May 23, 2011

I'm Arab?

I think I've mentioned this before but people continue to think I'm Arab. Tonight I was walking to the bus and a man greeted me with the Islamic Muslim greeting "asalam alaikum" to which I replied "walaikum salam." He then proceeded to chatter away at me in Arabic. I stopped him and told him in French
"I don't speak Arabic, I'm American."
At that point he switched to excellent English and told me he was from Mogadishu and needed food. I told him I didn't have any with me but told him to go to the mosque which was like 10 feet away. He told me thats where he was headed when he saw me.

(5 minutes later)

I'm walking down the street because buses apparently are not running at 7 pm. A guy comes up to me and asks me either if I'm Arabic or speak Arabic. I told him in French that I don't speak Arabic but I can speak English and French. At this point he was speaking a strange mix of Arabic/French/English/an Ethiopian language.

He told  me he didn't speak French but kept dropping French phrases into his speech. He told me he was Ethiopian and kept pointing to himself and then to me saying "50-50." Since I was and still am unaware of what he was talking about. I ignored him. Eventually he asked me for 50 dollars. I asked him just to be sure if thats what he wanted and he said "yes, 50 American dollars not Djiboutian or Ethiopian." Of course I didn't have 50 dollars in my pocket and told him so. The end.

This is something that baffles me. There are Djiboutian Arabs who live here in Djibouti. Everyone has come into contact with them and Arabs are a normal part of life in Djibouti. I don't understand why I am constantly mistaken for an Arab. I don't dress like them, my skin is much lighter, and I have blondish hair. The only thing is my beard which is nowhere close to as dark as the beards of any Djiboutians. I might mention that only African Djiboutians think I'm Arab, I have yet to have an Arab speak Arabic to me.

What I see in the mirror:

What others see;

1 comment:

  1. Lol too funny. Those pictures and the way they see you. I was born and raised on Djibouti and I would never mistake you for an Arab.