Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Nubian Encounters

Nubian Encounters: The Story of the Nubian Ethnological Survey 1961–1964

Nicholas S. Hopkins
Sohair R. Mehanna
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 400
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Nubian Encounters
    Book Description:

    In the 1960s the construction of the Aswan High Dam occasioned the forced displacement of a large part of the Nubian population. Beginning in 1960, anthropologists at the American University in Cairo’s Social Research Center undertook a survey of the Nubians to be moved and those already outside their historic homeland. The goal was to record and analyze Nubian culture and social organization, to create a record for the future, and to preserve a body of information on which scholars and officials could draw. This book chronicles the research carried out by an international team with the cooperation of many Nubians. Gathered into one volume for the first time are reprinted articles that provide a valuable resource of research data on the Nubian project, as well as photographs taken during the field study that document ways of life that have long since disappeared. Contributors: Kawthar Abd el-Rasoul, Mohamed Fikri Abdel Wahab, Charles Callender, Abdelfattah Eid, Hussein Fahim, Robert A. Fernea, Peter Geiser, Fadwa el Guindi, Anna Hohenwart-Gerlachstein, John G. Kennedy, Mohamed Riad, Alia Rouchdy, Thayer Scudder, and Abdel Hamid El-Zein.

    eISBN: 978-1-61797-383-3
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. List of Maps and Illustrations
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xv-xx)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
  6. The Nubian Ethnological Survey: History and Methods
    (pp. 1-78)
    Nicholas S. Hopkins and Sohair R. Mehanna

    The construction of the Aswan High Dam was a major step forward in Egypt’s development, following the establishment of the republic in 1952. A massive project, it transformed the ecology of the Nile Valley in Egypt and the Sudan. However, it did have a downside, namely that the population resident in the submergence area behind the dam was forced to leave. To ensure the roughly 100,000 affected people did not become victims of the broader plan, the Egyptian and Sudanese governments committed themselves to a planned and progressive initiative that would see the residents, collectively known as Nubians, resettled in...

  7. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  8. The Nubian Ethnological Survey:: Sample Publications 1960–1990

    • Introduction
      (pp. 81-84)
      Nicholas S. Hopkins and Sohair R. Mehanna

      Out of more than 125 published and unpublished pieces by at least twenty-eight different authors associated with the Nubian Ethnological Survey at various times between 1961 and 1965, we have selected sixteen to give a sense of the range and development of the project. Many of these sixteen are either unpublished or were published in sources that are now out of print and difficult to access. Our goal is to illustrate and exemplify the research process in the NES and portray some of the changes among Nubians. Readers should also consultNubian Ceremonial Life(Kennedy 2005) for further excellent accounts....

    • Research Plans and Practices

      • Ethnological Survey of Nubia: Statement of Purpose and Organization
        (pp. 85-90)
        Robert A. Fernea

        The building of the High Dam at Aswan is central to the most comprehensive scheme of economic development yet undertaken by modern Egypt. Numerous far-reaching benefits will be realized by the High Dam, 1.3 million feddans of land will be available for cultivation for the first time, thousands of feddans of marginal land will be brought into full production, and a hydro-electric power source will be available for industrial development. These are among the most important contributions of the High Dam. For these advantages to be realized, a tremendous technological effort will be necessary. From the first stages of the...

      • Field Research in a Nubian Village: The Experience of an Egyptian Anthropologist
        (pp. 91-109)
        Hussein M. Fahim

        Kanuba (pseudonym) is the village with which this chapter is concerned. It is one of several villages that Egyptian Nubians established below Aswan in the Nile Valley as a result of the inundation of their lands when the first Aswan Dam (built in 1902) was twice raised, in 1912 and 1933. Prior to the construction of the new Aswan High Dam during the 1960s, Egypt’s Nubian land extended along the Nile banks between the city of Aswan and the Sudanese border. Following the inundation of this land, the remaining Nubians moved in 1964 to a new site. They are now...

    • Nubia in the 1960s:: Economics and Ecology

      • The Kenuz
        (pp. 111-121)
        Charles Callender and Fadwa el Guindi

        Before the residents of Egyptian Nubia were resettled at Kom Ombo in 1963–64, the Kenuz homeland lay in the northern part of this region, extending south along the Nile from the neighborhood of Aswan to the district of al-Madiq. Even before their relocation, however, most of the Kenuz had settled in Egyptian cities, where they retained their ethnic identity and much of their culture.

