The Nubian Museum basically accommodates exhibition for the display of the Nubian heritage.
Historically, Nubia’s position as Egypt’s gateway to the rest of Africa made it an important trade centre. The Nubian people were settlers, who lived by agriculture, trade and pastoral activities. During the Old Kingdom, Nubia maintained its independence from Egypt but from the Middle Kingdom until the Thirteenth Dynasty it came under the domination of Egyptian kings. The Egyptians ruled Nubia again in the Eighteenth Dynasty, but through local governors and when the Twenty-Fifth Dynasty was established, Nubian rulers enjoyed a time of independence, political stability and economic prosperity. Even the Roman emperors, who showed great interest in Nubia, allowed it to retain independence under their sovereignty. By the end of the sixth century AD Nubia had converted to Christianity. In the eighth and ninth centuries, political and economic stability again brought prosperity to the region. Nubia’s conversion to Islam occurred gradually through intermarriage with Arab traders. Muslim leaders from Egypt sent expeditions to Nubia but it wasn’t until the sixteenth century that its conversion was complete.
Today, there is no political entity called Nubia. Its lands now lie partly in Egypt and partly in Sudan, with most of the northern region completely submerged under Lake Nasser following the building of the High Dam.
Architectural character of Nubian villages
Nubian villages spread along the Nile in clustered terraces, and throughout Nubia the principal entrances to houses face the river. The main entrance opens onto a courtyard with MASTABAS – raised seating areas. The rooms of the house are arranged along the courtyard’s far wall, the most important being the MANDARA, or guest room, which has a separate entrance and a vault roof. Some living rooms – called tents or KHAYMA – are simply open with a flat roof of palm branches. The houses are of mud, mud brick or stone, plastered inside and out by the women and children, who decorate the walls, especially the entrances, with bright and colorful designs. The roofs of the houses are of palm trunks or timber beams covered with palm thatch. Small openings at high level help to circulate the air brought into the house via the courtyard, which acts as a ventilating space and a “private piece of sky” for the benefit of the household.
The total area of the museum is 10,110 square meters, with a ground-floor area of 7,000 square meters on a 50,000-square-metre site. The project is in two sections: the museum building, which is in one volume, and the landscaped outdoor exhibition. The building comprises three stories.
The ground floor comprises the main entrance hall; shops; the temporary exhibition hall; VIP lounge and associated service areas; a 150-seat lecture theatre with three translation booths; public toilets; security and administration offices; staff living quarters and facilities area; and lifts for visitors, staff and services. The first floor comprises the cafeteria (with a kitchen service); the library; administration offices and meeting room.
The basement level are the main exhibition space of the museum, measuring 3,500 square meters, and the diorama; the education section with its own entrance from the garden and reception area, workshop, classroom and outside theatre; the restoration studios, comprising five laboratories – papyrus and fabric, organic, metal, inorganic, and a fumigation lab – as well as other facilities; the main storage areas; exhibition workshops.
The outdoor exhibition area includes a cave housing prehistoric drawings of animals; a Nubian house; an outdoor theatre for five hundred people; various exhibition pieces; two shrines – the Maqqam (shrine ) of Saida Zeinab and the Maqqam of the 77 Walis (Muslim Saints); one Musalla (place of prayer) – Qubat Al-Mukhasal; and several graves, said to be Fatimid, Roman and Coptic in origin. A water canal represents the River Nile, surrounded by local flora and fauna.
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