Abdulla Darwish shows the result of his genealogical DNA test that traces his origins Image Credit: Abhishek Sengupta/XPRESS

DUBAI As an engineer Abdulla Darwish says he always looks for scientific and logical explanations to most of his existential questions. So early last year when he came across a Dubai-based laboratory, he had little doubt he had found answers to the one big puzzle that baffled him all his life: his family’s origins thousands and thousands of years ago.

Three months after a buccal swab (from inside of the cheeks) was taken at the DNA Ancestry & Family Origin in Al Barsha, Darwish received his DNA report detailing everything he wanted to know about his tribe and family.

For the Emirati who grew up in Dubai it was nothing less than finding his “Holy Grail”.

“No amount of reading up and painstaking research over the years yielded the answers I was looking for till I decided to give this lab a try. Today I feel like a child who’s just finished placing the last piece in a jigsaw puzzle,” explains the senior facility management executive at a Dubai company who paid Dh2,400 for the test. Darwish is just one of the several hundreds of Arabs who are ready to invest a time and money to find out where they come from.

Common ancestor

After he got his DNA report he was amazed to learn about hundreds of others belonging to his Haplogroup – a group where individuals share a common ancestor or a single genetic line of descent dating back thousands of years.

“Most are Arabs from the region but there are some from Europe and this is where it all gets fascinating to see how human genealogy transcends race, colour and even religion,” says Darwish who, according to his DNA report, belongs to the Haplogroup E-L117, a group that has members spread across the region today. “What is even more amazing is that some people like [Adolf] Hitler and [Napoleon] Bonaparte belonged to the same E group as mine,” says Darwish. As a group, Darwish believes, he is under the larger Ei674 whose burgeoning database in the region is managed by Kuwaiti Faisal Al Hashash. “It is like reaching out to your extended family who you didn’t think existed,” said the group’s ‘project manager’ from Kuwait City.

“The search for answers to simple questions like who you are and where you come from is what brings hordes of people to us,” says Randa Mourad, the customer service manager of DNA Ancestry & Family Origin.

The aim of the company, she says, is to assist individuals from the Arab world in finding their roots, families and relatives.

“We provide the researchers with the essential material to understand the movement and the blend of the tribes and families in the Arab world while also linking people from the Arab world from across the globe to their main land,” says the Egyptian.

She says the tests cost between Dh400 and Dh2,900 and the result takes about three months.


Hitler’s Arab connection

According to research published in 2004, Hitler belonged to Y-DNA Haplogroup E1b1b1 (E-M35), a haplogroup which originated in East Africa while Napoleon Bonaparte belonged to haplogroup E1b1b1c1* (E-M34*) that has its highest concentration in Ethiopia and in modern-day Jordan.

Nelson Mandela (Haplogroup E1b1a (Y-DNA) (also known as E-M2) and Albert Einstein (haplogroup E1b1b1b2* E-Z830) are two other notable personalities that belong to the E-group.