What Life Is Like In Egypt's Nubian Society
Posted: 07/16/2015 | Edited: 07/17/2015 04:12 PM EDT
Photographer Nour El Refai
more than a year documenting life among Egypt's Nubian community,
capturing daily rituals, art, meals, social gatherings and celebrations.
The Nubians are one of the oldest civilizations in the world, having
lived alongside the Nile river in what is now southern Egypt and
northern Sudan for thousands of years
Today, most Nubians live on the fringes of society
Egypt. Nubian communities have been forced to leave their homes near
the river to make way for reservoirs and dams several times in the past
In the 1960s, more than 50,000 Nubians were forced to vacate their
lands and offered a place in desert settlements near Kom Umbo during the
construction of the famous Aswan High Dam. Some families moved to the
settlements, while others sought refuge on islands north or in villages
in Gharb Aswan.
With his project, photographer El Refai aims to document the
traditions these families still observe despite the dramatic changes
their communities went through in past decades.
For more photos of life in the Nubian community, check out El Refai's photo journal at grid.vsco.co/journal/the-nubians.
Hajj Elias and his wife Fayza in front of their house in the
immigration area near Kom Umbo. These houses were offered by the
government to families whose entire village was submerged after the
building of the Aswan High Dam in 1964. The new houses were built with
no consideration to the hot weather or the Nubian culture and style, on a
site that is very far from the Nile or any other water source. The
Nubians who accepted the houses tried to customize them to their needs
as much as they could,.
Hajj Eissa plays on his old tambour in his "room of memories" in
Toshka Village, the immigration area in Kom Umbo. Hajj Eissa created
this room next to his house to store artifacts his family owned before
migrating in 1964. Due to modernization, most items in this room are no
longer used by many other Nubians.
The tambour instrument in the photo is made from wood and animal
leather. There are few original tambours left and even fewer Nubians
know how to use it.
A man sleeping in the shade in Balana, near Kom Umbo.
Temperatures reach over 45C in summer. It's not possible for street
vendors to keep standing under the sun for long periods. They usually
leave their goods on the street and find a nearby tree to rest
underneath and stay in the shade.
A young boy carries a goat in the Saturday market at Sayala,
known as Kalabsha market in Kom Umbo. People usually buy their food on a
weekly basis since they have means to store it.
Hassan selling pottery in Balana, near Kom Umbo. The large pots
are called "olla" and are used to store water and maintain its
temperature during the heat.
Ruins of the deserted Nag' Bleida, an old Nubian village in Gharb
Aswan. They show a glimpse of what the original Nubian houses looked
Hajja Sameeha smokes shisha in her home in Nag' Besion, her
daughter Mona and grandson Yaseen are sitting with her. These old Nubian
houses in Gharb Aswan are characterised by a large, open courtyard in
the center with more than four rooms opening to it.
Leftovers are served to the livestock. Women usually own livestock, which are treated with much care.
Mourad walks on Seheil Island. Many of the Nubian families who
refused to immigrate to the land offered to them by the government in
1964 have moved to islands that lie north of the old reservoir or to
villages in Gharb Aswan.
Mourad and his niece Sabrine on Seheil Island. Most Nubian men
living on Seheil work in tourism. They bring tourists from Gharb Seheil,
a touristic village with many hotels and lodges, and give them a tour
of the island, showing them the archaeological artifacts like the Famine
Stela, a Pharaonic inscription on a granite. They also welcome them to
their homes to show them their pet crocodiles and their handmade
Mohamed broke both his arms while playing football. People from
Seheil Island were collecting money for the operation as his mother
Aziza couldn't afford it alone. This is just one of the pros of living
in a community where all people know and care for each other. Their only
insurance is being loved by everyone in the community.
Kids playing in the Nile at Kodi on Seheil Island.
A shy Nubian girl holds her grandmother's hand on Heisa Island.
Nubians on Heisa Island are the only ones who didn't have to leave their
island during the construction of the High Dam in 1964. Heisa island
was partially submerged because of the dam, so many families left their
homes and built new ones at a higher altitude. Nubians on Heisa Island,
especially children, are less exposed to strangers and tourists. The
Nubian language is stronger on the island and Arabic is not often used
by the elders or the children. Kids start understanding and using Arabic
when they reach the age of ten and start learning it at school. Because
the school is located far from many of the islands' villages, children
don't join it until they are able to walk the long distance.
Sabrine and her 6-month-old son Mohammed in their home on Heisa
Island. Most men work in Aswan during the day, leaving the women,
children and elders on the island.
A Nubian woman cleaning her carpet in the Nile while her child is
having a swim. Cleanliness is a well-known quality of the Nubians, most
probably because of living by the Nile where they can efficiently clean
all their stuff with fresh water.
A girl is waiting for her finished henna to dry. Henna has been
grown and used in Southern Egypt, and particularly in Nubia, since
ancient times. It's a dye that is used on hands, feet, and different
body parts. It may look like a tattoo, but it's not permanent; it fades
away in a few weeks. There is a day dedicated to henna before any social
event where all women gather and have their henna done by an artist.
It's an event that is adored by young women as they get the chance to
express themselves through the designs. For many of them, it's the most
intimate art form.
A group of the groom's friends are invited to rest inside the
house of a guest to the wedding. A week before his wedding in October,
the groom Mohamed Noureldin, 27, and his friends started a hectic quest
to invite the guests from all the Nubian villages across Aswan. It
usually takes up to four days to invite all the guests; each day starts
very early and ends at midnight.
The groom's family receives guests and relatives until all the
rooms of the house are filled. After eating and drinking tea, they play
cards, dominos, and socialize. The Nubian culture is based on the bond
between its people, and marriage in itself forms a strong bond between
two large families. During the whole week that precedes the wedding, the
bond gets strengthened through shared activities and events.
Shaalawi checking the western port of Seheil Island before his
son's wedding night. This would be the main access for all guests
arriving from Gharb Seheil.
An old Nubian woman on Seheil Island is moving her goats to leave
room for the guests coming for a wedding taking place on the island.
Relatives and neighbors of a groom's mother help her to cook and
deliver the food for all the guests. The groom's family transforms some
rooms and a courtyard into a large makeshift kitchen, where they cook
large amounts of food.
Post a Comment