Growing up it wasn’t a long time before I realized my Nubian heritage. Even though i didn’t really know much about Nubia, except for the stories that my parents would occasionally share with me, and the closest that I physically ever got to old Nubia was a couple of weeks stay in Aswan. Even though the old Nubian language was a total foreign language to me except for maybe one word or two that had proven stubborn enough to stay in my memory all these years, yet always a sense of sweet familiarity would take a hold over me whenever the subject of Nubia came up. I was always Intrigued by Nubia, some might even say to the point of obsession. I say it’s just a healthy show of interest in my heritage and rightfully so. With interest along came sorrow to see what has become of Nubia and the Nubian people under the old regime, however I never thought of writing anything in the subject, mainly because I never saw the point of it, and never dreamed of a listening ear. But hey the revolution has finally erupted, ending 30 years or more of rigidness and if anything people are more relaxed and tolerant towards critic, right ?. It’s becoming more socially acceptable to criticize the old regime or even the media that assisted that regime all along, so here goes nothing….

I still remember clearly one of the times when we watched as kids an old Egyptian black and white movie. Back in the days this was one of our major entertainment outlets, nothing could come close or compare to gathering around the TV, imitating the old famous actors and mocking the easily guessed plot of the movie yet enjoying every second of it. Watching these old movies was considered an almost religious experience by most, and the actors were highly appreciated for their talent, and brilliance in acting. I wasn’t different from most people; I too found a great deal of pleasure in watching them. Yet Always, I still remember, when the scene had a black man in it. He would always be Othman the black bawab ‘janitor’ or sofragy ‘house boy’ with the broken Arabic. It was almost like these characters where on-set accessories added generically to every movie. Sadly this heritage of stereotyping goes on even in today’s movies. With only the characters and plots changed and only craftier editions to the stereotyping art, like implying that dark skinned women are of lesser beauty than their fair counterpart, are added.

The more positive image of Nubians –if the word positive can be used carelessly- was usually a quarter of an hour segment on national TV featuring Nubians in traditional cloths chanting in a rather exotic language. In a way, intentionally or unintentionally, what these programs helped to create is a shallow one dimensional image of Nubians, and help to sleekly diminish their culture and history into nothing more but some rhythmic dance moves and some catchy songs.

The biggest problem with the media, however, is that even when a whole episode of a program or a documentary is dedicated to talk about the Nubians rights and the agonizing history of the resettlement to make way for “Lake Nasser” for the greater good. They usually settle for some lousy excuse of an interview with the local old Nubian folks in the new resettlements that talk about the tough situation that they had to handle/endure when they moved into the poorly constructed new villages that lacked basic services like running water and electricity. seldom though will a documentary go to the length of interviewing a group of knowledgeable Nubians that have been active participants in demanding the lost rights of the Nubians, that have the background knowledge of their culture and the insightfulness of having some practical talks to reach a better position for the Nubians in the future. Certainly not due to rarity of such individuals.

What the media helped to create throughout the years and seep into the society is a false image of Nubians as second hand citizens, and an easy and acceptable target for mockery and ridicule by ill-educated individuals in the society. I remember an old family member telling me that as a kid, it was not uncommon for the other kids as means of innocent tease, to call Nubian kids by the name “Barabra”. “Barabra” or “Barbari” is a quite degrading term that was commonly used to refer to the black men that I talked about earlier in the black and white old movies. The word “barabra” and the word “barbarian” in English share the same origin. It was first used by Greeks to refer to any other civilizations that didn’t speak their language as a way of mocking them. Through history the word was borrowed and tossed between different civilizations as a means of describing an uncivilized ethnic group of individuals that lack social status, it was commonly used by one civilization in a condescending sarcastic and degrading manner towards others they thought less of.

Throughout the years one could see that the old regime has used different strategies to weaken the Nubian heritage and persona. It began by relocating them into less than adequate accommodations with no mentionable facilities or services, and failing to even pay them adequate compensations for their losses and inconvenience of relocating them. Some might say that the Abu-simbel temple with the four statues of Ramesses II the famous dead king of old Egypt got better treatment than the living people of Nubia. Stuck with the new poorly constructed accommodations, many if not most Nubians had no choice but to relocate at their own expense to many different cities in Egypt including Alexandria, Cairo and Aswan. Some also went to the northern parts of Sudan. This unorganized sudden spread throughout Egypt and Sudan, helped weakening the Nubian identity and culture, and most of today’s Nubian youth don’t even recognize their native Nubian language anymore.

Things like naming the lake “Lake Nasser” instead of any other name that would tie it to the people that once lived there, or intentionally not adding a decent mention in the schools curriculum to state the facts for generations to come of the sacrificial role the Nubians had to endure for the rest of the Egyptians, or better yet the history of the Nubian kingdom that once had control over Egypt among other areas in Africa. These were all nothing but techniques used to erase, alter or at least diminish the true value of Nubians throughout history.

Of course in recent years leading to the recent revolution, more Nubians where fed up with the government systematic negligence and arrogance that they started to be more upfront in their demand for their long forgotten rights. This did not sit right with the regime back then, so they did what they do best, they started rumors that the Nubians dreamed of separation from Egypt, making any Nubian demanding for his/her rights a traitor in the eyes of the rest of the Egyptian population.

Will this prolonged absurd episode of discrimination against darker skinned people continue in an ironically dark skinned nation, or will we help put a stop to it, I don’t know? I long dream of an Egypt where the individuality of its people is celebrated not damned and if anything we need a social and cultural revolution to change our old racist ways fed by the old regime. The purpose of this article wasn’t to bash society or victimize Nubians; It is but a mean to simply state the political and social marginalization and racism that Nubians had to endure throughout the years. Maybe by taking an honest look into our faults as a society we can help shape it into a better one, instead of burying our heads in the sand and claiming everything was super bright and dandy.

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