Straddling southern Egypt and northern Sudan lies a nation with
an extensive history intertwined with the Nile River since 3500
B.C. Quite possibly the oldest living civilization, the Nubians
known as the “Kush” in the Bible were very rich in gold as well as
in culture, arts, community and agriculture.
The Egyptians called the land Nubia, “Land of Gold,” as the word
is phonetically written in hieroglyphics. Throughout antiquity,
precious mines of gold, stashes of ivory tusks and most
importantly, the Nubian’s warrior slaves were the reasons Egyptian
pharaohs invaded the land, and eventually annexed them into their
During a visit to Egypt with Ya’lla tours, we set sail on a
felucca sailboat helmed by a young Nubian who smiled as he guided
us past the first cataract and showed us his village along the
river’s edge. Brightly painted stucco houses dotted the horizon,
and domesticated donkeys and goats wandered the shorelines,
offering us a glimpse of Nubian life. Our boatman had hand painted
“Don’t Wory, Be Hapy” on the stern in bright blue, which was an
appropriate mantra for our Nubian experience as well as a poignant
spelling error since the Nile is known as the Goddess “Hapi” in
ancient Egyptian lore.
As we sailed through the sweet Nile waters, cousins of our
captain, who were no more than 7 years old, rowed up next to us in
a homemade boat singing all the while. They used old wooden box
sides as hand paddles and dived and swam about our felucca like
Existing through a cultural symbiosis, Nubians and Egyptians lead
a life seesawing between warfare and peaceful trading. During 1,000
years of occupation, the Nubians adapted to Egyptian lifestyle;
worshipping Egyptian gods as well as their own, building temples
and pyramids, writing in hieroglyphics as well as their own
alphabet and even becoming Egyptian rulers.
Modern-day Nubia suffered the near loss of their glorious history
with the construction of the Aswan High Dam, which has caused
permanent flooding in the monuments and temples close to the Nile
River, displacing Nubians from their homeland. One hundred thousand
Nubians were forced to relocate to higher grounds. Fortunately,
many artifacts have been saved and placed in the Boston Museum of
Fine Arts, as well as the Nubian Museum in Aswan. Today, the Nubian
population is around 1 million people, half living in Egypt; the
other half in the Sudan.
A most generous and honest people, modern-day Nubians subsist as
farmers on the borders of the Nile River. Villagers are like a very
close-knit family, sharing in joys and hardships together. Everyone
takes part in raising children. They feed their neighbors, and each
person has a job to do when planting and harvesting. Nubian women
dress in brightly colored dresses and scarves and adorn themselves
with necklaces and bracelets. They are very skilled jewelry makers.
Traditions like weddings have elaborate ceremonies. Nubian weddings
last for 40 days and end with a blessing of the couple in the Nile,
thanking the river for life and fertility.
Many tour operators offer one-day excursions to visit a Nubian
village near Aswan or Elephantine Island (a favorite holiday spot
of Egyptian pharoahs) as part of their standard tours, allowing
clients to experience Nubian lifestyle including how they eat, cook
and share with each other.
Clients can have dinner with Nubian families in their homes, take
a short village tour via camel caravan or ride on a felucca boat as
a mode of transport. A nice way to end or start the visit is by
going to the Nubian Museum to learn more about their amazing
Museum of Fine Arts in
Boston: houses the most extensive collection of Nubian art outside
of Africa. www.mfa.org
Nubia Museum in Aswan: showcases artifacts from Nubia gathered
by UNESCO salvage operations during the construction of the High
Dam. Located just south of the famous Old Cataract Hotel, the
museum is open daily 9 a.m.-1 p.m. and 6 p.m.-10 p.m. (summer); 9
a.m.-1 p.m., and 5 p.m.-9 p.m. (winter).
Travel agent commission is available.
Travel agent commission is available.