The First Nubian Cultural, Tourist Festival, Festival of the Royal Descendants

By: Ahmed Alhaj (Site Admin)

KHARTOUM, (SUDANOW)—The Nubian civilization of ancient Sudan is regarded as the first human civilization that has appeared on earth. It was the world’s first kingdom with its capital Karma on the bank of River Nile in north Sudan and it possessed the world’s richest archeological antiquities. The notion of the 1st Nubian Cultural-Tourist Festival was motivated for demonstrating the riches of this civilization, politically, socially and culturally. The city of Wadi Halfa (the Bride of the Sudan) which was nicknamed by the American Professor Herman Bell as the “Lost Paradise”, was selected to a venue of the festival. This civilization was intoned by Africa’s leading singer-musician Dr. Mohamed Wardy in a poem by Poet Mursy Mohamed Salih Siraj saying: “When the glory built roads on earth … Tehraqa determination and Arab faith… It was shouldered by us – Arabs and Nubians.” He added: “We are the descendants of the kings of history.”   


The festival was intended to reflect this civilization in cultural symposiums and exhibitions of the rituals, ceremonies and costumes of that era in addition to an operetta that relates the crowning ceremonies of the Nubian queens. The festival consisted of Nubian songs, an exhibition of the Nubian folklore and books on the Nubian civilization, culture, environment and nature of the region. It also included cultural entertainment activities, book fairs, portraits, poetry, fashion shows and a panorama on the Nubian civilization in addition to documental films on the ancient Nubian heritage. 

Participants in the festival that was organized under the motto “Meskagro” and sponsored by DAL Group included Mustafa Mohamed Abdul Gadir, Hajjaj Odol, Mohamed Suleiman Jidocab, Herman Bell from England, the American singer Rye and 15 Nubian troupes from Wadi Halfa, Dongola, Sukut, Mahas and Halfa Al-Jadidah.  

DAL prepared a programme, in coordination with the Nubian groups in charge of the festival, that started with an explanatory study on architecture by Dr. Hashim al-Khalifa, of DAL distinguishing center in Khartoum North.

Dr. Khalifa covered in a lecture he delivered the stages of building the Nubian home starting from the Pharaohs, Assyrians, the Greeks and the renaissance. He dwelt on the positive Nubian role in the political, economic and administrative walks of life in the Sudan, noting that this role was predominant in the spheres of innovation. Dr. Khalifa said interaction by the Nubians with the different civilizations and religions and the archeological context along with the natural atmosphere of the desert, river and mountain reflected on the style of Nubian home and its components and on the Nubian village in general.


He said the decorated fronts and the high gates are linked to the historic legacy that dominates a big part of the memory of the Nubian individual. He said the design of the Nubian home consists of a central patio and windows of the rooms opening to the internal courtyard. This, Khalifa noted, reflects the intimacy among members of the family and their being close to gether in absence of the parents. He said the design was ideal in both summer and winter.

The Nubians are fond of the décor, said Khalifa, adding that the nature of the hills and architecture played a significant role in molding the mood of the Nubian character since he was a child playing with mud on the banks of the Nile.

Dr. Mustafa Abdul Gadir, the counselor of documentation of the civilization heritage and lecturer in the high institute of folklore in Cairo, arrived in the Sudan among a group of scholars and experts in the Nubian heritage coming from Egypt, America and Britain for participation in the festival. The lecture Dr. Abdul Gadir delivered at the festival centered on answering a question whether the Nubians had a culture. He began with defining elements of the concept of the perceptible culture as a result of the communal mind expressed in tales and other types of expression and physical culture as expressed in industries, arts, architecture and tools. He spoke on the ancestral origins of the Nubians who reportedly descended from Bene Rabiah, Bene Juhainah and Bene Kanz tribes coming into the region among Ibn Toulon campaign, intermarried with Beja tribes, benefitted from the system of inheritance of the sister’s brother and settled in the region.


 Dr. Abdul Gadir, using the Nubian language, spoke on the Nubian folklore tales, puzzles, proverbs and dancing. He resented pictures of the physical culture represented by industries, costumes and jewelry.

Presenting the components of the Nubian culture –both perceptible and physical- the scholar cited numerous examples of the Sudanese practices derived from that culture. He dwelt at length on the customs, traditions and beliefs, with emphasis on the song which is considered as one of the most important forms of expression which performs specific social functions at certain places, seasons and ceremonies. Dr. Abdul Gadir concluded that the Nubians have a rich culture since ancient times and they still maintain it and transfer wherever they travel.

Dr. Mohamed Mahdi al-Bushra stressed linkage of the Nubian literature to the political, economic and social climate, citing a book on the occurrences during the construction of the High Dam and immigration to Halfa Al-Jadidah. He also cited the Shamandourah novel that was issued in 1968 by Nubian Egyptian writer Mohamed Khalil Gassim who is considered a prominent example of Nubian novelists. 

He said in the lecture he delivered at the Sudanese writers club as part of the events of Nubian festival, that the Nubian literature focuses on the novel rather than poetry and theatrical drama. In Egypt, it reflected a powerful expression of the identity and against violence and confiscation of the Nubian culture, in an obvious attempt to confirm their presence in the Egyptian cultural life. This helped the Nubian personality free itself from the state of seclusion to self-expression after years of fear that its privacy be confiscated and its Nubian culture be dissolved.

The symposium was presented with the experiences of Egyptian writers, who were guests of the festival, who gained some of the highest awards in Egypt for their excellent works which resulted from the shock the Nubians sustained during 1902/12/34 when Aswan Dam was heightened to be followed by the greater shock that was caused by the building of the High Dam in 1964 and the relocation of the entire Nubian villages with all their heritage, components, antiquities and history.

The participants in the symposium affirmed the positive role played by the Nubians in the Sudan in the political and social development in the Sudan and their leading role in the literary activities. They noted that the soft terms of production, the extensive literary activity, the easy publishing facilities and the concern by the Egyptian State for its writers helped in expansion of the Nubian literature in the northern half of the Valley.

The symposium underlined the importance of the popular, literary, cultural and theatrical integration between the Sudan and Egypt, commending an initiative by DAL Group in this respect in addition to sponsoring the festival.


Participants in the festival took seven buses that set out from Khartoum in the morning to reach Wadi Halfa in the evening when they were greeted with songs and rums by Nubians who came from different directions to welcome them. The ceremonies began in the next morning with a Nubian parade that was followed by a an exhibition that displayed the Nubian civilization, then folklore songs and a theatre on the Nubian culture and symposiums on the Nubian civilization in which outstanding writers and scholars, including Herman Bell, took part.

The closing night was the most splendid one that honored by businessman Osama Daood, his brother Ehab and their mother Fathiya who was crowned during the ceremony as a Nubian Queen in recognition of the great deeds her sons have done for the Nubians. Songs at the crowning ceremony consisted of ancient Merowe language. The American singer-researcher, Ms Rye, said she had dreamt of the Nubian civilization and therefore, selected it a topic of hr study. She climbed the theatre in the long Nubian dress and she sang in the Nubian language. The night was wrapped up with Nubian songs.

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