        The history of this people is complex, and known only in part. Kenuz culture, a blend of Arab and Nubian features, emerged during the ninth and tenth centuries ad. The Arab tribes which began moving...

      • Socioeconomic Implications of the Waterwheel in Adindan, Nubia
        (pp. 123-139)
        Abdul Hamid el Zein

        In any society, problems will arise where the area of cultivatable land and the water supply are both strictly limited, and where this limitation is aggravated by continuous division of land between inheritors. A good example of such a situation is Adindan, a Nubian district at the southern edge of Egypt near the Sudanese border, with a population of 1,790 in the 1960 census. Over the years, Adindan has developed ways of maintaining an equilibrium between the sectioning of the land and its usability. Here, we examine in detail Adindan’s adjustments to its ecological situation. This will involve analyzing the...

      • The Influence of Space Relations on the Tribal Groupings of Korosko
        (pp. 141-154)
        Mohamed Riad and Kawthar Abd El-Rasoul

        Korosko lies on the Nile, two hundred kilometers to the south of the city of Aswan.¹ The Nile in this region forms one of its major bends in Egyptian Nubia, known as the Korosko Bend. At Diwan, twenty-five kilometers upstream from Korosko, the Nile changes its direction. Instead of a southwest–northeast flow it turns to the southwest until Korosko then slowly begins a smooth curve until Singari where the course regains its northerly direction.

        The Korosko Bend is of special importance to Nile navigation. It forms a great obstacle to boats sailing upstream. Local sailors call it “al-magrur” (the...

      • The Economic Basis of Egyptian Nubian Labor Migration
        (pp. 155-174)
        Thayer Scudder

        The purpose of this paper is to describe and analyze Egyptian Nubian labor migration within the wider perspective of both migrancy and permanent migration as they occur throughout the African continent.¹ In the African literature the term ‘labor migration’ refers to the voluntary circulation of adult male and female laborers between their rural tribal homes and external areas, both rural and urban, of employment. Although Egyptian Nubian labor migration fits into the general pattern of African labor migrancy, it represents an extreme case.

        Early in 1962, Dr. Peter Geiser and I visited sixty-six of the 536 Nubian villages listed by...

      • Some Differential Factors Affecting Population Movement: The Nubian Case
        (pp. 175-192)
        Peter Geiser

        This paper is an analysis of selected aspects of population movement, with special reference to the case of Nubia. It examines a portion of the data collected in the years 1961–64 during the course of an anthropological–sociological study of Nubian society, including both the villages of Egyptian Nubia and the urban communities of Egypt and the Sudan. Specifically, the paper describes the Nubian community in historical perspective, sketching out some of the salient geographic, economic, and demographic features. The empirical data are analyzed with reference to a selected theory of migration phenomena.


        The 1960 Egyptian census gives...

    • Religion and Community

      • Gender Relations in Kenuz Public Domains
        (pp. 193-197)
        Charles Callender

        The Kenuz homeland was northern Egyptian Nubia until the 1960s, when they were moved to Kom Ombo. Before their relocation a long process of labor migration had brought most Kenuz to Egyptian cities. The segment remaining in Nubia was mostly female, by a ratio of 3 to 1. Most of its adult women were widowed, divorced, or married to migrants. This resident population, depending heavily on migrants for support of its social and cultural institutions as well as for its livelihood, consisted of many small tribes, each a segmentary lineage system and autonomous as far as the provincial administration permitted....

      • The Village Community of al-Dirr, Nubia
        (pp. 199-208)
        Anna Hohenwart-Gerlachstein

        In the years 1962 and 1963 I carried out urgent anthropological research in Nubia, under the auspices of the International Committee on Urgent Anthropological and Ethnological Research and with the support of the Federal Education Ministry, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the Austrian Research Council, the Wenner-Gren Fund for Anthropological Research of New York, and the Cultural Office of the City of Vienna.¹ My main interest was the study of those villages which would inevitably be doomed to destruction as a consequence of resettlement. The native population had to come to terms with the idea that they would have to...

