Nubia today


 Nubian family in front of their
house, Sudan

“Unlike their ancient history, which has been thoroughly studied, little has been recorded in English about the social and economic aspects of the existing Nubian tribes. This, perhaps, is partly because the countless ancient Egyptian remains in the locality are more attractive to the visitors than the cultural life of the inhabitants. The famous travellers of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries mentioned only random details which they came across in passing through Nubia”.

From Hassan Dafalla (district administrator of the area of Wadi Halfa during the crucial period of the migration and resettlement of the Nubians), “The Nubian Exodus”, 1975

The life of the Nubians living from Aswan to the Second Cataract from the beginning of the past century is linked to the building of the two Aswan Dams, which caused the flooding of their traditional environment and opened a new chapter in their history, a chapter which we are still writing.

“The land of Egyptian Nubia which was first inundated by the water of the Aswan Dam, was inhabited by three major ethnic groups: from north, the Kanzi, who speak Nubian; the Arab, who as the name suggests, speak Arabic, and the Fadjga who lived in the southern district and also speak Nubian.
This land was composed of 42 administrative areas called nahiyat, each one containing several villages. The Kanzi area was composed of 20 nahiyat, the Arab of 5, the Fadjga of 17. All the villages were located on both banks of the Nile.
The agricultural land was formed by small areas of artificial mud isolated from each other, stretching along the valley for more than 300 Km. All the area covered a surface of about 32,000 acres. The land was regularly cultivated using the sagiya or waterwheel and the shaduf as in Egypt.

The economy of Nubia was based mainly on agriculture. The cultivation of date palms was very intensive. There were in Nubia about 4,000,000 palm trees of different species. The export of dates was the most important income before the construction of the First Aswan Dam. The building of the Dam as we know caused a lot of changes and allowed the cultivation only for four months in the year in most of the areas. Cereals were grown during the summer and for consumption during the winter. Vegetables were cultivated instead, in a small amount

At the end of 1912 after the construction of the first Aswan Dam, the Nubians asked the Government to develop projects aimed to improve the agriculture and to save it from the inundation. Therefore from 1913 to 1924 the authorities carried out several surveys throughout the Nubian area to find a solution. At the beginning of 1931 several projects were developed, consisting of irrigation projects or the construction of walls to protect the land from inundation.”

Prof. Mohamed Alim Ahmed Gadkab,
Director of the Center for Nubian Heritage in Cairo

The peculiar character of the Nubian culture was not immediately affected by the building of the first Dam. W. B. Emery, director of the second major Archaeological Survey of Nubia in the years 1930-40, reported that “Nubia remains as it always has been, a barren highway between the fertile lands of Egypt and Sudan and …. (as) tourist steamers pass up and down the Nile between Shellal and Halfa, life in this ancient country continues unchanged with a steady adherence to old customs and traditions long since forgotten in the north”.


The folk heritage of the contemporary Nubians is various and rich since it has been produced by several groups of people which make up the Nubian population.

“A miracle in architecture passed all but unnoticed until the time had come for it to disappear. This happened in Nubia in 1933, when the Aswan Dam was elevated for the second time and all the villages of Nubia were to be submerged.
The Egyptian government had allotted the relatively trivial sum of LE 750.000 as an indemnity to the Nubians for the 35.000 houses which were to be destroyed. It was only natural that the Nubians resented and were reluctant to accept this indemnity, and, in consequence, they started negotiating with the government. Finally the Nubians accepted the government’s offer with reluctance and started building just one year before their houses were to be submerged. In no more than twelve months, they rebuilt their houses. No two houses were the same, each was more beautiful than the last; each village created its own character. Construction in the villages went ahead unimpeded. All were built at the same time at normal cost price. This happened because the Nubians, being remotely situated and living in isolated villages, had always depended on their own resources to build their houses. They had no contractors, engineers or architects to help them. If they managed, it was mainly because they had retained a technique for roofing in mud brick, using vaults and domes, which had been passed down to them from their forefathers… ”

From Hassan Fathi (famous Egyptian architect), Sidi Kreir, 1978

“The homes in Nubia which made up the nugu (village) extended 320 Km along the Nile at irregular intervals in a staggered line more or less parallel to the river”…

raditional Nubian hous“Throughout Nubia, the principal entrance to the houses faced the river, whether they were on the east or west banks of the Nile”….

