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Nubians of Egypt and Sudan, Past and Present

Nubians of Egypt and Sudan, Past and Present

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Published by szerzo
An ethnic group in Africa, numbering over three hundred thousand, the Nubians live in Sudan and Egypt. They are descendents of the ancient Nubians, who inhabited the region from Aswan (Egypt) and the first cataract (waterfall) of the Nile River to Khartoum (capital of Sudan) in the south beyond the sixth cataract. After key excavations by archeologists such as Charles Bonnet and Matthieu Honegger of Switzerland, we know that in the Nubian region an ancient civilization with palaces, temples, and pyramids (tombs) flourished as long ago as 7000 B.C.E. As many as 223 Nubian pyramids were discovered in the ancient cities along the Nile in Sudan (Kerma, Napata, Nuri, Naga, and Meroe), which is twice the number of pyramids in Egypt. To date, archaeologists have confirmed the existence of three successive kingdoms in the ancient Nubian region (also sometimes called “Kush”): the Kingdom of Kerma (2400–1500 B.C.E.); Napata (1000–300 B.C.E.); and Meroe (300 B.C.E.–300 C.E.). In short, the Nubian culture thrived from about 7000 B.C.E. to about 1500 C.E., when it was conquered by Muslims.
Egyptian objects found in Nubian graves attests to close, but complex Egyptian-Nubian cultural ties from prehistoric times. Throughout Egyptian history, the Nubians have been viewed either as a conquered race or a superior enemy. In armed conflict, Nubians were skilled archers. Egyptian pharaohs exported gold, ebony, ivory, incense, minerals, and metals back to Egypt, as well as Nubian slaves. (One should remember that African slavery was well entrenched long before the European explorers brought African slaves to the New World in the fifteenth century). Much of the gold in Egyptian statues and artifacts came from Nubia.
International observers predicted that the Nubians’ distinct culture (language, dress, dances, traditions, and music) would die after such massive displacement. On the contrary, the tragedy sparked in Nubians—especially musicians—a determination to preserve and propagate their culture. Hamza el-Din (1929–2006), the “father of modern Nubian music,” entranced audiences worldwide with his single-line melodies plucked on an oud or Arabian lute (e.g., “Escalay: The Water Wheel,” 1971). His influence on African Americans intensified when he resettled in Berkeley, California. The Nubian singer Mohamed Mounir (b. 1954) exerts great influence, especially among teenagers in the Arab-speaking countries, advocating in his lyrics—after 11 September 2001—peace between the Islamic East and secular West. The Nubian drummers Mahmoud Fadl, Ali Hassan Kuban, and others have updated Nubian music with electronic instruments. Today “Nubian” has symbolic meaning, encompassing Africans, African Arabs, African Americans, and people of color in general.
An ethnic group in Africa, numbering over three hundred thousand, the Nubians live in Sudan and Egypt. They are descendents of the ancient Nubians, who inhabited the region from Aswan (Egypt) and the first cataract (waterfall) of the Nile River to Khartoum (capital of Sudan) in the south beyond the sixth cataract. After key excavations by archeologists such as Charles Bonnet and Matthieu Honegger of Switzerland, we know that in the Nubian region an ancient civilization with palaces, temples, and pyramids (tombs) flourished as long ago as 7000 B.C.E. As many as 223 Nubian pyramids were discovered in the ancient cities along the Nile in Sudan (Kerma, Napata, Nuri, Naga, and Meroe), which is twice the number of pyramids in Egypt. To date, archaeologists have confirmed the existence of three successive kingdoms in the ancient Nubian region (also sometimes called “Kush”): the Kingdom of Kerma (2400–1500 B.C.E.); Napata (1000–300 B.C.E.); and Meroe (300 B.C.E.–300 C.E.). In short, the Nubian culture thrived from about 7000 B.C.E. to about 1500 C.E., when it was conquered by Muslims.
Egyptian objects found in Nubian graves attests to close, but complex Egyptian-Nubian cultural ties from prehistoric times. Throughout Egyptian history, the Nubians have been viewed either as a conquered race or a superior enemy. In armed conflict, Nubians were skilled archers. Egyptian pharaohs exported gold, ebony, ivory, incense, minerals, and metals back to Egypt, as well as Nubian slaves. (One should remember that African slavery was well entrenched long before the European explorers brought African slaves to the New World in the fifteenth century). Much of the gold in Egyptian statues and artifacts came from Nubia.
International observers predicted that the Nubians’ distinct culture (language, dress, dances, traditions, and music) would die after such massive displacement. On the contrary, the tragedy sparked in Nubians—especially musicians—a determination to preserve and propagate their culture. Hamza el-Din (1929–2006), the “father of modern Nubian music,” entranced audiences worldwide with his single-line melodies plucked on an oud or Arabian lute (e.g., “Escalay: The Water Wheel,” 1971). His influence on African Americans intensified when he resettled in Berkeley, California. The Nubian singer Mohamed Mounir (b. 1954) exerts great influence, especially among teenagers in the Arab-speaking countries, advocating in his lyrics—after 11 September 2001—peace between the Islamic East and secular West. The Nubian drummers Mahmoud Fadl, Ali Hassan Kuban, and others have updated Nubian music with electronic instruments. Today “Nubian” has symbolic meaning, encompassing Africans, African Arabs, African Americans, and people of color in general.

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Published by: szerzo on Mar 28, 2009
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