Daily News Egypt published a story last week about a new organization that is trying to correct the stereotypes that many people have about the Nubians, people known for their traditional dances, colorful houses along the Nile, and beautiful smiles. The media often focus on such images, which cover up realities that are not as pleasant.

A colorful Nubian house
A colorful Nubian house (Photo by Norman Walsh on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

Some young Nubians decided to challenge the images—that the Nubians are more than just a generous people, that they do more than just hold traditional dances, and that they do not always live in charming settings. The founders started an organization they call “Komma,” a word that means “story,” implying that there is a need to project a correct narrative about contemporary Nubian society in Egypt.

According to Mohammed Thomas, the founder of Komma, the group has two primary goals: improving Nubian society itself and correcting inadequate stereotypes that the media often use to describe the people. In fact, rather than living in idyllic riverside villages, many Nubians, forced to leave their homes when the Aswan Dam was closed in the 1960s, live in a miserable resettlement community far from the river called Kom Ombo.

Thomas added that the Nubians living in Kom Ombo often call it “‘Hell Terrain’ because of the high temperatures there and its long distance from the Nile.” The community lacks sufficient schools, adequate healthcare, reliable electricity, and decent sewage systems. It also lacks enough schools, he charged.

A young Nubian as she was selling handicrafts to tourists
A young Nubian as she was selling handicrafts to tourists (Photo by José Angel Morente Valero on Flickr, Creative Commons license)

The Komma initiative will help foster better impressions of contemporary realities of Egyptian Nubians in the minds of the Arab majority of the country. It intends to promote an understanding of the customs, traditions, language, and civilization of the Nubian people by publicizing the experiences of young Nubians. It will do this through speeches and documentaries, spoken in Nubian but with Arabic subtitles, so that Egyptians can learn more about the minority group.

Working with the Nubian communities, Thomas and four other men organized their first event in the Falaki Theater in downtown Cairo. The next event will be held in April at a venue called El Sawy Culture Wheel, an important cultural facility in central Cairo. He expects that the initiatives of the group will attract additional media attention and after that, he hopes, decision makers and ordinary Egyptians will become aware of the sufferings of the Nubians.