“The threshold was highly decorated. It symbolized the heritage of the household and was the chief feature of ornamentation, which might be carried from the doorway on throughout the whole house. Usually the designs were inspired by nature”…
“The main entrance led into an open courtyard or haush, with rooms adjoining the exterior walls on one or more of its sides”…
“Some living rooms had a high wall-to-wall opening above the door or would be completely open on to the courtyard. In front of these rooms there was a flat roofed space known as the khayma (literally “tent”), covered with palm stems and branches… it was a covered sitting area along the open courtyard”…
“The guest room or mandara usually had separate entrances, allowing the guest freedom of movement, while sustaining the privacy of the inner family quarters. The mandara was considered an important part of the house, as was hospitality, which continues to be an important obligation to Nubians”…
“In the South were the Nile was wider and alluvional mud was plentiful, a method know as the galos or tuf technique of construction prevailed. The walls were made of mud, mud brick (adobe) or stone, and were a dira’a (half an arm’s length) thick”…
“They constructed their roofs by using split palm trunks and acacia wood beams”…
“The women and the children of the household plastered and decorated the interior and the exterior of their homes with bright, bold and colorful designs representing man-made objects such as cars, airplanes, trains, and ships, or sometimes depicted the owner’s pilgrimage to the holy city of Makka”.

From Omar el Hakim, Nubian Architecture, Second Edition, 1999



 Gold necklace with semi-precious
stones, modern, Aswan

“Among the crafts which characterized the Modern Nubian culture, the most important is jewelry. Necklaces, earrings, anklets, nose rings, pendants, rings, made mainly of gold and silver, sometimes inlaid with semi precious stones, had several shapes according to the material and also to the person to whom they were destined.
The wedding party was an important occasion to wear these jewels. They played an important role in the Nubian marriage tradition. The donation of the colt to the bride was a moment of big feast known as the fadgab. Jewelry was a way for most women of keeping capital and of showing their status.
The marriage among the Nubians is one of the important moments during which the deepest personal emotions and traditions of the people are expressed (songs, dances, music, dresses, jewelry, drawings). It was often arranged also to combine for example, shares in land, palm tress, cows, etc. To this event many people and family members coming from distant villages were invited.


Nubian music consisted in the beginning of a kind of poem, shar, composed using only five musical notes (Pentatonic rythm) and inspired from the war sounds of the Pharahos during the Ancient and Middle Kingdoms. The most used instruments were the tar, a kind of drum, the tambour, the daraboukka and the qirba, similar to a bagpipe. An important occasion for singing and dancing was, as said, the wedding party, which was accompanied by a background of music, ululation, clapping, drums, etc. (Nubian wedding) Many dances were also performed during the seasons of sowing and harvest with the auspices of prosperity and plentiful crops. The music and songs of the modern Nubians have been very commercialized. They use the old Nubian melody with Arabic words (Rasha, “Hadada” (lullaby), Sudaniyat, 1997).


The Nubians also have their own language. The old Nubian characterized by a writing system, was a unique language used in all the area, as many manuscripts found in many different places of Nubia testify. It uses the Coptic alphabet with the addition of other letters to write the typical Nubian sounds. The oldest manuscripts in old Nubian go back to the beginning of the Christian period in Nubia (middle of the 6th century). With the appearance of Islam in Nubia (about 13th century) Arabic became the dominant language. However Nubian continued to be used until today. The modern language is formed by many dialects (Fadiga, Kenzi, Sikut, Mahas, Dongolawi), which derive from the old one. Since they do not respect a fixed model of writing, everyone tries to create his own model in such a way that sometimes the writer himself cannot read it again especially after a long time!”. Today many Nubians and foreign scholars are interested in the study of the Nubian language. This interest in its maintenance is very important for the Nubians since the language is the most important instrument to perpetuate the memory of a culture.”

Prof. Mohamed Alim Ahmed Gadkab and Mohamed Saleh Awad


“This is the last chapter of the history of this population inside their own country. Today 50,000 Egyptian Nubians are resettled at Komombo and Esna north of Aswan. While also many Sudanese Nubians were moved to Khasm el-Girba on the Atbara River with the building of the High Dam. What about their future? Of course the nostalgia (mostly for the old generation) for their country is enormous. The Egyptian Government is trying to support projects for the creation of settlements in the lake area with the participation of both government agencies and international funding programs. But what to say about the people for whom the hope of creating a new life in the country of their forefather is far, and who are destined anyway to constitute a minority in the new countries? “… in the mosaic of Middle Eastern life, many groups of people have retained their individuality and vitality for generations while living close to other groups distinct from themselves. I believe a Nubian society is likely to persist, for, until the still long distant day arrives when individual achievement and social mobility are the major factors in personal survival and success, bonds of kinship and group allegiance will remain relevant. Rather then indulge in romantic nostalgia for what is indisputably gone, we who care about the fate of this people must take pleasure in the fact that they are so well equipped by experience and circumstance to make the adjustments necessary for their survival. We can only hope that their attachment to what is culturally unique in their own heritage will find new expressions among future generations…”

