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In reading several books regarding Egyptian travel, this author was surprised to see the Egyptian populous divided into four cultural groups consisting of Copts, Bedouins, Nubians and Egyptian peasants, or fallahin. Upon closer examination, fallahins are presented basically as farmers living in villages. Perhaps this is a correct and traditional definition of the word fallahin, but it was immediately apparent that this division of cultural groups was out of touch with reality, and showed no feeling for Egypt's true flavor.
Egypt is actually a wonderful and delightful mixture of traditions, with a socioeconomic structure which allows, more and more, a gradient of classes. But one must look, and feel with the heart in order to touch this essence of Egypt.

The Fallahins
The rural peasants provided the pharaohs with both the manpower to build their majestic monuments and the food to support the workers. Even today, the fallahin wrest two or three crops from their tiny fields in a futile attempt to feed Egypt's ever-expanding population. These farmers live in small villages, often settled by their Pharaonic ancestors, scattered along the Nile.
 

The Egyptian Villages
Most of the inhabitants live in mud-brick homes, their thick walls insulating against the afternoon heat. Flat roofs, exposed to the northern evening breezes, serve as cool sleeping quarters as well as storage areas. Villagers plaster the outer walls and often trim them in blue, a color they believe wards off the evil eye. As a man becomes richer, he can add a second story to his house perhaps for his married son. Those villagers who have made the journey to Mecca paint the legend of their trip on the outer walls of their homes. Such hajj houses, along with the mosques, are the most distinguished buildings in a village.
Some villagers build ornate pigeon coops close to their homes, using the birds as food and their droppings to fertilize crops. Many houses still have dirt floors and lack electricity or running water; women with jars balanced on their heads make the trek to the community well, and children with donkeys haul the precious liquid in jerry cans.
All this said, government sponsored building programs have also brought newer style residences and utilities to some villages, particularly those outside the Nile Valley in the Oases and the Red Sea coastal areas.

The Bedouin
Wandering throughout Egypt's deserts, Bedouin nomads continually search for fresh grazing for their camels and goats and water for their families. They don't wander aimlessly, but return annually to various locations in their territory where the land and water can sustain them for the season. Little in the desert escapes the Bedouin's eye. He knows where and when he can find water and whether it's just brackish or toxic; shrubs tell him when it last rained and how much. Signs left in the sand proclaim who has been there before him, when, the directions from which they came and departed, the size of their flocks, and perhaps even the ages of their camels. Bedouins navigate by the stars, familiar landmarks, and stone markers left on a previous trek. They travel light, leaving caches hanging in trees. Other travellers, if in need, are welcome to the food and water but are bound not to touch the remaining articles.

The Nubians
Dark-skinned Nubians inhabit the narrow valley south of Aswan. Although modern studies have been unable to establish the ancestry of the Nubian people or trace changes in the race through history, they carry predominantly Caucasian genes and appear unrelated to other Africans. These people once farmed the narrow margins of the river, planting palm groves along its edge. Hoisting triangular lateen sails above their boats, they hauled rock, transported villagers, and fished the clear, cold Nile.
A distinct group for centuries, the Nubians (called Medjy) served the pharaohs as traders and elite military forces. (Middle Kingdom models show them marching in precise rows bearing shields and bows or spears.) During the Late Period, Nubians travelled north, invading Luxor to re-establish classical Pharaonic culture.
For centuries, the Nubians have taken great pride in their unique culture, refusing to intermarry, and in spite of centuries of inbreeding, the population shows little ill effect--weak traits must have been eliminated generations ago. In modern times, their pride has led to valiant attempts to maintain their village life even when nearly all of the men worked and lived hundreds of kilometres to the north. Today, transplanted from the lands inundated by the waters of Lake Nasser, these hard-working people are attempting to revive their culture in the face of economic and social pressures.

 

       

 
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