Nubia, ancient region in northeastern Africa, extending approximately from the Nile River valley (near the first cataract in Upper Egypt) eastward to the shores of the Red Sea, southward to about Khartoum (in what is now Sudan), and westward to the Libyan Desert. Nubia is traditionally divided into two regions. The southern portion, which extended north to the southern end of the second cataract of the Nile was known as Upper Nubia; this was called Kush (Cush) under the 18th-dynasty pharaohs of ancient Egypt and was called Ethiopia by the ancient Greeks. Lower Nubia was the northern part of the region, located between the second and the first cataract of Aswān; this was called Wawat.
The region of Lower Nubia saw one of the earliest phases of state formation in the world: rulers of the A-Group culture—who were buried in a cemetery at Qustul, excavated by the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago in the 1960s—adopted symbols of kingship similar to those of contemporary kings of Egypt of the Naqādah II–III period. With the rise of the 1st dynasty in Egypt (c. 2950 BCE), the A-Group culture and Nubia’s independence were extinguished. No archaeological remains of the native Lower Nubians of the next 500 years have been discovered.
Pharoah Snefru (c. 2575 BCE) conducted a raid into Nubia and established an Egyptian outpost at Buhen. West of the Nile, quarries for gneiss were opened as mineral exploitation intensified. During the 6th dynasty, the Egyptian governors of Aswān started long-range trading expeditions, sometimes combined with military raids. The most-famous governor among them, Harkhuf, penetrated southward far beyond the second cataract of the Nile to a land he named Yam, whence he obtained a Pygmy whom he brought to Pepi II. Toward the end of Harkhuf’s career, the Nubian chiefs united, imperiling the Aswān expeditions. A new population (called C-Group by archaeologists) inhabited Wawat, while a group known in the present day as the Karmah culture occupied Kush. During the First Intermediate Period many Nubians served as mercenaries in Egypt.
When Sesostris I of the 12th dynasty invaded Nubia about 1915 BCE, he named the land south of the second cataract Kush. Sesostris III, about 1826 BCE, tried to occupy Sai Island but was compelled to fall back to Semna, where he built a chain of powerful fortresses. He forbade the Kushites to pass north of Semna, except to trade at Iken (Mirgissa), a major commercial centre at the northern end of the second cataract. Semna was also where the Egyptians recorded the Nile inundation levels during the Middle Kingdom.
The kingdom of Kush eventually broke through the frontier as Egyptian control waned in the later 13th dynasty. The Kushites seized Buhen and by 1650 BCE had advanced northward to Aswān. About the time of the Hyksos invasion of Egypt, they raided Upper Egypt, seizing many fine Middle Kingdom monuments that they carried off to Karmah, their capital. Archaeologists found those objects during the excavations of the large tumulus tombs of the Kushite chiefs, who were buried on beds surrounded by hundreds of their sacrificed retainers. Some expatriate Egyptians took service with the rulers of Kush as mercenaries, while others probably worked in the glaze industry at Karmah. Hyksos seals from the Karmah tombs indicate that the Kushite princes had contact with the Hyksos. When Kamose of Egypt’s Theban 17th dynasty attacked the Hyksos, the Hyksos ruler Apopis I sought to make an alliance with the Kushites. Kamose, however, intercepted the messenger, thwarting the scheme.
While expelling the Hyksos, the Thebans began to penetrate Nubia also and, under Ahmose, mounted a full invasion of the region. Amenhotep I (1514–1493 BCE) conquered Karmah, destroying the kingdom of Kush. Nubia was colonized, and the viceroy of Kush became its chief Egyptian imperial official. Thutmose I extended Egyptian control to Kanisa-Kurgis, upstream from the fourth cataract of the Nile. Gold was the main resource exploited by the Egyptians, Kush producing significant amounts of this precious metal. The C-Group Nubians were gradually Egyptianized until, by the middle of the 18th dynasty, their culture had disappeared. Ramses II (1279–1213 BCE), of the 19th dynasty, had several temples constructed in Nubia. In the 19th–20th dynasty, desiccation caused a partial depopulation of Wawat, but, in the civil wars of the late 20th dynasty, the viceroy of Kush played a major role. After Herihor took control in Upper Egypt, Nubia broke away from Egypt despite a long and costly war waged by the Thebans.
