Nubian, Arabized in Egypt

Map Source:  People Group location: SIL / WLMS. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.
People Name: Nubian, Arabized
Country: Egypt
10/40 Window: Yes
Population: 563,000
World Population: 563,000
Primary Language: Arabic, Egyptian Spoken
Primary Religion: Islam
Christian Adherents: 0.00 %
Evangelicals: 0.00 %
Scripture: New Testament
Online Audio NT: No
Jesus Film: Yes
Audio Recordings: Yes
People Cluster: Nubian
Affinity Bloc: Sub-Saharan Peoples
Progress Level:

Introduction / History

The name Nubian was given to the original inhabitants of Nubia, a thin settlement along the Nile River in southern Egypt. Most of that region was submerged by the flooding of the Aswan High Dam in 1964, and thousands of Nubians were relocated to an area in Komombo called New Nubia.

For many years, foreign conquerors and traders passed through Nubia, sometimes settling and intermarrying with the Nubians. The Arabs, who invaded much of North Africa in the seventh and eleventh centuries, displaced some Nubian groups and absorbed others. As a result, nearly 390,000 Nubians are now "Arabized," influenced by the Arab culture, language, and religion. Though they share the same origin as their Nubian neighbors, most Arabized Nubians have adopted the lifestyle of Egyptian Arabs, and today, some people consider them an Arab group. These Arabized Nubians live east of Komombo in Aswan and speak an Arabic dialect called Masri.

What Are Their Lives Like?

The land in which the Arabized Nubians live is low-lying, fertile, and suitable for cultivation because of its proximity to the Nile River. Millet, wheat, barley, beans, dates, and watermelons are raised for both household consumption and some trade. One of the basic staples of the diet is dura, a thin, coarse bread eaten by Bedouin Arabs. Pieces of the bread are piled on top of one another and eaten with vegetables and sauces. Although most Arabized Nubians are farmers, many have found jobs in the cities as teachers, government workers, seamstresses, and retailers.

Most Arabized Nubians are peasants who live in villages in rural areas. Their houses are simple, round dwellings with grass-thatched roofs. Just as the original Arabs lived a nomadic life, some Arabized Nubians also seasonally migrate with their herds. These live in temporary camps, with dome-shaped shelters made of branches covered with grass. Arabized Nubians dress in a fashion similar to other Arabs. Long-sleeved cotton tunics, or djellabas, are worn with sandals and cotton turbans or caps.

Family honor is important to Nubians. Each member of a family has a defined role, according to Arab tradition. The Arabized Nubians find shelter in the family during times of economic hardship and in old age. Children are a great asset to the village, as they provide the work force and security for the future. When young people leave to work in the towns or cities, the family's socio-economic system is often weakened.

The birth of children, especially boys, is cause for celebration among the Nubians. The first word a baby hears is the word "Allah" whispered in its ear. Boys and girls are raised together during early childhood, yet receive different treatment. Boys are given much affection and are pampered by their mothers, while girls, though shown some affection, are not pampered. The father is a stern disciplinarian to both boys and girls. Boys help their fathers and older brothers in the fields and are taught to obey and respect older males. Girls help their mothers cook and help care for the younger children.

Life for Nubians center around important ceremonies, such as birth, marriage, death, and the first haircut and circumcision for boys. The most elaborate of all ceremonies is the marriage ceremony. Some men have more than one wife, but under Islamic law, they cannot have more than four.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Arabized Nubians are totally Muslim, following the teachings of the prophet Mohammed, as written in the Koran. To the Muslim, Islam provides hope for a better life after death. The mosque is the center of worship, where mostly men go to pray. If the women go to the mosque, they must pray in the back of the building.

What Are Their Needs?

The great majority of Nubians have not had an opportunity to hear the Gospel. Prayer is the key to breaking the stronghold of Islam over their lives.

Prayer Points

Ask the Lord to send laborers into Egypt to minister the love of Jesus to Nubians.
Pray that evangelical literature in the Masri language will be made available to Nubians.
Ask the Holy Spirit to soften the hearts of Nubians to the Gospel message.
Ask the Lord to save key leaders among Nubians who will profess Jesus as Lord.
Ask God to raise up prayer teams who will begin breaking up the soil through intercession.
Pray that strong local churches will be raised up among Nubians.

Text Source:   Bethany World Prayer Center