Egyptians are unmistakably African, having facial features and skin tones that are similar to those of the bulk of African races. People in Egypt are a combination of numerous geographical places as well as many distinct cultures and races, thus thinking of them as Middle Eastern, Arab, or Mediterranean people does not do them justice. Nubians are a genuine Egyptian ethnic group who dwell in Egypt’s southern highlands and Sudan’s northern regions. Here’s everything you need to know about the Nubian people’s history and the Nubian monuments in Egypt.
Who exactly are the Nubians?
The Nubians are thought to be one of the world’s oldest ethnic groups. As a result, they have a rich history and culture. The Nubians are descended from the central Nile valley, which is thought to be one of the cradles of civilization. They played an important role in ancient Egypt before converting to Christianity and forming three kingdoms known as Nobatia, Makuria, and Alodia during the Medieval period. Today, the Nubians practice Islam, but they can still be found in the same area where they are thought to have originated: southern Egypt and northern Sudan. Nubians can be found in Egypt, Sudan, and even Kenya, which is well-known for its Nubian historical sites and African safaris.
The Nubian Languages
While the Nubians live in two different countries, it is important to note that they have their own culture and languages. Nobiin, Kenzi, Midob, Birgid, and Kordofan Nubian are the five modern Nubian languages spoken. The languages are similar, but they differ depending on where the Nubians live. Interestingly, Egypt used Nubian speakers as code talkers in the Yom Kippur War against Israel due to their different languages. The Nubians played an important role in ancient Egypt’s rise and success, and they remain an important part of the country and Egyptian tourism today.
Nubians in Ancient Egypt
The Nubians and Egyptians had a fascinating but somewhat complicated relationship. They were neighbors who, as previously stated, traded with one another. They have, however, conquered each other over the years. The first mention of Nubians in ancient Egypt was found in Egyptian trading accounts around 2300 BCE. At this time, the Nubians traded cattle, gold, carnelian, ivory, hardwood, incense, and dates with their Egyptian neighbors. Farming was a common way of life, and a herd of cattle represented wealth and status.
Nubia is ruled by Egypt.
During the Egyptian Middle Kingdom period (2040-1640 BC), the Egyptian Kingdom began to expand into Nubia. They took control of the trade routes and built fortresses along the Nile. There was little interaction between the two cultures at the time, but it was thought to be relatively peaceful. Under Egyptian rule, the Nubians were also known as fierce warriors, particularly in archery. They were known as the Medjay, which was originally a region of land inhabited by Nubians but later came to refer to an elite paramilitary force in the Egyptian army. While the Nubians were known for their ferocity in battle, they were also employed in all aspects of ancient Egyptian society, including as attendants, merchants, and temple employees.
Ancient Egypt’s Nubian 25th Dynasty
It was during this period that the Nubians, known as Kushites at the time, conquered Egypt after years of Egyptian rule. For the most part, the Nubian pharaohs and rulers were assimilated into Egyptian culture. While the Nubians brought some of their culture to Egypt, they largely maintained the same governing rules, artistic style, temples, and religious traditions. During this time, the Nubians also revived the pyramid-building tradition. The Nubians ruled Egypt (or parts of Egypt) for a little more than 100 years before being driven out by the Assyrians. Despite the fact that both cultures took turns conquering each other, history shows that the Egyptian-Nubian relationship was actually quite peaceful. The two cultures had a lot of cultural exchange and marriage agreements. Even before the 25th Dynasty, many Egyptian Pharaohs had Nubian blood coursing through their veins.
Today’s Nubians in Egypt
After being defeated by the Assyrians, the Nubians returned to their homeland and have essentially remained in the same area throughout time, where they can still be found today. Because of the influx of Arabs into Egypt and Sudan, modern-day Nubians now practice Islam as their religion (though, as mentioned previously, they did convert to Christianity in the Medieval period). Nubia, as it is known today, is split between Sudan and Egypt. This occurred near the end of the colonial era when only about a quarter of the Nubian population resided in modern Egypt. Unfortunately for the Nubians, the time has not been kind to them. When the Aswan High Dam was built, many of them were forced to leave their homes and villages along the Nile. Furthermore, Egyptian Nubians are much more socioeconomically disadvantaged than other Egyptian cultures and are frequently victims of racism.
Visiting Egypt’s Nubian Villages
Today, the majority of Nubian villages in Egypt are found near Aswan and Elephantine Island. These villages are distinct from other Egyptian villages and can often be identified by the bright, vibrant colors of their houses. While the Nubians who live here are Egyptian citizens, they maintain their own culture.
Aswan’s Nubian Village
During your vacation, you can visit some of these Nubian villages. While Nubian village visits aren’t usually included in Egypt vacation packages, you can request them from your private Egyptologist guide. The best places to do this are the Nubian villages near Aswan, where you can stroll through the streets, shop at the local markets (where you can find some great loose leaf teas, spices, and even handmade scarves), and learn about local life. Not only is it a great way to learn about this part of Egypt and Nubian culture, but it also benefits the locals financially. Especially if you plan on buying souvenirs.