Aswan is the southernmost city in Egypt and a place where the Nile cataracts begin. Impossibly hot in summer and pleasantly warm in winter. When I first visited Aswan I thought this place is magic! Now after a few years I still think the same. Whenever I am in Egypt I just can’t wait to relax on the felucca Nile cruise operated skillfully by a Nubian captain.
Nile at Aswan is different than the Nile in Lower Egypt. There are no green cultivated fields by the river banks, sand dunes of the Western desert reach to the river directly. While the city of Aswan dominates the eastern side of the river, there are only a few Nubian villages and the desert on the western side. There is no bridge at Aswan and the feluccas and motor boats are the only way to get from one side of the river to another.
Who are Nubians? Nubians are the people that live in Upper Egypt and Northern Sudan in the region called Nubia. (Do not confuse them with Nuba people that live in the Southern Sudan and are being victims of a nasty civil war) With a history and traditions which can be traced to the dawn of civilization, the Nubian first settled along the banks of the Nile from Aswan. Along this great river they developed one of the oldest and greatest civilizations in Africa. Until they lost their last kingdom (Christian Nubia) only five centuries back the Nubians remained as the main rivals to the other great African civilization of Egypt.
In the 1960-ties most of their traditional homeland was submerged because of the construction of the Aswan’s high dam. The 500 km long Lake Nasser now stretches along Nubia and many Nubian people were resettled further down the Nile.
One of the Nubian villages on the western bank of the Nile. You can easily recognise their villages by nicely painted houses which represent a stark contrast to dull desert colours.
Aga Khan mausoleum on the western bank of the Nile.
Aswan (from left), Elephantine island and Lord Kitchener’s botanical gardens as seen from the top of the Tombs of the nobles.
A young Nubian boy in front of one of the painted houses. In some villages children (and sometimes even women) will beg for money or sweets. Please do not encourage them by giving them something! Buy a bracelet or some other handicrafts from them instead! This way they can earn money in a honourable way. A bracelet usually costs 5LE and a necklace around 10-15LE (Egyptian Pound).
Nubian housewife at her kitchen. Her mother invited us for a cup of tea and she was kind enough to show me around her modest but clean house.
Nubian girls in front of their house. Before marriage Nubian women wear colourful dresses and after wedding they wear black (at least their head scarf). I hope it doesn’t mean they stop living;)
Hamdi. A chief of the Nubian village on Elephantine island. Very friendly and easy-going man that proudly took us around his village.
Nubian lady with hand-made baskets.
Some of the hand-made crafts Nubians sell to tourists to supplement their income. They are natural musicians and have incredible feeling for rhythm (especially with drums). The funny looking “violins” are called Rababa and after years I still haven’t found out how to get a decent non-window-breaking sound out of it.
A boy wearing Man United jersey and a billiard table in Nubian village – well even Nubians are not immune to western influences. Not to mention TV sets and fans in every house
Shutters are closed during the day to prevent the heat coming into the house. Do not ask me what all these decorations mean. They look nice though.
I met this Nubian boy at a bazaar close to Philae island. He was selling hats and when he saw my big camera asked me to photograph him. It was a pleasure for both of us…
Felucca on the Nile – a must do when you visit Aswan. And try to speak to your Nubian captain – they are friendly and proud people and maybe he will invite yu to visit his village.
Next February or March (2011) I am preparing a photographic tour to Egypt. 15 days, from Alexandria to Aswan plus Sinai – an unforgettable journey and lifetime experience. If you are interested, let me know – I will have the details ready soon!