2012, Egypt, Aswan : Nubian Village
Nubian streets and walls
Literally "Happy chance," but it means "Nice to meet you" in Arabic. (I chose the name when I was living in Egypt.)
If you're looking for substance, there's a handy link called "Analysis" right down below, which I invite you to check out. The rest is shorter thoughts, humor, caps lock, and the occasional personal post. Ask me anything you like.
FYI, I co-blog a lot of pop culture, fangirly things with my dear CT over at 22drunkb. If you enjoy hilarity and flailing, head that way. ________
i know ive said this before…but…
hi, you are not nubian. unless you are actually nubian. nubian is an ethnic group in egypt and sudan. nubians are people.
you are not nubian just because you are dark skinned/black/etc.
you are not nubian because you are black and conscious and read the right books.
you are nubian, if, and only if, you are actually from a specific culture that identifies as nubian that identifies with a nubian family, and a certain defined landbase, and language, and art and music and literature and well…
nubians are not magical fairies, they are not mythological creatures that you get to recreate yourself into, they are not ‘african queens who have reclaimed their ancient knowledge, or any other such junk.
actually nubians are oppressed, persecuted, and erased (at least in egypt) by arab egyptians. the aswan dam destroyed a large amount of the cultural heritage of nubians.
folks, (and i am looking at black americans especially) who use the word nubian to sound like some exoticized form of black skin, are erasing the real vibrant nubian culture that is constantly recreating itself, for itself, in the face of assimilation and reservations.
i say this having visited aswan, the captial of nubia (in southern egypt). and living over a year in abdeen, the primary nubian neighborhood in cairo, egypt.
nubians are beautiful people. and i am not one of them. and most likely (except for a couple of followers i know of…) you are not either.
so you want to be ‘conscious’? get conscsious to this…if you give a damn about black nubians, you wont call yourself one, unless you are one.
This was in Egypt Independent the other day: Nubian group drafts demands for new president.
I mentioned some of the issues around the displacement of people in Nubia—or al-Nub, as it’s called in Arabic—when I talked about my brief visit to Aswan. The short version is: the Nubian people who lived around the Nile down where Lake Nasser is now were displaced to the desertby the damming project. This was insanely illogical, since they were riverbank people. They want to be moved back to the water where they can reclaim their traditional way of life and live more comfortably—their traditional culture has nothing to do with where they are now.
This is what the draft demands are:
The draft included several demands for the Nubian community, such as issuing a decision of repatriation of Nubians in their original lands, building new villages on the east and west banks of Lake Nasser, demolishing collapsed houses to contain Nubian population growth and establishing a supreme authority to develop old Nubia.
The authority should include Nubian experts in development and be affiliated to the Cabinet, the draft said.
The document demanded the formation of a comprehensive development map for old Nubia to be achieved according to a timeline, and the completion of the Karkar Valley housing project so Nubians can get their houses and agricultural lands.
The demands also include giving land and houses to Nubians, who were harmed by the construction of the Aswan reservoir.
They make a lot of sense. What’s depressing is what a pipe dream it sounds like.
Even in the best of times, anywhere in the world, people who have been forcibly displaced by a government rarely get what they deserve. From Native Americans in the US to the former Soviet Union, most displaced people never get home. Imagining that in Egypt, where the south (where al-Nub is) is infinitely less economically powerful than the more northern regions (mostly Cairo and Alexandria, but also Port Said), the government is going to allocate major resources toward this kind of reparations is wishful thinking at best.
Worth mentioning that racism is alive and well here, and Nubians are much darker than people in the north. They’re looked down on as stupid and backward; the adjective for someone from the country, sa’idi, is a put-down.
Add to that the current instability and it becomes really sad. It would be such a precious, hopeful thing if it were even thinkable that the new president would be different enough from the old regime to do such a thing. The fact is, even in the best-case, most liberal scenario—not out of the current possibilities, out of what we all imagined a year or more ago—this still would not happen. It’s no one’s priority.
