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Nubia, Aswan

Nubia, Aswan

Nubian heritage is a vital element of Egyptian society. Nubia refers to the area in the south of Egypt along the Nile and in northern Sudan, 899 km south of Cairo. When the Aswan Dam was constructed in the 1960s, over 100,000 Nubians became displaced. Some moved north into Egypt, and others south into Sudan. Nubian sounds are kept alive today by artists like the Salamat band, Sayyed Gayer, Ahmed Moneib, and Mohammed Hammam. Hamza ad-Din, a Nubian composer famous for semi-classical oud (lute) compositions, and Ali Hassan Kuban are beloved worldwide.


Once the ancient Kingdom of Kush, Nubia is the stretch of land next to the Nile from Aswan down to Khartoum in the south. Nubians are depicted in many tomb paintings and reliefs-usually as mercenaries or traders. Nubians still have distinct traditions architecture and languages, even though many migrated either to Aswan and Kom Ombo or south to Sudan after Lake Nasser swamped much of their traditional homeland. Nubia contains dozens of sites of archaeological interest - 24 temples, as well as fortresses and tombs, were menaced by the waters of the High Dam, including Dendour Ellessiya, Amada and wadi al-Sebowa. Some have been moved, most notably Philae, Kalabsha and Abu Simbel, and other salvage and restoration operations are in train; the Nubian Museum is being built near Aswan to house rescued artifacts. Today you can take a luxury cruise round Lake Nasser and discover the "New Nubia", viewing temples that, because of their former inaccessibility, have rarely been seen since the beginning of the nineteenth-century.

If you aren’t doing a cruise, a bit of haggling will have you sitting onboard a felucca, enjoying the river the oldfashioned way, to the sounds of creaking sails and gurgling water. In Aswan, feluccas meander around the islands that dot the river, stopping (depending on your haggling skills) at the Island of Plants, a rather dejected botanical garden, or Elephantine Island, where you can inspect ancient ruins and wander through whitewashed Nubian villages.

Nubia Museum

Nubia Museum collection - history of nubian
The fine Nubia Museum highlights Egypt’s Nubian civilization with its displays of gold and silver jewelery, statuary and early Christian frescoes. Another top attraction is Philae whose ruins, standing on an island in the Nile, are among the most picturesque in Egypt. The museum presents Nubian history through more than 6500 years. Although never as impressive as Egyptian history, Nubian civilization emerged parallel to Egyptian, and several times through history, Nubian and Egyptian history merged. There is a wide range of statues throughout history, several well-made miniatures, showing several of the temples built on Nubian soil. There is also a splendid exhibition showing everyday life in Nubia a few decades ago. Recently Egypt Ministry of Culture decided to close the Nubia Museum in the Upper Egypt city of Aswan in Upper Egypt’s region of Nubia due to poor security conditions. The decision comes less than a week after the theft of van Gogh's Poppy Flowers painting from the Mohamed Mahmoud Khalil Museum in Cairo.

Old and New Nubia

Egypt have lots of experience of encouraging the international community to participate in preserving Egypt's cultural heritage. In the 1960s, rising waters from a new dam threatened to submerge the temples and monuments of Nubia, the ancient home of black pharaohs in Egypt's far south. Perhaps they all recall the international campaign, sponsored by UNESCO, to preserve the monuments of Egyptian Nubian region, which were in danger of being submerged following the completion of the Aswan Dam. The whole world came together to assist, either technically or financially, to save the temples and monuments of Nubia. To preserve them, the antiquities were dismantled, moved and reconstructed. Today, most of the surviving monuments can be seen only from the lake created by the waters that nearly destroyed them. Some of Nubia's best known monuments were moved, to protect them from submersion under Lake Nasser behind the Aswan High Dam .
Nubia along nile - ancient temples and tombs as well as hundreds of modern villages in Nubia, Aswan
Nubia is not just about carved stones and ancient temples. It is a place of intriguing spirituality and ancient tradition. Hussein Bikar, Adham Wanli and Seif Wanli were among the painters who captured the last images of Nubia before most of it was submerged. The famous movie of el-Haqiqa el-‘Ariya (The Naked Truth), produced in 1963 and starring the legendary couple Magda and Ehaab Nafi, was far from a simple love story between an engineer in the dam and a pretty tour guide in the ancient sites of Nubia. Also, they have expertise and experience, regarding all aspects of the administration of archaeological sites. First and foremost, Egypt has experience of managing submerged artifacts.

New Nubia is located in the reclaimed desert area known as Kom Ombo, an hours drive from Aswan City. While the Egyptian Nubia of old was made up of 43 villages along the banks of the Nile, stretched out over 350 kilometers from the First Cataract at Aswan all the way to the Sudanese border town of Wadi Halfa, todays New Nubia is crammed into an area five kilometers long and five kilometers wide.

Names are the only similarity between Old and New Nubia as the Nubians had succeeded in convincing the government to keep their villages names in the new settlement area. But while the old villages were often tens of kilometers apart, most are now within walking distance of each other more neighborhoods, really, than distinct villages. A drawing of the house model originally shown to the Nubians at the Nubian Heritage Association in downtown Cairo, where it is framed and hung prominently next to the entrance a not so subtle reminder, perhaps, of governmental duplicity.

A Royal Explorer

The exhibition paints a unique portrait of Queen Margrethe as a serious and knowledgeable archaeologist. The queen has participated in numerous archaeological digs at home and abroad, and visitors can embark on a fascinating journey to the archaeological sites that hold a special interest for her. These include San Giovenale northwest of Rome, at the excavation sites of ancient Etruscan settlements and burial chambers she visited several times with her grandfather King Gustav IV. She continued her passion for archaeology by studying the subject at Cambridge. During her time in England the queen discovered some rare clay pipes from the Elizabethan Era in Hyde Park, after which her adventures continued in the deserts of Nubia, where she helped preserve the archaeological treasures of the Pharaohs before the Aswan Dam was built.

For More Information Visit: Aswan Tourism and Tourist Information

Last Updated on Sunday 5th December 2010