By Mohamed El-Hebeishy
THE LAND of God is what Nubia means in Hieroglyphics; and dedicated to the Land of God is one of Egypt's finest museums -- the Nubian Museum. Mohamed El-Hebeishy takes a tour.
Located on a hilltop overlooking beautiful Aswan, the Nubian Museum covers a huge 50,000-square metre plot of land, of which only 7,000 square metres are dedicated to the museum's building. The building follows traditional Nubian architecture and the museum's background simulates a Nubian countryside, with a running water stream and waterfalls (the Nile and the cataracts). The Nubian Museum's unique design won its architect, Mohamed E-Hakim, the Aga Khan award for architecture back in 2001.
After 11 years of construction, the museum finally opened its doors to the public in November 1997. It houses over 3,000 archaeological pieces and artefacts, mostly salvaged during the UNESCO-led Save the Monuments of Nubia Campaign. Items are well documented and displayed in a way that takes you on a journey through the history of Nubia; from prehistory to modern times.
Ancient Egypt has by far the largest collection, with distinctively Nubian statues (note the difference in features when compared to other ancient Egyptian ones), as well as a giant statue of the deified Pharaoh Ramses II. The voyage then takes us to Christian Nubia where ancient Egyptian deities were forsaken, and their dedicated temples shut down. Some of them were actually turned into churches, as is the case with the Temple of Isis at Philae.
We travel farther into Islamic Nubia, and eventually end up in modern day Nubia. Here, landscape models and replicas are used to draw a picture of social and traditional Nubian culture.
Between its singular architecture, the peculiar items on display, and the distinctive culture it showcases, the Nubian Museum is a must-see when visiting Aswan.
photo: Mohamed El-Hebeishy