The Nubians are finally making some progress in their quest to have the right to return to villages along the Nile—or at least around the dammed reservoir called Lake Nasser.

An important conference held two weeks ago in Aswan included Nubians plus officials from such government ministries as Agriculture and Land Reclamation, Irrigation and Water Resources, Education, Social Solidarity, and Housing. Titled “Nubian Migration, Present and Future,” the conference included representatives of the Egyptian People’s Assembly and the Shoura Council.

Musaad Herki, head of the Nubian Club in Cairo, told the Daily News Egypt, according to a story on Sunday, that the focus of the conference was the return of Nubians to the edge of the reservoir, a possibility that many of them have been demanding for some time. Three news stories last year—on May 3, May 24, and June 14—all pointed out the growing demands of at least some of the Nubians to have the right to return to the land of their ancestors near the river. According to the article, the meeting was the first of its kind to include both Nubian representatives and high-level government people.

The Nubians asked for five villages to be established around Lake Nasser, at a cost of LE 200 million (US$36.7 million), and for 5,521 Nubian families to be permitted to resettle in them. They also requested the privilege of having their own representatives in parliament, both in the People’s Assembly and in the Shoura Council, rather than just being represented by Assembly members from Kom Ombo. That city, just north of Aswan, was one of the major resettlement areas for Nubians after the completion of the dam.

As a result of the conference, the governor of Aswan, Samir Youssef, has approved the basic Nubian request for land and new villages along Lake Nasser. The governor was unable to approve dedicated representation in the national parliament, since that kind of change would have to be made via a constitutional amendment. He told them that they must come up with the exact number of Nubians who plan to return to the proposed lakeshore villages.

Mr. Herki told the paper that the conference took seven months to organize, but he felt the intense preparation was necessary. He indicated that it was worth the trouble, since the new villages will provide just compensation to at least some of the Nubian families that were evicted from their homes over 40 years ago in Old Nubia.

The move will also provide employment for Nubians who are without jobs. The unemployment rate is 45 percent among Nubians, Herki said. “The new villages around Lake Nasser will provide a good opportunity for them to go back to their grandfathers’ profession,” he told the paper: they can become farmers again, as their ancestors were.

Herki also said that moving Nubian families nearer to the border with Sudan will increase their integration with the Nubians in that country. “By doing that we are preserving our traditions,” he said.