Introduction / History
The Nubians consist of seven non-Arab Muslim tribes which originated in the Nubia region, an area between Aswan in southern Egypt and Dongola in northern Sudan. For centuries, this territory was a crossroads between Egypt and the African tribal kingdoms.
What Are Their Lives Like?
From the 1500s until the 1800s, the Ottoman Empire encroached upon the Nubia region. As a result, many Nubians migrated to remote areas along the Nile. Distinct groups evolved and were named according to their locations. For example, those who settled near the Wadi Kenuz became known as the Kenuzi while those who settled in Dongola became known as the Dongolawi.
In the 1960s, many of the Nubian villages were flooded as a result of the construction of the Aswan High Dam. About 100,000 Nubians were forced to resettle in "New Nubia," 20 miles north of Aswan. Others relocated in Uganda and Kenya. Most Nubian groups speak their own dialect of the Nubian language. However, many also speak Arabic which is the common language of business and trade. Although their languages are different, each group is identical in social, economic, and cultural organization.
The Nubian economy is based on agriculture. During the winter months, they grow wheat, barley, millet, beans, peas, and watermelons. Mangoes, citrus fruits, and palm dates are also part of the Nubian diet. A thin, coarse bread called dura is one of their basic staple foods. Pieces of the bread are usually piled on top of each other and eaten with vegetables and sauces, or are spread with date jelly.
In old Nubia, men migrated to the big cities to find work, while the women farmed the land, cared for the animals, and did household chores. Today, since the land is located far from their dwellings, men do most of the field work while the women work at the home. Some women have also found employment as schoolteachers, public service workers, and seamstresses. Some of the men now own grocery stores or drive cabs.
The typical Nubian house is very spacious, with several large rooms that are able to accommodate the extended family members and guests. In the center of each home is an open courtyard. The front of the house is colorfully painted with geometric patterns. Most of the paintings and decorations on the homes have religious connotations. The colorful designs are a distinctive and admired feature of Nubian culture.
The literacy rate among Nubians is high in comparison with their rural Egyptian neighbors. Primary and secondary schools have been set up in New Nubia, and there are also teacher-training facilities in the area. In addition to education, policies, radio and television are other ways in which socialization takes place among the Nubians.
For centuries, the Nubians often held lengthy religious and agricultural ceremonies. However, since relocation, the ceremonies have been shortened and are now limited to the villages. During these ceremonies, the Nubians express themselves through singing, dancing, and beating drums.
Though the Nubians were mostly Christians in the sixth century, they are now almost all Muslims. Most of them do not have many Christian resources nor mission agencies working among them.
What Are Their Beliefs?
The Nubians were converted to Christianity during the sixth century. They remained so until the gradual process of Islamization began taking place from the fourteenth until the seventeenth centuries. Today, the Nubians are almost all Muslims. However, their traditional animistic beliefs (belief that non-living objects have spirits) are still mingled with their Islamic practices.
What Are Their Needs?
The traditional beliefs of the Nubians were centered on the spirit of the Nile. The Nile is believed to have life-sustaining power and to hold the power of life and death within it. The people believe that the river is endowed with angels, sheiks (religious leaders), and other powerful beings. The sheiks are sought daily for their advice in the areas of health, fertility, and marriage.
The Kenuzi Nubians have an annual festival known as the "Saints Day Celebration," or moulid. This holiday reinforces the history of the Kenuzi. Gifts are presented at the ancestral shrines in the fulfillment of a promise made the previous year. Colorful processions are held during this time of celebration. Dancing, singing, and feasting are also included in the festivities. The moulid is still celebrated in New Nubia each year.
The Nubians in Kenya and Uganda have few Christian resources or missions agencies working among them. Most of these tribes have not heard a clear presentation of the Gospel.
Intense prayer, increased evangelism efforts, and additional Christian resources are necessary to reach these tribes who were once a Christian people.
Pray that the Lord will raise up laborers who are willing to invest long term service as missionaries to the Nubians of Central Africa.
Pray that loving African Christians will gain a vision to see the Nubians reached with the Gospel.
Ask the Lord to save key leaders among the Nubians who will boldly declare the Gospel.
Pray for cooperation among missions agencies that are ministering to these tribes.
Pray that God will raise up linguists to translate the Word of God into each of the tribal languages.
Ask God to send medical teams and humanitarian aid workers to minister to the Nubians.
Pray that strong local fellowships of believers will be planted among each of these tribes.
Scripture Prayers for the Nyiman, Ama in Sudan.
Bethany World Prayer Center