Most of the peaceful Nubian people were forced to abandon their homes in southern Egypt in the 1960s because the Aswan High Dam was nearly completed, and, until now, they have never been fairly compensated by the Egyptian government. Many were resettled into shoddy new communities north of the city of Aswan. With their villages and farms flooded in Old Nubia, they have struggled to retain their unique, nonviolent, culture. They have agitated ever since for new farming villages next to the Nile, so they could regain the inspiration from the river, the source of life and culture to them.
The government recently made a commitment to building new communities for them and, according to a news report last week, the reconstructed villages are 70 percent finished. The first Nubian-style dwellings, described as “congested domes,” have been erected at Wadi Qurqur, 25 km south of Aswan. Unfortunately, the news report is confusing—it indicates that the new dwellings will house 1000 families, but it then says they are being erected in eight villages with 250 homes each. Either the newspaper journalist has problems with simple math, or there is an error in translation from the Arabic.
Whatever the case, Mahmoud Meghawry, head of the urbanization authority in the Ministry of Housing, Utilities, and Urban Development, said the first objective of the project is to provide housing for the Nubians who left Egypt after the enforced evacuation of their homeland nearly 50 years ago. He indicated that the Governor of Aswan will be responsible for handling the logistics of allocating the new houses.
Ahmed al-Maghraby, the head of the ministry, said that his agency is constructing, in each village, telephone systems, schools, police stations, post offices, utilities, bakeries, markets, mosques, family centers, youth centers, and agricultural service centers. Roads, drainage systems, and drinking water systems are also under construction.
Mr. al-Maghraby expressed his admiration for the leaders of the Nubian community, people who have waited so long for this development. He said that a monument would be erected in the center of the communities that will read, “We are the people who waited till the state handled its priorities in times of war and peace.”
The long-delayed aspirations of the Nubians to return to the Nile finally achieved some recognition just a little over two years ago at a conference in Aswan, when government officials agreed to start constructing new villages near the Nile which it hoped would begin meeting the needs of the people. Whether the new communities will help the Nubians save their traditional peacefulness will be up to the people themselves.