Elephantine and Nubians

Still Sunday 6 January 2008: By Aswan in the River Nile is Elephantine Island. It houses temple ruins (including the ruins of a step pyramid), two nilometers (structures measuring the water level during flooding season) and a luxurious Mövenpick hotel. Most interestingly, though, Elephantine has a considerable Nubian population, living in three villages on the island.

Nubian Elephantine Island

Nubia is a fabulous name, isn’t it, conjuring up romantic visions of wild, warring tribes, courageously fighting pharaonic imperialism.

Once Nubia was an independent kingdom. Today, the name Nubia is no longer in use, at least not officially. The former region of Nubia is now divided between Egypt and the Sudan.

Mohammad, a Nubian, show us his village on Elephantine. In a very halting English interspersed with Arabic and Nubian, he tells of Nubian life in present-day Egypt. The gist of it is that it’s a bit of a challenge preserving the Nubian way of life. Same goes for the language. It’s a very complex language Nubian – and it does not exist in written form. As if that isn’t enough, dialects vary so much, they’re not mutually understood. So Arabic is used as the common language instead. Sad, somehow.


We stroll through the village, passing colourful houses, a few shops, and what looks to be happy people.


Afterwards, we’re invited for tea in a local home. Cat immediately spots a glass cage with live baby crocs and loves them instantly. They don’t have a lot of space, poor creatures.




8 Responses to “Elephantine and Nubians”

  1. Wanderluster 9 April 2010 1402 #

    Thanks for sharing info and pics about a region I’m not familiar with AT ALL. Really cool peek into such a foreign culture.

  2. inka 9 April 2010 1757 #

    Wonderful story and such cute pictures.

  3. Carolina 9 April 2010 2233 #

    Nubia is a great name. Sounds like a memorable afternoon. Love the first picture.

  4. Sabina 11 April 2010 0254 #

    Another great post. Nubian – even the word sounds intriguing.

  5. maria 11 April 2010 2217 #

    The crocs look very squashed in there, but still the idea of taking one is not appealing. Great photos!

  6. Fly Girl 11 April 2010 2328 #

    Nubian history is actually deeply studied in African American culture. It’s a term that you can still here being used in some major cities. (France-based musical sister duo Les Nubians is the most notable I can think of.) This is a wonderful glimpse of the contemporary culture, that little girl is adorable.

  7. Anne-Sophie 14 April 2010 2041 #

    Thanks all 🙂

    @ Fly Girl – how interesting. I didn’t know. Will check out Les Nubians.

  8. Kim 22 April 2010 0929 #

    That girl is SO beautiful!

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