Nubian Island, Egypt solo travel
January 1, 1970
by Lorena Campos De La Mora
One girl, an island and a backpack in Egypt.
I felt that gorgeous feeling once again, of standing in the middle crowd, watching everyone pass by, people talking, cars and taxis, bikes and local cats, the smell of spices, noise, and chaos. But I was there, just standing becoming aware of the feeling of being immersed in such culture.
But let me rewind a little bit for you to follow up.
After a smooth train trip to from Luxor, the city of temples I arrived in Aswan at 12:00 pm at noon, it was kind of hot and crowded at the station, so I kept walking for some meters through the main market until I reached the hotel they recommended me. When I arrived I had the sensation of not being where I truly wanted to be, so the best decision was to look for the Airbnb I saw online which was located on the island next to the city, honestly, I just visualized myself spending my days in that Nubian island.
Who are the Nubian people?
Nubian people are an old race in Egypt, from Luxor to Sudan, their history goes back to Ancient Egypt, they mainly reside by the Nile and make most of their living from farming and fishing from the river, they have their own language and are darker skinned. “Nub” for Egyptians meant gold, owing to of extraction of gold those days, as well as ebony, ivory ( the reason why this island is called Elephantine is due to the number of elephants that lived around), leopard skin and incenses.
How to get to the Elephantine Island?
It’s quite easy to get there, the ferry station is 10 minutes maximum away from the train station and you can even do it by foot, a ride costs 5 pounds for tourists and it takes 5 minutes.As I found a way to get to the island the sun was setting down, I still have the scene playing on and on in my mind of that sunset, the Nile was giving me the feeling I truly desired and the uncertainty of this place was still beating.
My first glance when the ferry arrived were chickens, sheeps, women sitting outside their houses, old men wearing their twab and palm trees, tall and green. Now the next step was to find my guest house, with no internet or idea where to go I asked an old man who showed me the way, through small streets and as I walked I felt that excitement of not knowing what I was about to find. After a long day, I got to the Mango guest house. An adorable danish lady opens the door and welcomes me, the old man turned out to be the owner’s cousin.
My accommodation: the Mango Guesthouse
I spent 4 days in this relaxing guest house, it’s the perfect place to relax and escape the crowds and noise.Puk and Ehab, the hosts, made me feel like home, Ehab was born and raised in the island so I got to meet most if his family, everyone knows each other around the island, even one night while walking around I met his mother, sister, nephew, and aunts, we sat down to have tea, the thing is , it didn’t matter at all that we don’t speak the same language, and my arabic is not enough to complete a full conversation but clearly this is the universal language, kindness, love, and respect don’t need words at all. I even explained to them what I was doing in Egypt and that I was writing and shooting a video here, and agreed to form part of it, this is my favorite picture of them.
This photo for me represents the fusion between cultures, holding hands and appreciating each other’s company. I remember perfectly their smiles and simpleness that brought happiness and peace to my heart. One of my favorite feelings when you travel, the warm sensation of understanding how humans can be exactly how they’re meant to be: real.
Around the island
The second day I walked around the island to take some pictures and enjoy the silence, the sun was shining and I enjoyed the small streets which were full of art and paintings, as well as local shops. The art on this walls is a social and cultural experiment in which foreigners and locals planned to decorate the town with their history and daily life through this.
Throughout the day I found kind people that welcomed me and smiled back, I ended up having some good Turkish coffee in a cafe by the Nile, where I met Ali, a generous man who treated me like a close friend, we spend our time talking about his religion, culture, and life itself, his English was really good. There was a point where we were both there, in silence, sitting down, just being, always enjoying the Nile’s company, our view. Along my stay in this cafe some kids from the school nearby approached to be amazed to see someone different, they hugged me and brought happiness in just a few minutes, that spirit they carry…isn’t amazing how children have the power to be innocence and simpleness, how showing you love doesn’t need any special purpose?
The magical Nile
My last day I spent it sailing by the Nile which has been said to be the longest ancient river (6650 km) that flows through 11 countries, including Kenya, Congo, Sudan, Uganda, and Egypt, before it eventually drains into the Mediterranean Sea; it holds thousands of history, people have been living next to it for centuries and it’s one of the principal resources; it gives you this feeling of peace and amazement. In the boat, two skilled men climbed up the mast to set up the mainsail, and with the wind, they guided us by the sunset, the view was breathtaking and the company even better. Nubian people have this kind of vibe that makes you feel happy just to be around and welcomed.
From the boat, you could see the Tombs of the Nobles which hold the Keepers of the Gate of the South, and other dignitaries of ancient Elephantine Island just across the East bank, the tombs at night are lighted up which give them another perspective and look pretty astonishing.
A rich culture
I had no idea what to expect before traveling in the north of Egypt ( they refer to the North to the geographically south close to Sudan because the Nile flows from the top to the end of the country). There are so many things I learned from Egyptians in general, they welcomed me as part of their daily lives and opened the door to their amazing culture. If you are reading this and you seek to explore an ancestral place, this is your time, I have done it and on my own and had the best time of my life, I ate delicious food, plus your eyes are going to be filled with wonderment most of the time and it’s quite cheap actually, people are incredibly kind and fun, and so many more things I could tell you. But now is up to you to see it with your own eyes, right?
Thanks for reading my experience and I hope I made you feel something with this!
*All of this pictures were taken by me, with all due respect to the people and place.