The Nubian A-Group

The A-Group, an indigenous Nubian culture, emerged in Lower Nubia c. 3500 BC, during the Predynastic period in Egypt, and it reached its climax about the time of the Egyptian unification, c.3000 BC. George A. Reisner introduced the term “A-Group” in his chronological model of the Nubian cultures (1910). A-Group remains, mainly cemeteries, have been found between Kubaniya, 10 km (6 miles) to the north of Aswan, and Saras East in Bam el-Hagar, 30 km (20 miles) to the south of the Second Cataract. The rocky tract at Semna and Kumna may have constituted the southern border of this culture.

The most important archaeological source material related to the Nubian A-Group came from about seventy-five village cemeteries. Many graves had rich and varied funeral offerings that consisted of a whole array of indigenous and imported pottery types, including Nubian bowls and dishes with rippled surfaces, delicate thin-walled vessels with red-painted geometric patterns, and Egyptian bowls and wine jars. Among the other finds there were ivory bracelets, stone beads and amulets, mollusc shells from the Red Sea, copper tools, quartzite palettes, mortars and grinders, and female pottery figurines.

The general characteristics of the A-Group culture can be summarised as follows. The population, estimated at less than 20 000, lived in small communities along the flood plain. Structural remains of houses have been found only occasionally, most notably stone foundations and Afia, near Korosko. Animal husbandry, primarily cattle raising, formed the basis of their economy. They also practiced agriculture, growing cereal grains and leguminous plants. Fishing, hunting and food gathering were probably complementary parts of their subsistence. On the whole, the material remains of the A-Group display a blending of Egyptian and Sudanese designs and influences. The distribution of the funerary remains indicates a social inequality that became strongly emphasized towards the end of the period.

The control of trade and exchange in Nubia might have become the decisive factor in the development of the A-Group’s socio-economic and political structure. The leaders of the A-Group communities probably played an important intermediary role among the fast-developing Egyptian economy, the communities in Upper Nubia and those in surrounding regions, furnishing raw materials of various kinds, including ivory, hardwoods, precious stones, and gold, perhaps also cattle. There are three chronological phases of the A-Group. These are characterized as follows.

1. The Early A-Group inhabited the northern part of Lower Nubia and was contemporary with the latter part of Egypt’s Amratian, culture and early Gerzian. The richest cemetery was located at Khor Bahan. This phase was also coexistent with a Sudanese Neolithic culture called the Abkan, which dominated the region at the Second Cataract in Batn el-Hagar. The true relationship between the Egyptian Predynastic culture and the Early A-Group is not yet fully understood.

2. The Middle A-Group was contemporary with Egypt’s middle Gerzian and is considered to be a formative phase of the A-Group proper. The communities in Lower Nubia and the northern part of Batn el-Hagar developed a uniform culture, characterized by lively contacts with Egypt but also with Upper Nubia. There was a clear and unbroken continuation as regards traditions and social development between Middle A-Group and the subsequent Terminal phase.

3. The Terminal A-Group was coexistent with Egypt’s unification stage (end of Gerzian) and the initial part of the First Dynasty. Cultural and economic exchange along the Nubian part of the Nile valley was intensified during this period of prosperity and population growth.
The most affluent area was located in the southernmost part of Lower Nubia, displaying an impressive number of rich cemeteries with a strong social presence of women in both the village cemeteries and in many of the elite cemeteries. An advanced chiefdom that controlled at least the southern part of Lower Nubia may have been formed during the Terminal A-Group, perhaps the result of a consolidation process parallel to that of Egypt. The center was at Qustul near the present Sudanese- Egyptian border, where the Chicago Oriental Institute has excavated an elite cemetery with funerary offerings of outstanding quality. The complete breakdown of the A-Group culture came abruptly when the Egyptian kings of the First Dynasty took full control of the southern trade and the flow of raw materials. The population may have become nomadic, leaving few material remains behind. Between the reign of Djer of the First Dynasty (c.2900 BC) and the Fifth Dynasty (c.2374 BC) there are very few traces of indigenous Nubian settlements or graves. An Egyptian settlement, was found at Buhen opposite Wadi Halfa, dating to the Fourth and Fifth Dynasties.

Hans-Ake Nördstrom
Member of the Scandinavian Joint Expedition in Nubia
(Unesco Nubia Salvage Campaign).

