12,000,000The Brazilian and Lebanese governments claim there are 7 million Brazilians of Lebanese descent. Also, the Brazilian government claims there are 4 million Brazilians of Syrian descent. According to a research conducted by IBGE in 2008, covering only the states of Amazonas, Paraíba, São Paulo, Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso and Distrito Federal, 0.9% of white Brazilian respondents said they had family origins in the Middle East
Arab Brazilians are Brazilian citizens of Arab ethnic, cultural, linguistic heritage and identity. The majority of Arab Brazilians trace their origin to the Levantine lands of the Arab World, known in Arabic as Bilad al-Sham, primarily from Lebanon and Syria, as well Palestine.
Arab immigration to Brazil started in the 1890s as Lebanese and Syrian people fled the political and economic instability of the Ottoman Empire; the majority were Christian but there were also many Muslims. Immigration peaked around World War II.
19th century, most of them coming from Lebanon and Syria, later from other parts of the Arab world. When they were first processed in the ports of Brazil, they were counted as Turks because they carried passports issued by the Turkish Ottoman Empire that ruled the present day territories of Lebanon and Syria. There were many causes for Arabs to leave their homelands in the Ottoman Empire; overpopulation in Lebanon, conscription in Lebanon and Syria, and religious persecution by the Ottoman Turks. Arab immigration to Brazil grew also after World War I and the rest of the 20th century, and concentrated in the states of São Paulo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Minas Gerais, Goiás, and Rio de Janeiro.
Most Arab immigrants in Brazil were Christians, Muslims being a minority. Intermarriage between Brazilians of Arab descent and other Brazilians, regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliation, is very high; most Brazilians of Arab descent only have one parent of Arab origin. As a result of this, the new generations of Brazilians of Arab descent show marked language shift away from Arabic. Only a few speak any Arabic, and such knowledge is often limited to a few basic words. Instead the majority, especially those of younger generations, speak Portuguese as a first language.
The Brazilian and Lebanese governments claim there are 7 million Brazilians of Lebanese descent. Also, the Brazilian government claims there are 4 million Brazilians of Syrian descent. However, it may be an exaggeration, given that an official survey conducted by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) in 2008 showed that less than 1 million Brazilians claimed any Middle-Eastern origin (only 0.9% of white Brazilian respondents said they had family origins in the Middle East).
Arab immigration has influenced many aspects of Brazil's culture – besides and beyond the Arabic influence inherited via Portugal, as, for instance, some Portuguese words of Arabic origin.
In the main Brazilian cities it is easy to find restaurants that cook Arab food; and Arab dishes, such as sfihas (Portuguese esfirra), tabbouleh (Portuguese tabule), kibbeh (Portuguese quibe), hummus, tahina and halwa are very well known among Brazilians.
Most Arab immigrants in Brazil have worked as traders, roaming the vast country to sell textiles and clothes and open new markets. This economic history can be seen today in the ways that the São Paulo-based Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce has gained greater recognition in increasing Brazilian exports to the Arab world.
Arab-Brazilians are well integrated into Brazilian society. Today, only a minority of Arab Brazilians still know and speak the Arabic language, the vast majority of them being monolingual Portuguese speakers.
Many important Brazilians are of Arab descent, including important politicians such as Paulo Maluf, Geraldo Alckmin, Gilberto Kassab, Michel Temer (current President) and José Maria Alkmin, artists, writers (for instance Raduan Nassar) and models.