In the region of Kush a new kingdom appeared about 800 BCE. Under its ruler, Kashta, rapid Egyptianization started, and the Kushites occupied Upper Egypt. The Kushite ruler Piankhi (Piye) completed the Egyptianization and about 730 BCE raided Lower Egypt. Ardent worshipers of Amon, the Kushites considered the Libyanized Lower Egyptians cultural degenerates, but they felt a strong affinity for the Thebans, who were also worshipers of Amon. The Kushite ruler Shabaka succeeded Piankhi and conquered all of Egypt about 715 BCE, ending the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th dynasties. Moving his capital to Memphis, he founded Egypt’s 25th dynasty, which is called Kushite in the king lists. In 701 BCE Shabaka backed the Hebrew king Hezekiah’s revolt against Assyria. The Assyrian king Sennacherib marched into Palestine and defeated an Egypto-Kushite unit at Eltekeh but failed to take Jerusalem, as Prince Taharqa appeared with reinforcements. Peace between Egypt and Assyria followed until the Assyrian king Esarhaddon began aggressive movements in Palestine. An attempted invasion of Egypt in 674 BCE failed, but in 671 the Assyrians succeeded and expelled Taharqa from Memphis. Taharqa intermittently reoccupied Egypt, but in 663 BCE the Assyrian king Ashurbanipal drove him and his successor Tanutamon out, sacking Thebes. The Assyrians appointed the Saite princes as governors of Egypt, and by 656 BCE the Saite prince Psamtik I had both gained Egypt’s independence from Assyria and secured Upper Egypt against Kushite designs.
Because of continued intrigues, an Egyptian expedition sacked the capital of Kush, Napata, about 592. The Kushite capital was then transferred to Meroe, where the Kushite kingdom survived for another 900 years. The Persians are also believed to have tried to invade Nubia (522).
Cut off from Egypt, the Egyptian culture of Nubia grew increasingly Africanized until the accession in 45 BCE of Queen Amanishakhete. She and her immediate successors temporarily arrested the loss of Egyptian culture, but thereafter it continued unchecked. Meanwhile, in 23 BCE, a Roman army under Gaius Petronius destroyed Napata.
By the 3rd century CE the Blemmyes of the eastern, or Arabian, desert (Beja) had destroyed the Meroitic culture in Lower Nubia, and Meroe itself was destroyed between 320 and 350 by an expedition that was dispatched by Aeizanes, king of Aksum. The Meroitic culture was followed in Nubia by what may have been that of the Nobatae, who replaced the northern kingdom of Napata. In approximately 540 the Nobatae were converted to Christianity, and shortly thereafter their king Silko defeated the Blemmyes and the people of Upper Nobatae. The capital of the Nobatae appears then to have been moved to Pachoras (Faras) until they were amalgamated later in the 6th century with Maqurrah (Makurra) into the single kingdom of Dunqulah. South of Dunqulah was the kingdom of ʿAlwah, or Alodia (Aloa), which became Christian in 580. In 652 a Muslim army from Egypt captured Dunqulah and compelled the kingdom to pay tribute to Egypt; Dunqulah remained Christian until the 14th century, when it was overrun by Mamlūk armies from Egypt. Sūbah, the ʿAlwah capital, survived to the 16th century and then gave way to the Muslim Funj dynasty of Sennar.
The majority of Nubian villages in Egypt today are located near Aswan and Elephantine Island. These villages are very different than other Egyptian villages and are often easily distinguished by the bright, vibrant colors of the houses. While the Nubians who live here are considered to be citizens of Egypt, they still retain their own culture.
It is possible to visit some of these Nubian villages during your vacation. While Nubian village visits aren’t normally scheduled into Egypt vacation packages, you can ask your private Egyptologist guide to add it on. The best place to do this is in the Nubian villages by Aswan where you can stroll around the streets, shop at the local markets (you can find some great loose leaf teas, spices, and even handmade scarves here), and learn about the local life. Not only is it a great way to learn about this part of Egypt and the Nubian culture, but the locals can benefit financially from the tourism as well. Especially if you do some souvenir shopping.
The area in which most Nubians live (Aswan to Abu Simbel near the Sudan border) is an archaeological area that is commonly referred to as ‘Nubian monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae’.
What makes these monuments so impressive is not only that they are incredible in their own right as relics that date back to more than 3000 years, but also that these structures all had to be dismantled, moved, and put back together in their original form upon the completion of Aswan High Dam.
The Nubian monuments from Abu Simbel to Philae is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and consists of 11 sites located between these two temples. Only 2 of these 11 sites have remained in their original location: the granite Quarries in Aswan and the fortress of Qasr Ibrim.
It’s important to note that while these are called the Nubian Monuments, they were not built by the Nubian people. They are given the name based on their location. That being said, it is believed that some of these temples and monuments were built as a way for Egypt to show its greatness and its power to the Nubian people. As indicated above, Egypt’s power waxed and waned over Nubia and it’s assumed that temples such as Abu Simbel were created in part in hopes of impressing and perhaps even intimidating the Nubians.
Abu Simbel is actually two massive carved rock temples. The largest is dedicated to the god Amun, as well as to the Pharaoh Rameses II himself who ordered the creation of the temple. The second, smaller temple is dedicated to the goddess Hathor and Rameses II’s queen, Nefertari.