Prehistoric Sites in Egypt and in Sudan

It is entirely appropriate to note that when the international salvage efforts began, there was virtually no information available on the prehistoric development anywhere in Nubia, and even in Egypt little was known concerning prehistoric materials beyond a few scattered and rolled pieces found in ancient deposits along the Nile. From this limited evidence, archaeologists had concluded that the Nile Valley, both Nubia and Egypt, has been a culturally conservative cul-de-sac where the technological and typological attributes of the Middle Paleolithic survived relatively unchanged until near the end of the Pleistocene. The lithic industries of Late Paleolithic age along the Nile Valley were believed to be limited to a few simple tool types, usually made on flakes, and with a high frequency of the Levallois technology which elsewhere is characteristic of the Middle Paleolithic. Those diagnostic elements of the Late Paleolithic -the blade technology and the associated complex of tools emphasizing end-scrapers, burins, and backed pieces -were believed to be absent. These simple flake industries were seen as persisting long after com pound tools, indicated by the presence of geometric microliths, had appeared in Europe and southwest Asia.
At a still later date, the role of the Nile Valley in the origin and development of food production was also discounted as it became fashionable to regard the upland areas around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers as the probable center for the origins of agriculture.
Perhaps the major result of the Nubia prehistoric campaign was to lay to rest these concepts of Nilotic cultural conservatism. The Nubian work not only disclosed the presence of numerous rich prehistoric living sites ranging in age from Early Paleolithic to the beginning of written records, but these sites yielded convincing evidence that they had been occupied by groups whose lithic technology and typology were fully as complex and as progressive as those from other parts of the world.
There is no evidence that these early efforts to use grain for food resulted in a corresponding primary development of food production, but they were an important first step which may ultimately have led to the crucial achievement of food production, either along the Nile or elsewhere in the Near East.
The Combined Prehistoric Expedition surveyed and located several hundred prehistoric sites within the assigned concession areas, and of these, 102 sites were excavated and studied systematically. These range from Early Paleolithic to Neolithic. The final reports on these studies have been published in several volumes (Wendorf, 1965 and 1968; Marks, 1970). The Prehistoric sites in Nubia have been grouped into five broad cultural stages, and within each stage several distinct lithic industries were defined. The stages may be summarized as follows:

Nubian Early Stone Age:
The sites of this stage are typologically and technologically within the range of the Acheulean complex and share many resemblances with the Middle and Late Acheulean from further south, especially Klor Abu Anga near Khartoum, Sudan. No living sites of this group are known, only quarries and workshops. Ferrocrete sandstone was preferred for tool production, although quartz was also important in some sites. Bifaces were the most common tools, while cleavers, trihedral forms, and para-Levallois flakes are rare. Levallois technology appears during the middle phase of this stage and becomes increasingly important thereafter. Nubian Early Stone Age sites occur only in the Older Pediments. None are known to occur within the silts of the river.

Nubian Middle Stone Age: This stage is generally equivalent to the Middle Paleolithic elsewhere. It contains four distinct industries the Nubian Mousterian, Denticulate Mousterian and the Nubian Middle Paleolithic and the Khormusan. The latter has affinities with the Sangoan-Lupemban of central and west Africa; the first two are more similar to the Mousterian complexes of the Near East and Europe. The first three of these industries share the following features: a nearly complete absence of handaxes (these are replaced by biface foliates or flake tools); a strong preference for ferrocrete sandstone for tools; and a frequent use of Levallois technology (although this varies among the three industries of this stage). Sites of these three industries occur only in the Older Pediments. The Khormusan sites occur imbedded in the oldest Nile silts known in the part of the Valley and are believed to date between 65,000 and 55,000 years old. Khormusan sites record a diverse food economy.
They contain an abundance of fish remains as well as numerous bones of wild cattle, gazelle and hartebeest. In addition to the typical wide, flat Levallois flakes, the Khormusan sites contain numerous burins (a kind of engraving tool), scrapers and perforators.

Nubian Upper Stone Age:
Three distinct industries are also included in this stage: the Khormusan, the Gemian, and the Sebilian. Each of these industries is markedly different from the others, but as a group they share an emphasis on medium-sized flakes for the manufacture of tools; the biface foliates of the preceding stage are gone, and there are no true geometric, microlithic, or backed microblade tools characteristic of later stage. Except for the Sebilian, which differs sharply from all other known lithic assemblages in Nubia, sites of this stage yield increasing frequencies of artifacts made on Nile pebbles, while burins, endscrapers, and retouched points occur commonly in one or the other industries. The Sebilian retains the emphasis on ferrocrete sandstone preferred during the earlier stages, and the tools of this industry emphasized various kinds of truncations. These differences have led to the suggestion that the Sebilians were an outside, non-Nilotic group who briefly intruded into the area. In some respects they have close affiliations to some of the industries known farther south in central Africa -especially the Tshitolian.

