahara was a dividing line in terms of identity or at least cultural/language/customs developments.

    2) This discussion acknowledges via links that Berbers are of arabic and african origin. It seems silly for either side to claim hegemony in this regard. And, that others were present [vandals, phoenicians, etc] also implies that Berbers were/are, like Sicilians, a blend of influences. So not just ‘African’.

    3) The fact that Africa had lost kingdoms and cultural/technological advances, etc is not eliminated by the above. The Berbers seem to have gotten around-lol. Just as Sicilians, for example, vary in terms of DNA testing with some carrying more or less of one group, the same seems to be true of Berbers. Subsaharan kingdoms and north Africans/Moors as not African CAN be mutually exclusive concepts/reality. (but not within the context of modern geography-where, yes, anyone from anywhere on the african continent is called african.)

    4) Clearly ‘Africans’ are not a homogeneous group and may not have referred to themselves as such historically, as well. So while some (rightly so IMO) wish to give Africa its due credit, it seems a bit tricky applying the who and where to the what.

    5) I love this blog’s discussion surrounding Moor, Celtic , etc. I am of Irish (predominantly but also scottish and french) ancestry, and am often struck by some of the ancient Irish customs and even artwork. Celtic Christianity’s art in Ireland, reminds me of Coptic Ethiopian at times. And there has been research-though usually disregarded or argued against-for not only Moor influence in ireland/scotland, but also India and Phoenician presence there. It’s a topic worth further exploring-as historical knowledge is fluid and ever evolving.

    6) While sub saharan africa’s contributions are derided, it’s interesting that during my time and travels in East Africa, my Ethiopian and Eritrean and Egyptian friends, for example, do not consider themselves African. I think it’s condescending that some attribute this as ‘denial’ or that it’s b/c they are trying to distance themselves from anything ‘black’ or ‘African’. This presupposes yet another eurocentric or american centric attitude-that interprets the psychology behind what another culture or person is stating. Whether african american or white european, it’s wrong to assume that anyone who feels differently has a complex or a european cultural bias. Africa as geography is a creation of this same cultural bias. It’s quite likely that people did not identify with one another as ‘African’.

    France is not Denmark is not Italy, right? In fact, one of the goals of the modern “EU” is to streamline identity where there was none previously. So while we refer to groups of people as ‘European’, again this is a geographical and political-historical label, not created by the group itself. This is evident in the fact that more countries are added to the EU regularly. While some may argue that by design this is economic/political, there is a definitely push to create some form of cultural/worldview in the long term, as well. Just as central and northern europe did not identify with one another centuries ago. Alliances were created based on self-interest, just as they are today.

    Adding to the confusion with Africa for me is that the term African is used interchangeably with Sub Saharan African. Yet, my friends and acquaintances who are ‘African’ as in Subsaharan all referenced themselves by tribes first and foremost, heavily tied to a particular area. I have to say ‘african’ as an identity was second level identity among friends from sub Sahara. Actual nation state was dead last, since Kenyan, Tanzanian, Uganda, Rwandan etc are all very new notions, again labels created by outsiders. On the other hand, my friends from the horn of Africa referenced themselves by nationality most often-Ethiopian, Eritrean, etc. In some cases, such as Sudan, north or south and muslim or animist/christian were the dominant self-identifiers. This further shows how context/historical time period are factors. In the future, these will be someone else’s ‘facts’, but it does not mean they are absolute truths and that there are not other facts that perhaps contradict them.

    So I can certainly see why Josh is saying that his ancestors identify with being Arabic rather than African. Yes, they are from the geography currently labeled as Africa. But honestly, we in the US don’t feel strongly ‘north American’. There are strong regional associations-being a southerner or new englander, etc. And beyond that, still strong ties to ‘motherlands’ -whether Africa, Asia, Ireland, Germany, Italy, etc.

