Before the Aswan High Dam was finished in the early 1960s in southern Egypt, about 50,000 people lived in Old Nubia, along both sides of the Nile River south of Aswan. After the completion of the dam, the Egyptian government moved the affected Nubian people to New Nubia, north of the dam. Many Nubians currently live in the major cities of northern Egypt, as well as in the Sudan south of the border.

Nubians think of their society as balad el aman, a land of peacefulness and security. Moreover, this concept was facilitated by their creative and collective solutions to local agricultural needs. The expensive water wheels they built for irrigation required families to share resources. The economic circumstances brought about by the water wheel technology prompted the Nubians to maintain a social system of cooperative partnerships based on stable, more or less equitable, divisions of land. This also helped minimize disparities in wealth.

Today, many Nubians hold wage jobs, the same as other Egyptians, though many also long to return to a rural life in communities near the river, or what used to be the river, Lake Nasser. As demonstrated in the film, “Memories of Utopia,” many Nubians are actively maintaining their cultural heritage and the ideals of their Old Nubia homeland. For additional information on the Nubians please see the news and reviews and encyclopedia of this website.

Nubian documentary (“Memories of Utopia”) (51:04): This film from Sudanese Online begins with a narrator describing the construction of the Aswan dam in the 1960’s, resulting in the displacement of many Nubians. It continues with the story of the narrator seeking to return home and his hope of rekindling his Nubian heritage. He meets other Nubians on his journey and discovers the many ways they are collectively ensuring the continuation of their culture.