Nubian Final Stone Age:
This stage contains four distinct industries: the Halfan, the Qadan, the Arkinian, and the Shamarkian. All of these industries share a tendency for the retouched tools to be microlithic, suggesting extensive use of composite tools. They also all make frequent use of microblades and bladelets in the manufacture of finished tools, and Nile chert pebbles were used almost exclusively as raw material for these tools. The Nile and its resources, especially fish, become increasingly important, and it is during this stage that the first use of ground grain occurs. There is an overlap in time between the Nubian Final Stone Age and the preceeding Nubian Upper Stone Age. The earliest Nubian Final Stone Age sites (the Halfan) occur in situ in Nile silts and have radiocarbon dates of around 17,000 B.G., while the Nubian Upper Stone Age probably begins before 20,000 B.G., but survives as a technological stage represented by the Sebilian, as late as 9,000 B.G.

Nubian Ceramic Age:
This stage includes at least three distinct lithic industries in Nubia. Pottery, the diagnostic feature of this stage, first appears in the final phase of the Shamarkian industry, and is also present in two distinct and seemingly contemporary groups named the Abkan and Khartum Variant. Both the Shamarkian and Abkan ceramics appear to be stimulated by Egyptian sources; however, the Khartum Variant pottery clearly is similar to that of Shaheinab in central Sudan. All three industries share an emphasis on large flake tools, and the Abkan and Shamarkian sites are dramatically larger than those known previously in Nubia. This change of settlement size may indicate the appearance in Nubia of a new economic resource -possibly cultivation.

History of Nubia

The area now called Nubia extends along the Nile from the South of Aswan to the town of Dabba, near the Fourth cataract, linking Egypt – i.e. the northern part of the Nile valley – to the Sudan in the South. The name Nubia is first mentioned in Strabo’s Geographica; the Greek author is believed to have visited Egypt c. 29 BC.

The etymology of the name Nubia is uncertain, but some researchers believe it is derived from the Ancient Egyptian nbu, meaning gold, referring to the gold mines for which Nubia was famous. The name does not appear in Ancient Egyptian texts. They refer to Nubia generally as Ta-Seti, meaning “Land of the Bow”, a clear reference to the weapon favoured by the Nubians.

  • Prehistory

Regional Training Center in Conservation and Museology

When the Nubia Museum was created, it was decided to make a place not only for the display of antiquities but also a Regional Training Center in conservation and museology to preserve the region’s priceless cultural heritage and also to create links for further cooperation in the field of research, collection, exhibition exchanges, etc., with other Arabic and African countries through the support of international institutions.

The courses are addressed to people who work already in the field of the preservation of Cultural Heritage and who need to improve their skills in their field. The courses are intensive with a maximum duration of one month.

In the first years of the activity of the Center the trainers will be assisted by international and regional consultants. In the next two years it is foreseen that the senior members of the Nubia Museum staff will serve as trainers for the courses dispensed at the Regional Training Center.

The main topics of the courses will be:

documentation of collections (accessioning objects, assigning catalogue numbers, defining and initiating computer records, management protocols, etc.);

care of collections: preventive conservation, security, professional ethics.

The training center also aims at the provision of professional museum training and research facilities by the Nubia Museum personnel using the most advanced equipment and professing the most current information.

The activity of the Center started in 2001 with the training of the senior members of the museum staff, carried out by an international staff of consultants.


Nubia Submerged

In 2000, the Nubia Museum was enriched with a new gallery, located in the hall for the temporary exhibitions, as well as additions to the existing collection. The new gallery is currently hosting an exhibition of 168 40cmx40cm photos, enlarged from the originals, of the historical sites now under Lake Nasser, which is also where most of the objects in the museum come from. The exhibition is called ‘Nubia Submerged’.

Promoted by the Italian Embassy in Cairo’s Scientific Attaché Office, directed by Engineer Giuseppe Marino and whose curator is the Nubiologist Maria Costanza De Simone, the gallery was officially opened to the public in April 2001 in the presence of Egyptian Minister of Culture H.E. Farouk Hosni and Italian Ambassador in Cairo H.E. Mario Sica.

