Guide to a Perfect trip in Egypt!
The area south of Kom Ombo to the Sisal Mountains in the south of the Nile valley is known as Nubia and is divided into two parts: Upper Nubia which is part of Sudan now and lower Nubia which is the most southern part of Egypt and ends up into Wadi Halfa. It was in our modern time that attention was first given to this part of Egypt since the construction of the Aswan dam brought up concerns over the impact on the local area including its rich historical treasures.
The etymology of the name of Nubia is uncertain but some researchers believe it is derived from the ancient Egyptian word Nbu, meaning gold, referring to the gold mines for which Nubia was famous. Ancient Egyptian texts have no reference to this name, but they referred to Nubia generally as Ta-seti, meaning the land of the Bow, a clear reference to the weapon favoured by the Nubians.
Since ancient Egypt's time of the Old Kingdom, Nubia has been a very important commercial route for African trade because it was rich in gold, fine stones, and timber. By the 6th dynasty, ancient Egyptians sent an expedition to upper Nubia to trade and to bring more Nubian people to induct into the Egyptian army.
At the time of the middle kingdom, another military expedition was sent to control bigger areas of Nubia and prevent immigrants coming for Egypt instead of for trade or army service. By the time of the new kingdom especially at the 18th dynasty, more of these campaigns were sent to Nubia to secure the northern borders of Egypt. King Thutmosis II took over the city of Dongola which is located at the fourth cataract. He also added a new principality to the country.
At the end of the new kingdom, the province of Nubia was controlled directly by the priests of the Egyptian god Amon. They established a cult center in the city of Nabat for Amon Ra. By the seventh century AD, the capital of Kosh moved from the city of Nabata to the city of Morei, and the influence of the ancient Egyptian civilization started to fade gradually
In Greco-Roman times, the area of Nubia once again flourished, and many temples were built or rebuilt at this time. In Roman times, many emperors sent military campaigns to suppress the Bellamy tribes in Nubia who waged many raids on the southern provinces of Egypt.
When Christianity became the prevailing religion in Egypt, Many Christian monasteries were built down in Nubia and many Nubian monuments were converted into churches, including the temples of Philae and the temples of Detour, Tafa, Beit EL Wali, Gerf Housian, and Wadi Es-Sebua. With the spread of Christianity through Nubia pagan beliefs began to dwindle together with Morai culture. A new age was beginning in which Christianity played an important role. During the eight and ninth Century A.D., Nubia enjoyed growth and prosperity in both political and cultural sphere, at the rate which had not been enjoyed for a long time.
Since the Nubian church was affiliated at that time with that of Egypt, the Coptic patriarch at Alexandria was acknowledged as the head of many churches, monasteries and cathedrals often modeled on the basilica type which was common in the Byzantine Empire.
At Kasr Ibrim, the ruins of a church probably dating from the second half of the fifth century AD yielded some Coptic texts on fragments of papyrus and parchment dating fifth to tenth century A.D. Qasr Ibrim was the seat of the patriarch of Nubia.
Because of its long cultural history, the folk heritage of Nubia is rich, varied and wonderfully original. It has distinctive features since it's the result of the mingled groups that make up the Nubian people, the Kenzi who speak the Matouki language, the Fadija who speak their own language, and the tribe of Aliqat who moved to Nubia from the Sinai in the 18th century. Nubian heritage includes many aspects such as building, furniture, crafts, jewelry and colorful costumes.
Traditional Nubian houses are built of stone, clay, and sand. The roofs are commonly built of Jared and grain stalks and the roofs of the well-to-do are arched domes of clay bricks. Household utensils for everyday use hang from the ceiling. The walls of the house, especially the façade are decorated with ornaments and paintings of flags, flowers birds, and animals. Crockery is often used for wall decorations and a plate usually occupies the center of the facade.
- The entrance hall opening onto a court.
- Domed bedrooms.
- The store.
- The kitchen and the toilet.
Nubians use amulets, charms and talismans for good luck and protection from the evil eye. Some are painted on walls in the form of scorpions, eyes or triangles. Some are made of beads, shells or hair which hang on the post of the bed or hang thickly from the ceiling. Baskets made of palm branches and decorated with white shells hang from the ceiling and also have the same function.
Nubian folk dancing is practiced in groups by women and men of all ages. A number of folk dances are performed in seasons of sowing and harvest, in prayer for prosperity and more crops.
In Nubia marriage is usually the responsibility of the parents and also uncles who shared the responsibility, because kinship in Nubia is both patriarchal and matriarchal. The most common marriage is between cousins and sometimes it is obligatory. The dowry, in that case, is much lower than what an outsider would have to pay. The amount varies in different tribes. Presents and monetary gifts are given to both families to help with expenses which usually are very high for a wedding.
Since the Nile plays a very important rule in Nubian culture, the couple has to go down to the river an on their wedding night and wash in the water to ensure prosperity, good health and numerous progeny. When a male child is born, the birth is celebrated on the seventh day with the slaughter of a sheep or more animals. Recital of Qur'an takes place and the boy is given a name. But when the child is a female they only invite close friends and go to the Nile bank, where the baby is named.
Nubian art reflects Nubian culture and many of it symbols and motives are significant experiencing of folk traditions and tribal customs. This can be easily seen in tattoos and wall paintings that decorate the façade and entrances halls of many Nubian houses. These symbols recur in the designs of bead works and many kinds of baskets and other crafts and symbols including:
- Sword in the Nubian culture stands for courage and heroic achievements.
- Stars and crescent are Islamic symbols of good fortune.
- The black cat, crows, and owls carry bad omens
- Roses and flowers in general stands for friendship and love
- The apple stands for feminine attraction
- Prayer rug stands for purity and chastity
When the high dam at Aswan was built the rising water of Lake Nasser threaten to flood many Nubian monuments. Therefore a worldwide campaign was launched to try to save all Nubian monuments. Thanks to the collaboration of many different nations under the supervision of UNESCO many were safely rescued and taken to storage or for display elsewhere in museums.