    And while on that topic, the idea that we wouldn’t call Russian, Japanese, Indian etc all Asian just b/c they are located on that continent: it’s interesting that here in the US, India from Indian is not usually confused with west indian or called east indian or confused with ‘Native American’. Yet, I have been on blogs where folks from the UK were vehement/borderline irate that Indians are ‘Asians’ just like those from China and Japan. (One person was adamant that indian refers to indigenous indians. Actually, Native American is what most Americans know today. Yet, this is still a term that eurocentric USA uses; ‘natives’ do not call themselves this necessarily and some object to it).

    Also, in the US ‘Asian’ typically connotes Japan, China, Korea. SE Asia would be Indonesia, Thailand, etc and Indian would be from India. For some reason, this really incensed some people, as though what one region of the world ‘calls’ another is historical fact. These groupings are for clarity and organization, and even some ‘historical’ perspectives are the history of what one group referred to another as. This is hardly ‘fact’ in the ‘absolute truth’ sense. Perhaps most important is what a person or group self-identifies as. Would Chinese call themselves Asian historically? Since their traditional country name means middle kingdom, probably not. They weren’t ‘the other’. And obviously, barbarians were only such to the Greeks, since they weren’t ‘strangers or foreigners’ to themselves, only to the Greeks. lol.

    Thanks for all the discussion here by all parties. Disclaimer: I haven’t read any of the books or watched any of the videos mentioned-yet. As a neutral observer, it seems to me that both sides are correct but discussing within two (or more) separate contexts.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. maitri says:

    Oh, I wish I could have edited my previous post. My point was also that the question ‘Who WERE the Moors’ is obviously controversial. My question was who were they really? So many contradicting stories and ‘facts’, usually with some level of bias. At this moment, I am leaning towards the Moors a cultural mix with influences of Arabic, African, Norman, Greek, Phoenician, etc etc etc etc etc lol (: Everyone gets credit. Works for me!

    Liked by 1 person

  31. Ellen Hawley says:

    So that business about Marco Polo bringing pasta back from China–not true?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yep, totally definitely not true.
      Apart from the very ancient European pasta recipes and references, there’s also the fact that they make noodles completely differently from pasta.
      Noodles are made by stretching out dough into ever lengthening strings, whereas pasta is either rolled out and sliced, like ravioli, or extruded, like spaghetti.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ellen Hawley says:

        Good point. You’d think a historian or two would have thought that through instead of just passing down the old stories. Of course, I’m being rash in calling the people who wrote my grade-school history books historians.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes indeed. We are still getting the “Henry 8th was fat and had 6 wives” version of events in England too. You’d think someone could work out how to make school history fun and actually explain the real point, wouldn’t you? Maybe we’ll have to do that ourselves….?

        Liked by 1 person

  32. Ellen Hawley says:

    In the US, one of the problems history textbooks have is that they have to please school boards from many parts of the country. So if they don’t mention California (a huge school system) enough, they won’t buy the books. Ditto every other state in the union, although the markets are smaller. And I have no idea how many other categories of committees they have to pander to. In the end, we get a mismash of facts (and, I expect,things that look a lot like facts) that don’t hang together and are, basically, unrememberable. I’m fascinated by history and was bored silly by my textbooks. And don’t get me started on what the kids I know were studying for their A-levels. Grrr.


  33. Gaetano Treviso says:

    I was born in a small village, Porticello, lived there for the first 13 years of my life. I now live in the U.S. Thank you for your blog! Your stories remind me of my childhood. Keep them coming. I miss the street food! 🙂



    1. Ah, Porticello is just down the road from me. My husband took me to a fish restaurant there when we had just met and he was elaborately plotting his seduction strategy….!!!
      I’ll do a photo blog post there when I get time, just for you! 😉