The photos, generously offered by people and institutions involved in the several salvage operations, are displayed in the form of an open-air museum with photos of tombs, settlements, fortresses, temples, churches and mosques, as well as recent panoramic shots that reveal what the bed of Lake Nasser looks like today. They witness the cultural development of the area from prehistoric to modern times.

Comments written by people who struggled at the time to save or at least document this wonderful heritage accompany visitors to the museum in their journey through time and space.



This exhibition is dedicated to Heqaib, an important official appointed Governor of Elephantine and Caravan Leader during the reign of the Pharaoh Pepi II, c.2246-2152 B.C. The name of Heqaib is very important in the history of the area of Aswan during the Pharaonic period. His tomb is located on the hill of Qubbet el Hawa on the west bank of Aswan, and his temple (he was deified) on the island of Elephantine.
The exhibition displays objects found during excavations, carried out by the Egyptian Department of Antiquities, in the area of the temple more than 50 years ago. Here were found more than one hundred objects , such as stelae, altars, offering tables and statues, many of them dedicated to Heqaib by his successors, and others by local priest and official who lived in the Cataract Region during XIth-XIIIth dynasties.

Documentation centre

Nubia can be considered the most ‘excavated’ corner of the world. After almost a century of excavations, we now have enormous documentation about the area. These documents are scattered around the world, given the international character of the Salvage Campaign.

In 2001, Unesco once more drew the attention of international institutions to Nubia: a recommendation was voted to establish at the Nubia Museum a Documentation centre on Nubia studies for which Unesco is trying to collect as many publications as possible as well as gather copies of documentation (photos, drawings, reports, articles, etc). Moreover we would also like to try to make an inventory of the existing documentation scattered throughout the world.

The portrayal of Nubia as a culture and a land in the form of documentation will represent and compensate, at least in part, those who have lost their land. Besides, the Documentation Centre will be an important reference point for everyone interested in studying Nubia and its people.

To this day, many of the important documents (maps, drawings, field reports, photographs, etc.) relating to Nubia and which were located in several institutions in Egypt have been collected. By the beginning of the year 2004, we hope that all documentation relating to Nubia in Egypt will be gathered together.

Some foreign institutions outside of Egypt, such as the Museum of Leiden (Netherlands), have already given copies of their archival documentation.

Please help us to create the Documentation centre’s collection by sending us lists of documents based in your institution, and if possible copies of these documents. We can also come to you and make copies.

Copyright will belong to the institution of provenance.

By the beginning of 2005, the documentation relating to Nubia coming from Egyptian and foreign institutions based in Egypt will be available to researchers.

For any further information, please contact:
Maria Costanza De Simone
Nubia DCA (Documentation Center Aswan)


The library aims to acquire and preserve publications and documentation concerning Nubian cultural heritage and the museum collections and to make the material available to researchers and interested public.

The library consists in a lobby, a general reading area and an electronic reading area.

It possesses more than 2000 volumes (206 of them in Arabic) concerning a wide variety of subjects including: Art, History, Archaeology, Public relations, Conservation, Education, Museology, Exhibition design, Museum Management, and reference books (dictionaries, atlases, …). Most of these publications concern Nubia, but also Egypt, and to a lesser extent, the rest of the world.
Various reports, dissertations, periodicals and CD-ROMs, complete this ever-growing collection.

Mrs Rasha Fawzi
Mrs Zeinab Abass

Educational and Cultural Facilities

1- School visits:

The educational department provides a series of activities for school children.

  • Pottery workshops: children create potteries with the help of the educational staff.
  • Basketry workshops: once a week, a facilitator comes to animate a children’s workshop on traditional basketry.
  • Costume making: children can design and create historical costumes relating to the different periods represented in the museum collections.
  • Theatre performances: children can create small plays and act in the open air theatre specially reserved for the education department, or use the museum’s lecture hall for bigger performances. They usually use the costumes that they created during the costume making activities.
  • Journal writing: this workshop enables children to create a journal relating their visit to the museum, or on a particular theme they are studying.
  • Exhibition: small exhibitions of the children’s achievements are organised annually in the education department.

Reception area (lunch room, toilets, cloak room, etc.)

Outdoor infrastructure:
Small amphitheatre for 60 children with sun and wind protection.
Access possibility to limited exterior areas, especially from the workshop, to carry out outdoor activities in specifically designed areas, i.e. work area and gardens.

Schools should book at least a week in advance.

Contact person:
Mrs. Thanaa Hassan Mousa, Head of Education Department
Tel. (+2097) 31911
Fax. (+2097) 317998

2- Lecture Hall:

A lecture hall seating 250 persons may be used to complement the exhibition and educational program with the presentation of lectures, films, slides, etc. It may be let on demand for ceremonies, performances, etc.

