Confounding experts, an ancient culture thrives in Egypt

Nubian instrument

April 8, 1996
Web posted at: 7:30 p.m. EDT (2330 GMT)

From Cairo Bureau Chief Gayle Young

CAIRO, Egypt (CNN) -- A quarter of a century after Nubian lands in Egypt were swamped by the completion of Egypt's fabled High Aswan Dam, the culture of the Nubian people has confounded experts by not only surviving, but actually thriving. (1.2MB QuickTime movie)

Nubian instrument

A people of Arabic, Egyptian and Sub-Saharan descent who lived predominately in Southern Egypt for millennia, the Nubians' traditional homeland was flooded in 1971 when the Aswan dam, one of the world's largest, was built on the Nile to control the flow of flood waters.

Many anthropologists thought the Nubian heritage -- their distinct language and culture -- was doomed when the Aswan dam went up. Instead, Nubians flooded into Cairo, bringing their colorful heritage with them.

"The Nubian culture has gone from generation to generation," said one Nubian man. "Our culture will never die."

Nubian guitar

Nubian culture resonates in its music, which has been updated. Drums and clapping hands dominated the music of old Nubia. Now, musicians are plugging in new instruments. The change has been cheered by the young, and even many old-timers are swaying to the new beat. (57K AIFF sound or 57K WAV sound)

"Before there were only drums but now there are instruments, and it's much better with instruments," says one fan. (89K AIFF sound or 89K WAV sound)

Ali Kuban's Nubian band is one of the hottest of the genre, with multiple club dates and recording contracts. The new style Nubian music has a growing number of fans outside the Nubian community, and a culture that some predicted would wash away with the Nile River has instead taken Egypt by storm.


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