  34. Peter Renardo says:

    I am half Sicilian on my father’s side, I have several cousins in Sicily and I have been there five times. I know there is a strong Arab influence in Sicily, but moreso on the west side. My family is in central Sicily, in the Enna Province, where there are many towns where the people speak a Piemontese dialect, like Nicosia, Sperlinga, Piazza Armerina and Valguarnera. I know the Piemontese people migrated to these towns 500 years ago. Central and Eastern Sicilians also tend to be lighter complected, my cousins look more like Germans than Italians, several have dishwater blonde hair and steel blue eyes. Our surname, Rinaldi, comes ffrom the Lombard region in northern Italy, and it’s the Italian translation of the German name Reinhardt, so chances are I have Germanic blood in my veins. There is no negro blood in Sicilians, DNA studies were done, and also very little Arabic blood, but there is more in Western Sicily, while Eastern Sicily is more Greek and Norman. I find all of this fascinating, and I can’t wait to return to ”Sicilia Bedda”!! Ciao ciao


    1. Yes, I believe another reason you see lots of blue eyes and blonde hair in Eastern Sicily is the high Greek content in the gene pool. Did you see my post about Sicilinan DNA analyses? I found out a lot of info, some quite surprising!


      1. Travis McLaurin says:

        I must make a point here. When it comes to the history of Sicily, it is very sensitive. People of all Southern Italy and Sicily has AFRICAN DNA. There is a website called: http://www.white-history.com. It points out plainly the DNA in Sicilians. The movie. “True Romance” has everyone believing about the African Moors. And I must say this is you disagree with me or not Arabs are AFRICAN. All part of Western Asia is part of Africa. Whenever it comes to talking about Sicilian DNA, most people will say, “I have Arab Blood”. When it comes to Africa, discussing that people gets so offensive. I’m Afro-American and I live in Fayetteville, NC. Bryan Sykes, a Genectist from England, has said it. He has written a book called “DNA USA”. He talks about all White People who live in the South have African DNA and that all Afro-Americans have European DNA. I’m going to buy that book soon. Right now, I’m reading a book “THE MOORS AFTER SPAIN” by Stanley-Lane Poole, It focuses on the Moors that revolted after being chased out of Spain by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The African Moors fought the Turks during the Ottoman Empire. And YES! Sicily is mentioned. The Arabs, Berbers are Black! We are all genetically related because of the origins of the African Man. Cheik-Anta Diop explains that. Regardless,if you are blond,redhead or a brunette with blue eyes or hazel eyes and You’re Sicilian..You have African DNA. But European Historian won’t accept that. They rather say “Arabs” because they look almost White. So, my point is We are all of African ancestry. It is proven in fact! If you want to discuss this with me, please feel free to do so. But I will tell you this, I will not tolerate any profanity or derogatory comments directed to me or I will cut you off. Grazie! BonaSirata!

        Liked by 1 person

  35. Anonymous says:

    This will always be a sensitive issue regarding Sicilians History. I know that scene in “True Romance” has everybody of Italian or Sicilian descent refusing to believe that they have African blood. Let’s get it straight. Yes, The Moors made an impact in Spain, Portugal and Southern Italy, Sardinia and of course Sicily. And I must say this if you disagree with me or not Arabs are AFRICANS. Point Blank! Berbers Are Africans. There is a website called : http://www.white-history.com. It explains the DNA history of Sicily and Europe. Again, when it comes to Africa, again, people gets so offensive. Especially of Italian and Sicilian descent. They want to say, “Oh I have Arab blood!” But actually,they have African Blood. Western Asia is all pure African. But historians still won’t accept it. I’m Afro-American, From Fayetteville, NC and Bryan Sykes, a respected Genectist has said that All White people who lived in the South has African DNA. And Afro-Americans of course. He has written a Book called “DNA USA” he explains it. I’m going to buy that book soon. Now, I’m reading a Book called “THE MOORS AFTER SPAIN” by Stanley-Lane Poole, It focuses on the African Moors who battled Spainards and the Turks during the Ottoman Empire. AND YES! Sicily is mentioned throughout the Book.
    My point is We are all genetically related because of African Man. All races have it. Cheik Anta-Diop explains it step by step. People must educate themselves about the history of their race rather than listening to a group of ignorant NUTS and say cruel, derogatory comments about a Race of people. Everyone Please open your mind. Wake Up! and Educate yourself. If you want to discuss this with me. Please feel free to do so. But, I won’t, I tell you I won’t deal with any profanity or disrespect. If you do, I’ll cut you off. Thank You. Grazie! BonaSirata. 🙂