Lobby and information desk
Amphitheater for 250 persons
Stage, speakers and podium
Projection booth
Translation cabinets for 3 languages

Contact person:
Mrs. Thanaa Hassan Mousa, Head of Education Department
Tel. (+2097) 31911
Fax. (+2097) 317998

Music and dance: Singer / aut./comp.

Author:  Akendengue (Pierre-Claver)
Origin:  Gabon

Biography:  Pierre-Claver Akendengue was born in Awuta, in the Nengué Sika island of the Fernan-Vaz lagoon, in Gabon, on April 25, 1943. His childhood takes place in a peasant environment, cradled by the ebb and flow. waves on the shores of the island. He composed his first songs at the age of 14. After high school in Gabon he went to France and in 1967, he entered the Petit Conservatoire de Mireille in Paris for 3 years. He recorded his first 45 T, Ghalo Ghalo, in 1972. In addition to studying music, he studied psychology, and after obtaining his doctorate in 1987, he returned to Gabon.

It is a whole picture of the contemporary social history of Africa found in his repertoire. He notes the imperfections of society, denounces the reign of money that stifles human relationships, the misery of the poorest, the mismanagement of some haves, the moral, physical and economic exploitation endured by Africans, neocolonialism, l ‘oppression. He also sings the beauty of nature, freedom, friendship and his love for Africa. Like the ancients, Akendengue uses metaphors and stories to convey his message. He plays his songs most often in myenes (his mother tongue) but also in French.

Akendengue is also a guitarist, composer, author and arranger of all his songs. He also composed music for films, one of which won the Best Film Music Award (Les Coopérants) at Fespaco in 1985.


  • Ghalo Ghalo, 45T, 1972, Sonafric, SAF 1532A
  • Nkere, 45 T, 1974, Saravah, SH 45055
  • Nandipo, 33 T, 1974, Saravah, SH 10045
  • Tonda, 45 T, 1975, Saravah, SH 4057
  • Afrika Obota, 33 T, 1976, Saravah, SH 10063
  • Ndandaye, 45 T, 1976, Ntye, NT 10001
  • Ewawa, 45T, 1977, Ntye, NT 10002
  • Olando, 45 T, 1978, Ntye, NT 10003
  • Eseringuila, 33 T, 1978, Sonepran, NT 30001
  • Afrika Salalo, 45 T, 1978, Sonepran, NT 10004
  • Elowe, 45 T, 1978, Ntye, NT 10008
  • Owende, 33 T, 1979, Song of the World, LDX 74677
  • Mengo, 33 T, 1980, Ntye, NT 13002
  • Tchaka, 45 T, 1980, Ntye, NT 10009
  • Isamu Ya Pili, 45 T, 1981, Ntye, NT 10010
  • Awana W’Afrika, 33T, 1982, Ntye, NT13003
  • Mando, 33 T, 1983, CBS, 25355
  • Wake of Africa, 33 T, 1984, Ntye, NT / AKN 13004
  • Piroguier, 33 T, 1986, Ntye, NT 13005
  • Ka’Bo, 45 T, 1986, CBS, A 127037
  • Sarraounia, 45 T, 1986, Sepam, A 295 RC 270
  • Hope in Soweto, 33 T, 1988, Encore, ENC 141
  • Quest for Freedom, 1989, CCF
  • Silence, 33 T, 1990, Melody, 66882-1
  • Lambarena, CD, 1994, Africa Space, SK 64542
  • Maladalité, CD, 1995, Melody, 66976-2
  • Carrefour Rio, CD, 1996, MEPA 8961
  • Oba Kadences, CD, 2000, Romepa Gabon, ROMEPA GABON 83003

Biography:  Youssou N’Dour was born in Dakar in 1959 and began to sing as a child in the district of the Medina in Dakar, Senegal. As a teenager he sang for the Star Band, the most famous Senegalese band of the time. In 1979, he created his own group, Etoile de Dakar, which became in 1981, The Super Star. This group created a modern African style, which influenced artists as diverse as Peter Gabriel and Paul Simon. It was Peter Gabriel who introduced Youssou N’Dour to American and British artists in his album So (1986) and who took The Super Star on tour with him. In 1988, Youssou N’Dour was part of Amnesty International’s “Human Rights Now!” alongside Peter Gabriel, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Tracy Chapman.

