May 19, 2018

African Muscle #4: North Africa

North Africa, called le Maghreb in French, has always had a fascination for Europeans, perhaps because it's only a short distance across the Mediterranean, but vastly different in religions, languages, and cultures.  Through the 1960s it was well known as a site for homoerotic vacations, full of men with no homophobic hangups, who were available for a small price.  Celebrities from Oscar Wilde to Christopher Isherwood to Alan Ginsberg availed themselves of the rent boys of the Maghreb.

Islam discovered gay people about the same time that evangelical Christianity did, so the Magreb is probably not the best place for a homoerotic vacation today.  But it is more accessible than many other parts of Africa, and it has bodybuilders.

Due to the straight-line geopolitics of French and British colonialism, countries in the Maghreb are divided into two "stacks."  From west to east:

I've already done Morocco, so let's go straight to Algeria, the site of Charles Boyer's Casbah and Jean-Paul Sartre's Nausea.  During the French occupation, 10% of the population was of European ancestry.  Now most have left, but French is still the lingua franca (so to speak).

Algerian Sami Reda Bakir competed at the Bodybuilding Form competition in Kuwait City in 2015.

Tunisia, the site of ancient Carthage, is only about 100 miles from Italy (the ferry takes about 10 hours; you'd be better off flying).  Same-sex activity is illegal, but the penalties are much lighter than elsewhere in the region, and there are several small LGBT organizations.

I don't know the name of this bodybuilder from the arabmuscle site.

Libya  may be best known in the U.S. for the Marine song, which claims worldwide influence:  "From the halls of Montezuma to the shores of Tripoli." It was actually a colony of Italy for a brief period, and had 100,000 Italian immigrants in 1939.  Now there are about a thousand. 

 Not a top tourist destination: civil war, fundamentalism, homophobia.  But it does have Sofyan Elgidi, who competed in the 2012 Olympics. 

I've already done Egypt, so on to the second tier:

The Western Sahara  is disputed territory, occupied by Spain, Morocco, and the Sahrawi Arab Republic.  Quite a lot of dispute for 500,000 people.  The largest city is Laayoune.  Most people speak Arabic, but French is used in Morocco-controlled areas, and Spanish in Spanish-controlled.  I couldn't find any bodybuilders, but this guy in Laayoune wants a date.

Mauretania's territority is mostly desert, but most of the population lives on the coast, especially in the capital, Noaukchott.  A surprising number make their living by fishing, like this muscular guy with a stingray.

More after the break

Mali.  Another country with the vast Sahara in the north, but most of the population is in the south, along the Niger River.  French and Bambara are the lingua francas.  I couldn't find any bodybuilding photos for Mali or Niger, the country next door, so here's a photo by Mackenzie Knowles-Coursin entitled "A young boy puts on his sunglasses by the banks of the Niger River." 

Chad, a landlocked country that was part of French Equatorial Africa.  One of the few countries in North Africa with a sizeable Christian minority.  Over 100 languages, but the lingua franca is Arabic.  I couldn't find any bodybuilders, but you hardly need them when regular guys from N'Djamena look like that.

Sudan, a former British protectorate, so English and Arabic are the official languages.  Khartoum is the site where the Blue and White Nile merge. 

South Sudan is a new country, independent since 2011.  It differs considerably from its northern neighbor in ethnic groups, cultures, and religions.  For instance, only 6% of the population is Muslim (70% in Sudan.)  It hasn't done a lot in the professional bodybuilding field, but these wrestlers participated in Wrestling for Peace Tournament in Juba.

Eritrea, site of the ancient kingdom of Aksum, briefly under Italian and British administration, the site of frequent war and extreme poverty. Most of the population is Tigrinya or Tigre.  There are no official languages, but Arabic or English are used for most communication.

1 comment:

  1. South Sudan was a HUGE cause for young Evangelicals in the 2000s. A sort of repudiation of their parents: There are more important things in life than your neighbors' bedrooms.


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