Aswan is very pretty. It’s Egypt's southernmost city where the Middle East meets Africa, by the Sudan. The energy, the ambience of the place was quite different from our last stop - Cairo. The beat of the music, the open spaces, the clean air, the ever blossoming flambuoyant tree with its bright red blossoms flanking the trees that hang close to the nile were all so beautiful.

In Aswan, we had planned a felucca (Egyptian yacht) ride on the nile and a visit to a Nubian village. What we didn’t know is that the festivities would actually start on our first boat before even transferring to the felluca!
Felluca on the nile in Aswan

The boat was run by people from Nubia, the region between Aswan in the South of Egypt and the Khartoum in Sudan. Ahmedo was reminded of an incident that occurred when he travelled to Senegal as part of Egypt’s national folkloric dance troupe, the Firqua Kowwmeiya. He told the story of a Nubian singer, Mohammed who travelled with them. The stage manager indicated that the troupe were not on for a while so Mohamed went to the washroom. But the stage manager had made a mistake, and the troupe had to perform right away. Fortunately, Mohammed had taught the troupe the song, so they were able to sing and dance at the same time!

There was a great deal of excitement in Arabic as Ahmedo discovered that the older man sitting on the front of the boat, was actually Mohammed! Of course, he had to sing the very song for us! We had one of those really magical moments. What were the chances that these former performers would meet on the only felucca ride, Denise and Ahmedo would take in thirty years?

Mohamed beat the douff or drum and sang while the other nubians started dancing. One of them got up on a little table in the middle of the boat, and soon we were all up dancing, singing, laughing.

  Mohammed singing the song from 30 years ago

The Nubians would sing a line and then ask us to repeat after them, ‘Ianara’. Even the way the word rolls off the tongue is beautiful. The music, the songs, sang in their language create a very special ambience. Between the singing, the dancing, the breeze across the nile, propelling our sails, it seemed as if there was magic in the air. It just one of those idyllic moments.

The feeling.. . there was so much warmth and open-ness. The Nubians were very friendly. Posture - their posture was beautiful. They stood tall - one man loomed well over 6 foot - whether he really was or whether it was a trick of my perception - I don’t know. They beamed with kindness and lots of joy.

We were a very easy to animate - a group of dancers. It must have been nice for them to see us embrace their culture so easily.

  View of the nile in Aswan  

This was not the end of our sojourn. After sailing around Elephantine Island, as the sun sparkled on the Aga Khan Mausoleum, we went to a Nubian village, Garb Aswan.

We alighted from the boat, and climbed up terracotta coloured earthen steps to the village. The homes were built of mud-brick and painted in white and a turquoise that I refer to as 'mediterranean blue'. Some of the ceilings were domed, but the house we went into, had a beautiful roof made of split palm trees. But they weren’t the regular palm trees. These had half-shell patterns on the outside somewhat similar to a pineapple.

We spent the rest of the afternoon dancing and singing. It was such a privilege to visit their home like that, to be with the people and experience their hospitality. We stayed longer than our scheduled time but I think that many of us were reluctant to leave when the time came. ...NEXT

  The Nubians show us their dance steps  


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