Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Nubia: Respek, man!

Our buggy owner's son tries on my cool hat.  His dad, a Nubian,
bemoans the "troubles" of March -- ie, the so-called "Arab Spring"
One of the things I've learnt a touch more about on this trip has been Nubia.  This was the kingdom between today's Khartoum in Sudan up to Luxor in Egypt. The Nubians were sometimes under the suzerainty of Egypt and sometime independent, and always in a testy relationship with the latter.  Even today they see themselves as very much "Nubian", so that you'll meet people in Sudan or in Egypt's Aswan who insist they are Nubian, rather than Sudanese or Egyptian.
Nubia means "place of gold", the source of much that went into the treasures of the Pharaohic tombs.  Even today, we see gold being "mined" -- that is, thousands of Nubian peasants by the roadside in the desert on the way to Karima Sudan, digging the rock, crushing it by hand, then panning for specs of gold, in a scene from antiquity.  Hard-scrabble.
Their most famous kingdom was the Kingdom of Kush.  "Kush" means "troublemakers", or so our [very Egyptian] guide today informs us.  No doubt they were "troublemakers" for having had the temerity to resist the colonisation of the various dynasties of ancient Egypt.

In Aswan, various Nubians told us that the revolution in March (what the bien pensants of the west like to call "the Arab Spring"), are the fault of "the Egyptians". That is, nothing to do with we Nubians.  And how can we expect they would support a revolution which has decimated their tourist business.
And at the Nubian museum in Aswan -- wonderful, it is -- the descriptions of Islam talk of its "invasion" into Nubia, not of the "spread" as Islamic narrative more commonly has it. While Christianity is described as having "spread" into the region.  The churches too, the couple we see in Aswan, are very well kept.
A young Nubian guy in Aswan takes us in hand and tell us straight away that he's Christian, his name Thomas, "from the Bible", he informs us.
So, in addition to the sectarian violence against Christians in Egypt, there's the overlay of Nubian-ness to it all.  No Nubian independence movement as yet, I understand, but a clear, proud history and very much alive in the peoples of northern Sudan and southern Egypt.