Why Did People Believe Arabs Were More Romantic?

Although it is not the case anymore, at one time Arab men were romanticized at least as being great lovers. Rudolph Valentino is one example of this cultural phenomenon. Also, there is an old song, The Sheik of Araby that further shows what I am talking about. I don’t know where the song originated. But I have an old lp at home of Mary Martin and Ethel Merman singing it in the 1950s, so I suspect it goes a ways back (as you can see, the Beatles sang this version).

Now don’t get me wrong. But Arab men are not very likely to be great lovers for at least a couple of good reasons. First, they come from a culture that is very conservative sexually. It is also a culture that to some extent subjugates women (as thru female circumcision)–not worships them as a great romantic would. And furthermore, Arab men typically don’t conform the Western Anglo-Saxon norms of physical attractiveness. This last thing is obviously a cultural bias. But I must add it since in the old movies they are often portrayed romancing Western women.

So why then were they once portrayed as great romancers?

Thank you in advance to all who reply :slight_smile:


Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam

Just to note that Mr. Khayam was a Persian.

Of course that might not stop some people.

Ahab the Arab?

People are often fascinated by things outside their normal realm. For many Americans in the first half of the last century, that would include almost anything else in the world.

So why Arab men specifically? Nothing more than a wag here, but old stories such as the Alladin stories, Sinbad, Ali Babba, etc… portrayed a lot of mysiticism. So, take dark, brooding features, rugged lives, Strange and surreal (seeming) locales, add in a touch of the mystic, and POOF! a fascination is born.

I could be totally wrong, too.

Well, it isn’t just Arabs! ANYBODY from a faraway land seems romantic to some people.

English and Irish male friends have often told me that American women flock to them when they visit the U.S., even though these men freely concede they’re not rich or especially handsome, and that women back home find them pretty resistible.

It doesn’t matter- their accents seem exotic and charming to an American woman. Heck, the very IDEA of a foreign man is sort of romantic. Why let reality get in the way.

And it’s not as if American men don’t have similar silly ideas about foreign women. American men often fantasize about exotic, servile Asian women… but the REAL Asian women I’ve known have been far from servile!

They were also probably seen as rich-you know, some Arab sheik in a palace, who would shower you with jewels. Tall, dark, handsome, mysterious, rich, etc.

Plus, there was kind of an eastern trend in the 1910s-1920s, so perhaps that just followed.

As far as I know, female circumcision is not a primarily Arabic practice, although the Wikipedia article I linked says it is practiced by some people in some Arabic countries.

As for the question, I’ll go with NoClueBoy, I think the fictionalized view of the Middle East is “romantic” in many ways. I will also say that I usually find Arabic women very beautiful, and that unlike the OP, I must admit that I often find that Arabic men do look good. (Of course, that’s not universal, there are Arabs, both men and women, who I would find ugly, but in general they seem like a good-looking people.) But still, I think that the first reason is the most important: Arabia is really exotic and even seems magical.