      • Change in Religion in a Resettled Nubian Community, Upper Egypt
        (pp. 209-226)
        Hussein M. Fahim

        The question of change in religion in Middle Eastern communities has been recently studied by several researchers. A review of these studies reveals three main approaches to the problem. The first approach, used principally by orientalists, treats the problem in terms of either history or theology. Among the most significant of these studies are those of H.A.R. Gibb (1938) and Bernard Lewis (1964), who hold that contact between the secular world of the west and the Muslim sacred way of life has brought elements of secularism into the Islamic religion.

        In contrast to the historical–theological approach is that of...

    • Resettlement

      • Problems of Nubian Migration
        (pp. 227-236)
        Mohamed Fikri Abdul Wahab

        The current migration and resettlement of the inhabitants of Nubia is considered one of the most important events of its kind in the history of the United Arab Republic. It represents a necessary displacement of people from their lands and homes caused by the construction of the High Dam, which will in a few months flood the whole of Nubia.

        The planned migration and resettlement of the Nubians in the Kom Ombo area has in recent years opened the field for a variety of surveys and studies. The first of these studies was carried out by the Permanent Council for...

      • Illustrations
        (pp. None)
      • Cross-Cultural Resettlement Administration: An Exploration of Potential Problems of Nubian Resettlement
        (pp. 237-246)
        Robert A. Fernea

        Persuading people to leave their homes and introducing them to a new life in a new environment is at best a difficult undertaking. When the new environment is virgin territory that must be developed and utilized to its full potential for the good of the country and the settlers, the project takes on national as well as local significance. All the technical problems must be fully considered in advance and planning in these areas undertaken only after careful study. Of no less importance, however, are the social problems of resettlement: the human factor will very likely measure success or failure....

      • Initial Adaptations to a New Life for Egyptian Nubians
        (pp. 247-264)
        Robert A. Fernea and John G. Kennedy

        In the fall of 1963 the United Arab Republic (UAR) began the orderly relocation of all the Nubian communities along the Nile between Aswan and the Sudanese border, a move necessitated by the construction of the High Dam and involving a population of nearly 50,000 persons. In this report we will describe some of the social adaptations made by the Nubians during their first year of resettlement, attempting to show the interplay between external conditions, determined both by the government and the new environment, and the creative and culturally channeled responses to these conditions on the part of the Nubians.¹...

      • Community Health Aspects of Nubian Resettlement in Egypt
        (pp. 265-280)
        Hussein M. Fahim

        Moving from one homeland to a new one can be a painful experience for the people involved. Mass population movement and human resettlement projects too can represent a challenging task and a costly development technique for the governments involved. Community relocation schemes should not be viewed as unusual situations of limited scope. They have increasingly become a worldwide phenomenon in recent years and may be expected to increase in the future along with the tendency to design new environments by radically altering old ones. Governments often view relocation schemes as an opportunity to raise the living standards of the relocatees...

    • Reflections after the Move

      • Field Research and Training of Autochthonous People: My Own Experience in Nubia
        (pp. 281-288)
        Anna Hohenwart-Gerlachstein

        In our days, field research should preferably be done in areas that are in danger of great changes. Every one of us could cite an endless list of countries, peoples, and languages that are menaced by forced displacement and even disappearance before having been documented. Minority cultures and languages in particular are threatened by mightier neighbors and industrialized nations. With technical improvements and mechanical achievements, people are pushed into new, unwanted situations (cf. Kubik 1987:55–61).

        The case I wish to deal with concerns the minority culture and language of the Egyptian Nubians whom I investigated in the 1960s before...

      • Nubian Culture and Ethnicity
        (pp. 289-300)
        Robert A. Fernea and Aleya Rouchdy

        The community of Egyptian Nubians, resettled a generation ago when their ancestral lands were covered by the backwaters of the High Dam at Aswan, provide a contemporary example of a people whose sense of their own ethnicity has been redefined and revitalized by this radical change of circumstances. At the same time, there has been a loss of many aspects of their cultural legacy. The relocation has profoundly affected their personal lives and the nature of their existence as a recognized community among the people of the Egyptian Nile Valley. It is almost axiomatic that losing homes and villages and...

  9. Appendices

    • Appendix 1 List of Districts in Old Nubia
      (pp. 301-302)
    • Appendix 2 List of Interviews
      (pp. 303-304)
    • Appendix 3 Key Nubian Collaborators
      (pp. 305-305)
    • Appendix 4 PhDs Earned by Team Members
      (pp. 306-306)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 307-328)