Nubian Culture (part 2)


Nubians have …

… a love of the river

Nubian life historically has been centred around the Nile River. They believe it to hold the power of life and death. Nubians love to be near the Nile, to see it, to hear it, to smell it, and to sail on it! Their traditional life was based on agriculture, (mainly palm trees) fishing and transporting goods up and down the Nile.

… a love of the land

Nubian people have a deep and ingrained love of the land: be it the lovely light sand of the desert or the rich Nile soil for agriculture. They love to grow things: fruit trees such as mango trees, flowers, rice and of course palm trees. Agriculture was, and in many cases still is, the basis of the Nubian economy. However, much land and indeed thousands of trees were drowned with the flooding caused by the building of the dams. In the past the harvesting of the palm trees was a key day in the lives of the Nubians. Years ago, dates were equated with gold: the more trees, the more dates, the more gold! Wealth was directly related to how many trees you had. There were celebrations, music and joy when the dates were harvested. Nothing was ever wasted with from the palm tree: dates were eaten and sold fresh, dried and stored for the lean months. The leaves and bark from the trees were used cleverly by the women for a number of handcrafted items, which were used for daily work or as ornaments and decorations.

… a love of music

The music has mostly a gentle and soothing sound: it is inspired by the Nubian landscape: the Nile River and the sands of the desert. The tradition sound, with its gentle yet persistent rhythm, has been blended with more modern styles to become uniquely Nubian. The modern songs tend to express feelings of displacement through music. Although many villages may have been drowned, Nubian culture will not be erased as it lives on in the music.

One particularly famous singer, Hamza El Din, has a song called: “The Water Wheel” which reflect his memory, as a child, collecting water and listening and being mesmerized by the sound and life of the water.

If you visit Aswan, you are sure to find a group of men in white Galabeyas, with white cloth headdresses, usually smoking profusely, with a large, circular hand held drum or three. Sit with them.  You will hear the sweet gentle sounds of Nubian music: although the words may be of hurt, displacment, lost land and love… the sound is soothing and restful.

… and lovely handcraft

In the past, the Nubian women were famous for their cleverly made and brightly colored and varied handcrafts. Most of which would be made from parts of the palm tree. They would make baskets, plates, mats, fans, rope and decorations from the trees. These would be used for the floor, to hang on the walls and as celebratory gifts.

They would also make many pottery vessels out of clay from the Nile River: water jars, containers for food, to be used in the traditional ovens.

Bead work was always in demand: lovely necklaces, anklets and rings adorned the beautiful women of Nubia.

Nowadays the need and demand for these are not as high, and are mostly made for commercial use: to sell to tourists. Also the prolific number of date palms is not like it was in the past, before the dams.

Most Nubian women will go to the local Souqs (markets) and buy what they need from there.

But the creativity and love of beautiful things is not lost to the Nubian people.

All you have to do is come and visit; see their homes, listen to their music, watch them making henna designs…. and you will feel the love, the pain, the creativity, the rich culture and the beauty of these wonderful people.