North Nubia and Lake Nasser

The vast distances on this route (more than 300km) can only be covered by boat. A proposed road skirting the E shore of Lake Nasser has not yet been started. The route leads S of Aswan to the southern border of Egypt and into the Sudan. Since the creation of Lake Nasser the Nile Valley is flooded well S of the Sudanese border. The only way to traverse this stretch of water is by boat. Regular twice-weekly sailings are made by steamship to connect with the Sudanese railway at Wadi l:lalf a.

There is a hydrofoil service to Abii Simbel. Boats can (with difficulty) be hired to visit any particular site, but it should be remembered that it is a distance of several hundred kms and takes days rather than hours. A road along the East Bank to Wadi Halla was completed in April 1985. Nubia is a general term for the region from S of Aswan to S of Khartown. Throughout history Egypt has exerted an influence on N Nubia to a greater or lesser degree. In ancient times gold, incense, wood, soldiers, police and slaves were the valuable products of the region and therefore the Egyptians made a continual effort to control it-with varied success. The modem name of Nubia derives from the Ancient Egyptian word for gold, ‘nub’, i.e.

the land of gold. In the New Kingdom it was called Kush and placed in the charge of a viceroy, the third most important official in Egypt. In the Old Kingdom trade, mining and military expeditions were undertaken to Nubia on a rather casual basis and it was not until the powerful kings of the Middle Kingdom that a methodical military campaign was waged. To support their presence Senusert m built a series of forts along the river as far S as the Second Cataract, which also served as trading posts with the tribal Nubians. The New Kingdom extended Egyptian control upstream ·to the Fourth Cataract in modem Sudan. Many rock-cut temples were excavated, especially in the reign of Ramesses II ( 19 Dyn.). As the strength of the Egyptian state declined its control of Nubia dwindled, but it left behind an indigenous highly Egyptianised culture

centred on the city of Napata, below the Fourth Cataract. By the mid-SC these people, under King Piankhi, were so powerful that they were able to invade Egypt, oust the Libyan 22 Dyn. and contain the Egyptian princes in the Delta provinces. Installing themselves as the 25 Dyn., they ruled for nearly 100 years. Taharqa, however, interfered in the politics of Western Asia and his successor Tanutamun had to face the might of the Assyrian Empire under Ashurbanipal. In 656 BC the Assyrians invaded Egypt, sacked Thebes and Tanutamun retreated
before them to Napata. For a thousand years henceforth they confined themselves to Nubia, where they controlled a vast territory.


With local variations they continued the Egyptian tradition, even burying their kings in pyramidal tombs. Later-the capital moved S to Meroe but the religious centre remained at Napata. Retaining its power, the Napatan Empire made a treaty with Ptolemaic Egypt and N Nubia was ruled as a condominiwn-the Dodekas-choinus (12 Leagues)–and the Ptolemies built extensively in the area. Equality was anathema to the early Romans and they aggressively pushed back the southern borders of Egypt to Hierosykaminos (MaQaraqah). In the late 3C internal crises within the Roman Empire caused Diocletian to abandon the area completely.

A powerful Hamitic camel-riding nomadic tribe, the Blemmyes (perhaps the modem Beja) established themselves in the mid 4C along the foothills of the E mountains and moved W until they effectively formed a wedge between the Napatan Empire and Egypt N of Aswan. They continued to harry the frontiers of both Roman Egypt and Nubia until the late SC. This cessation of trade between the two areas isolated and weakened the Napatans until in AD 350 Ezana, the

North Nubia and Lake Nasser

Negus of Abyssinia, conquered Meroe and brought the empire to an end. From the remnants of the Napatan Empire three kingdoms arose. The N region from Aswan to ~ayy, just above the Third Cataract, was Nobatia with its capital at Bajrash (Faras). S of this to beyond the Fifth Cataract was Malcuria, with its capital at Dongola. Extending beyond this to the swamps of the S lay Alodia, whose capital was Suba. In the mid 6C Silko, King of Nobatia, drove the Blemmyes back to the E hills and even invaded Southern Egypt. The magnificent tombs of this dynasty were discovered at Qustul and Ballanah, still showing Ancient Egyptian traditions except for the mass execution of servants and animals, a grotesque ceremony abandoned by the Egyptians after the 1 Dyn.

Lake Nasser
North Nubia and Lake Nasser

Probably because of the pressure exerted by the aggressive Persian occupationin the 7C, the kingdoms of Nobatia and Makuria merged with the power residing at Dongola. • Although Christians had drifted into Nubia during the early centuries of the
Christian era, from the mid 6C missionaries were sent directly from Const antinople in an effort to convert the Nubians, and for a time the kingdom wavered between allegiance to the Orthodox or Coptic churches. This influence was discontinued by the Persian invasion and subsequent Arab conquest and the field was left to the Copts.

By the mid 7C the area was firmly within the Monophysite sphere, maintaining strong links with the patriarchate of Alexandria. The Arabs called Nobatia al-Maris (from the Coptic for ‘south’) and from shortly after the conquest Arab tribes and individual merchants filtered into Nubia while other Arabs came across the Red Sea. A great number of Muslims of the Judhaym tribe were displaced from their lands in the Nile Delta by ~al&:Q.

al-Din in the 12C and were forced to move S into Nubia. Many of these men married into Nubian families and this produced a strange result. As the laws of inheritance in Nubia were through the matrilinear line, the Muslims gradually