    1. Joy Gerardi says:

      I can only speak for myself, but I’ve always found it exciting to learn the information contained in this (awesome, awesome, awesome!) article. To me, it doesn’t matter where you come from (or, as it were, I come from) or what you look like. I am awaiting my ancestral DNA results from Ancestry and I would be proud to be made up of African, Arab, Spanish, Norman or whatever blood. If not, thanks for cassatta cake, fruit and rad decor, among other things. I thought that I (and other people in my family that do this) did the Tut thing because I’m a wise arse….I never would have placed meaning in the gesture! Thank you for this article, Sicilian Godmother!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am really glad you like the article! 🙂


      2. Anonymous says:

        Grazie Joy!


  36. skyvibeking says:

    thank you for enlightening me Moor on my ancestors and the forbidden knowledge and facts they are never taught in american schools. The children here are only taught that there ancestors were slaves and nothing else. he whp wins the war gets to rewrite history, thank you again beloved


  37. Fascinating discussion. My thanks to everyone who participated. I’ve learned so much that I want to continue my research. I was also pleased to hear someone mention John Henrik Clarke. He was a true genius and one of the most accomplished, erudite scholars of African history, culture, religion, and lore.


    1. Anonymous says:

      You are talking some sense Jesse D. Mack. Dr. John Henrik Clarke, Youseff Ben Jochanan Cheik Anta Diop, and Dr. Ivan Van Sertima were the best acclaimed African Historians. You should get their books. Very Educational. and there are many Historians. Thank you!


  38. sicilianu says:

    Great article! Of what I’ve heard, the “plaque” on the Palermo Cathedral plaque has in Arabic the first verse of the qur’an, which you can find here: http://quran.com/1


  39. David T. says:

    Emperor Septimius was half Roman and half Berber, just for historical authenticity.


    1. Donn says:

      Know this is an old thread but for the guy who continually wants to draw a sharp line between North Africansans and Sub-Saharans:

      The presence of sub-Saharan L-type mtDNA sequences in North Africa has traditionally been explained by the recent slave trade. However, gene flow between sub-Saharan and northern African populations would also have been made possible earlier through the greening of the Sahara resulting from Early Holocene climatic improvement. In this article, we examine human dispersals across the Sahara through the analysis of the sub-Saharan mtDNA haplogroup L3e5, which is not only commonly found in the Lake Chad Basin (∼17%), but which also attains nonnegligible frequencies (∼10%) in some Northwestern African populations. Age estimates point to its origin ∼10 ka, probably directly in the Lake Chad Basin, where the clade occurs across linguistic boundaries. The virtual absence of this specific haplogroup in Daza from Northern Chad and all West African populations suggests that its migration took place elsewhere, perhaps through Northern Niger. Interestingly, independent confirmation of Early Holocene contacts between North Africa and the Lake Chad Basin have been provided by craniofacial data from Central Niger, supporting our suggestion that the Early Holocene offered a suitable climatic window for genetic exchanges between North and sub-Saharan Africa. In view of its younger founder age in North Africa, the discontinuous distribution of L3e5 was probably caused by the Middle Holocene re-expansion of the Sahara desert, disrupting the clade’s original continuous spread.

      –Eliška Podgorná et al.

      Annals of Human Genetics
      Volume 77, Issue 6, pages 513–523, November 2013

      The Genetic Impact of the Lake Chad Basin Population in North Africa as Documented by Mitochondrial Diversity and Internal Variation of the L3e5 Haplogroup


      The Green Sahara period allowed for much easier genetic interchange between the groups, so no they really aren’t as separate as you like to believe and Berbers ARE indigenous Africans. Ancient berbers were unilaterally described as a dark skinned people (the very term “Moor” originally applied to the people of Mauretania who were repeatedly described as literally black) and there is zero reason to concoct that they are some alien group on the continent.