The Temple of Philae is, in fact, several temples. The site was known as a place where the goddess Isis was worshipped. It was also a popular pilgrimage site for Egyptians, Nubians, and travellers from as far as Greece and Crete.
A granite quarry seems like an odd attraction, but it’s not the quarries themselves that are interesting, rather what is inside of them. The granite quarry in Aswan is home to two unfinished obelisks. One of the obelisks, had it been completed and erected, would have been nearly one third larger than any other obelisk in Egypt. It is believed that the obelisk was commissioned by Hatshepsut, but that has never been confirmed.
Qasr Ibrim was once a fortress and a major city perched on a cliff above the Nile. Today, after the construction of the dam, Qasr Ibrim is actually situated on a rocky island in the middle of the Nile River. Unfortunately, it cannot be visited by tourists.
The Temple of Kalabsha is relatively new in comparison to other Egyptian temples. It was built around 30BC during the Roman era. The temple was a tribute to the Nubian sun god Mandulis, however, it was never completed.
Beit al-Wali is another temple that was built by Rameses II. Like Abu Simbel, this was one of Ramesses II Nubian temples built in order to try to maintain Egyptian control over Nubia. It is believed that this was the first temple built to serve this purpose.
Originally just a small shrine dedicated to Thoth, the Temple of Dakka was expanded during the Roman period and used as a fortress along the Nile River.
The temple of Maharraqua is a small, unfinished temple with an unknown history. Scholars have been unable to figure out who built this temple and why. It does have one very unique factor; a winding staircase that leads to the roof. This is the only one of the Nubian monuments with this feature.
The temple of Amada is the oldest temple in Nubia. It was built in the 18th dynasty by pharaoh Thutmose III and dedicated to Amun and Re-Horakhty. Several pharaohs added to this temple over time, included Ramesses II.
Temple of Derr was also constructed by Ramesses II. It’s a rock- cut temple and was dedicated to Re-Horakhty.
Kiosk of Quertassi
A tiny Roman Kiosk with 6 columns. While it remained unfinished, what can be seen of the structure is beautiful.
Another rock temple built by Ramses II as part of his Nubian temples. Today, it resides in a valley with two New Kingdom temples.
Without a doubt, the Nubian people were an integral part of ancient Egypt as we know it. Savvy tradespeople, incredible warriors, and cunning rulers, the Nubians played a large role in the creation and success of ancient Egypt. Unfortunately, as mentioned in this article, time has not been kind to these people. However, as a tourist you can help by taking the time to learn more about their culture and importance to Egypt. The Nubians of Egypt are a warm, kind, and welcoming people so consider adding a visit to one of their villages into your Egypt tailor made tour.
Ready to book your trip to Egypt and visit some of the incredible sites built by the Nubians? At Journey To Egypt Tours, we pride ourselves in being one of the best Egypt tour companies in the market. Let us help you create the luxury Egypt tour you’ve been dreaming about.
Q- Is Aswan worth visiting? A-“Aswan itself: the town is worth a visit” ... With its great market, connection to Nubian people and culture, its easy cross Nile ferry trip and a great place to stay, Aswan is a much more enjoyable place than any other place in the world.
Q-What is Aswan known for? A-Aswan is the ancient city of Swenett, later known as Syene, which in antiquity was the frontier town of Ancient Egypt facing the south. ... The stone quarries of ancient Egypt located here were celebrated for their stone, and especially for the granitic rock called Syenite.
Q-How many days do you need in Aswan?A-Three to 4 days- Ancient and cultural attractions, beautiful Nile scenery, and an easy charm. With three days in the city, you can enjoy its highlights, discover local culture, and take day trips or cruises along the Nile Valley or to Lake Nasser's temples.
Q-Is it worth going to Abu Simbel?A- As for Abu Simbel, the immensity of it's beauty and the unbelievable history behind is absolutely worth the visit. You cannot come to Egypt without visiting the marvelous Abu Simbel temple, one of the top Egypt tourist attractions.
Q-How long is a Nile Cruise from Luxor to Aswan?A-A-The Nile Cruise from Aswan To Luxor takes 4 days and vice versa from Luxor to Aswan 5 days.
Q-How much is a Nile cruise? A-Nile cruises offered online or by JOURNEY TO EGYPT start from around $150 per day and that's just for 5 star standard cruise ships. Generally these prices include 3 meals a day, plus 10 expert-led shore excursions with a Certified Professional Guides.
Q-What should I buy in Aswan? A-There are also several shops with interesting things like jewellery and perfumes for your shopping pleasure. Aswan Market - Nubian trinkets, antiques, costumes, Egyptian spices and perfumes are a must-buy in Aswan and the best place to purchase from.