But we’re not even in that scenario. We’re in a much shittier one. And in this scenario, not only will the new president not really care, but he’s not going to have the ability to redirect resources this way anyway.
This is why the south voted for the Muslim Brotherhood in such high numbers. Down there, the Brotherhood are the only ones who pretend to care (outside of Aswan).
To be fair, I’m making it sound a bit worse than it is. Is it poorer, less developed? Absolutely. But it’s hardly a wasteland. Aswan may soon become a port that can do international trade, which would make it probably the major connection point between Egypt and sub-Saharan markets. (I know a guy who’s working on this). That could change a lot of things in the long run.
But still. Reading this article is one of those “laugh or cry” moments.
Wrapping up the trip I was on
last week [soooo I started this draft a long time ago and let it languish. I sorry].
After our glorious breakfast and exhilarating truck ride, we arrived in Aswan, where a friend of May’s had planned a full day of touring and delightfulness. I don’t really understand why he decided to organize this and pay for ALL of us to do it (he flatly refused any reimbursement, and there were four of us, man, it comes to a lot of money), but it was very kind of him.
We started at the High Dam in Aswan. I believe I mentioned that one of my companions is Nubian; she told us the story of the displacement of the Nubian people who lived on the banks of this part of the Nile when the time came to change the course of the river. First, a wave of people were moved to the desert. Their traditional way of life was in no way adapted to desert conditions; many died. So the second wave of people who were asked to move refused.
The government opened the dam and drowned them.
The third wave went where they were told. May says the displaced communities are seeking the return of their lands, or at least some sort of redistribution that will put them back near the Nile. Remains to be seen whether anything of the sort will actually happen.
Sooooo, after that sobering story, we were presented with the vista of Lake Nasser, the biggest artificial lake in the world:
After that, we headed over to the Soviet-Egyptian Friendship Monument, which has gushy statements from Stalin and from Gamal Abd el Nasser in each other’s languages written all over it and is surrounded by a quite nice garden and a fittingly dry fountain.
After that, we got in a little boat and went across to the most gorgeous temple in the middle of Lake Nasser. (They had to move it after they made the lake because it was partially submerged.) This place was stunningly beautiful. It was in the water, like this:
And the place itself looked like this:
I could go on, but this isn’t a photoset.
ANYWAY. I loved this place. After that, we felucca-ed our way along to another island, where we ate “lunch” (it was like 5 or 5:30 pm, the whole schedule got pushed back because it took us so long to get from the hinterland into Aswan) annnnnd I held a baby crocodile. I drew the line when the guy wanted to hang it around my shoulders, though.
The thing was, my Dutch companion and I were supposed to be on the 7 o clock train back to Cairo (the rest were staying). So we ended up getting felucca-ed back to the main part of town, and even THAT was gorgeous, and then we took a taxi to the train station. The dude who was driving the felucca was instructed (and, I feel certain, very well compensated) by our host to see us all the way onto the train and make sure we got off okay, and this he did. He even insisted on carrying our bags onto the train, and then when I tried to tip him he wouldn’t take it. This is why I say VERY well compensated.
After that, the porter dude whose job it actually IS to carry the bags on hung around us, waiting for his customary baksheesh (tip/bribe). I got really pissed off and yelled “WHAT DID YOU EVEN DO” at him in Arabic, and he looked really sheepish and I gave him two guinea to get rid of him.
In retrospect I feel sort of bad. Most people who even have jobs here don’t make anywhere near enough to live on, and they legitimately need baksheesh money. Government jobs pay, like, maybe a couple hundred dollars a month. I don’t think he felt any better about what he was doing than I did. But still, I mean, come ON.
Anyway, we sleeper train-ed our way back to Cairo and even though I was completely exhausted, I was SO GLAD to be back. That was the moment when I realized I feel at home here now.