  40. Cathy Clay says:

    I am African American and a lifelong student of African Studies. As an undergraduate student, I formally minored in African Studies. The information that you present is well documented, academically speaking. I wish more people of all ethnic persuasions were more open to acknowledging the global contributions made by people of African descent. Thanks for your blog. I plan to visit Sicily.

    Cathy Clay


    1. Anonymous says:

      Thank you SO much Cathy Clay for that response. I know it will offend Sicilians and the Spanish in Spain. You’ve told the truth. And me I plan on traveling to Sicily. Again Thank you!


      1. VH says:

        I can put my hand on my heart and swear I don’t know a single Sicilian in Sicily who would be offended; though some Sicilians in America may see things differently. I think it may be the greatest difference between Sicilian Americans and Sicilian Sicilians, actually.


  41. Mwafrika Mkenya says:

    If you want to know how Indigenous Berbers looked like, click here. http://pin.it/0iUqkxz Yes the Berbers are Indigenous Africans. The Black Berbers, not the white Berbers who are descendants of white European Slaves from Andalusia and Grenada that followed their Moor masters after RECONQUISTA.Other white Berbers are the products of BARBARY slave trade, that exported over a million white Christian slaves to North Africa.The Mamlukes,Turks and slavs also mixed with Indigenous North Africans.


    1. Anonymous says:

      Thank you Mwafrika Mkenya! May God Bless you.


  42. Wow, Ms. Hughes! In my 68th year of living as a man of African descent in these United States there has never been a situation where someone, anyone has spoken truth in such a way as to leave me breathless. I am forever in your debt for what you have done to me to validate what I’ve already believed. My name is Allen and I live in New Orleans and I say to you, thank you as you can not know the depths of the wonderful works that you’re doing! Allen K.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. VH says:

      Wow, I am almost without words. Your kind comments are very nice, but I am just blown away repeatedly since writing this article to find out how unusual it is for someone to simply state a few undisputed facts.
      We really do need quite a lot of countries to look at rethinking the whole of their history syllabus.

      Liked by 1 person

  43. This blog was so much fun to read, thank you Sebastiana


    1. VH says:

      Who is Sebastiana?


  44. Qadiyr says:

    This was an excellent blog,you did a wonderful job.also check out afroasiatics.blogspot.com for more info on the moors,berbers,arabs


  45. mike says:

    Beautiful article… very informative… Ive wondered about the alternate ending to Punic Wars also. It would make an excellent movie.


    1. VH says:

      Oh wow, it really would, wouldn’t it? You could make an absolutely amazing alternate reality type scenario in the modern world…I Will be daydreaming about this for weeks! 😁


  46. M H91 says:

    An Exploration of the Original Berbers of Early Sources and their Settlements in Spain

    Dr. Rudolph Ware from the University of Michigan discusses the ancient Egyptians and the Afro Asiatic language origins… https://youtu.be/YuGuBsf5BtQ


  47. Anonymous says:

    I am so happy I found this because I am sicillian/southern italian living in America and I have always felt I was mixed somewhere down the line and this information proves it, due to my curly hair dar, complexion.


  48. Derek Hill says:

    Wow. Wonderful article. Thank you I had no idea pasta was invented by Africans I always thought it was invented by Italians. Me and my wife are planning to take a trip to Rome and Barcelona in the next few years now that I have read your article I want to make sure we go to Sicily too.

    Liked by 1 person

  49. Tina Tudisco says:

    This is such a cool topic and a very well-researched article!! I just recently discovered that the town my grandpa’s family is from, Calamonaci, was originally founded by Arabs and called Kal-at-Munach meaning “pit stop farm house.” Interesting stuff

    Liked by 1 person

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