In 1991, Youssou N’Dour signed a contract with Spike Lee’s 40 Acres and A Mule Musicworks label, distributed by Columbia. The result of this collaboration was the album Eyes Open in 1992 with Le Super Etoile: the album won a Grammy Award. After the release of Eyes Open, Youssou N’Dour was named ambassador of UNICEF during the Year of the Child.
In July 1993, he composed an opera that was performed at the Paris Opera.


  • 2000 Joko, Sony Music CD 489718 2
  • 1997 Gainde – Voices from the heart of Africa, World Network
  • 1994 The Guide, Columbia CD 476508 2
  • 1992 Eyes open, Columbia CD 471186 2
  • 1990 Set, Virgin CD CDV 2634
  • 1989 The Lion, Virgin CD CDV 2584
  • 1984 Djamil (Inédits 84-85), Celluloid CD 66811-2
  • Immigrants / bitim rew, Celluloid CD 66709-2
  • Lii!
  • Rewmi
  • The big ball in Bercy
Official website:

Music and dance: Singer / aut.

Author:  Makeba (Miriam)
Origin:  South Africa

Biography:  Miriam Makeba was born on March 4, 1932 in Johannesburg. In 1947, after the Bantu Education Act, which banned all non-white people from school after 16 years, she joined the group Cuban Brothers in Johannesburg, then the Manhattan Brothers, then the African Jazz and Variety in 1959 where she met the trumpet player Hugh Masekela, whom she will marry five years later.
The same year she went to the USA where she sang at Madison Square Garden in front of President Kennedy. When she wants to return home in 1960 after the Sharpeville massacre, she is repressed. His exile will last thirty years.
She is nicknamed Mama Africa after her vibrant speech about her country at the United Nations. When she remarried in 1968 with Carmichael, leader of the Black Panthers, pursued by the FBI, she took refuge in Guinea. She returned to her home country in the late 1980s.


  • Call to Africa, Sonodisc CD SLP 22
  • Promised
  • Eyes on tomorow, Polydor CD 849313-2
  • Homeland, Putumayo CD PUTU164-2
  • I Shall Sing, Esperance Records
  • Kilimanjaro, Sonodisc CD 5563
  • In public in Paris and Conakry, Sonodisc CDS 8818
  • Live at the Palace of Conakry, Sonodisc CD CD 8470
  • PataPata
  • Sangoma, WEA CD LC 0392
  • Welela, Philips CD 838208-2
  • The click song
Author:  Wemba (Papa)
Origin:  DRC

Biography:  Papa Wemba was born in Kasaï, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire) in 1949.
His mother was a professional mourner in the funeral evenings or funeral evenings. By regularly training her son with her, she introduced him to music and singing.
He had his first success in 1970 in Kinshasa, where he was singer, composer and co-founder of the Zaïko Langa Langa group. The group quickly became the figurehead of a generation of young Zairians who found the traditional rumba on which Africa has been dancing since the 1950s a little too slow and outmoded. But with the arrival of rock, the rhythms have accelerated. Zaïko Langa Langa then seeks to revitalize and renew the nonchalant rumba in vogue. Success is immediate. Soon, Papa Wemba becomes a star and dominates his group.
In 1974 he created his own group Isife Lokole, and in 1976 he created Viva La Musica, composed of about fifteen musicians.
Around 1979, he sang a few months in Afrisa International orchestra of Tabu Ley, another Zairean star with whom Papa Wemba had already worked in the late 60s.
In the hope of gaining a larger audience and to benefit from more material he went to Paris in the early 80s and since then he has been divided between France and the DRC.
Papa Wemba is also a fan of SAPE, the Society of Ambiancers and Elegant People. Born in the Congo at the end of the 1970s, this movement is gaining momentum abroad and especially in France. The SAPE is a phenomenon first clothing based on a flamboyant and exaggerated elegance.


  • 2001 Bakala dia Kuba
  • 1999 M’zee Fula-Ngenge, Sono CDS 8836
  • 1998 Viva La Musica / vol.1, CD 700892
  • 1998 Viva La Musica / vol.2, CD 700882
  • 1998 Viva La Musica, vol. 1 (1977-1978), Ngoyarto NG026
  • 1997 Viva La Musica / New Writing, Sonodisc CDS 8828
  • 1996 Ndako ya ndele, Sonodisc CD CDS7007
  • 1996 Wake up, Sonodisc CD CDS8817
  • 1995 Emotion, Realworld CD RW52
  • 1995 Pole Position, Sonodisc CD CDS 8815
  • 1994 Foridoles, Sonodisc CD CD 72424
  • 1992 The Traveler, Realworld CD RW20
  • 1988 M’fono yami, Celluloid CD 668752
  • Molokai, Realworld
  • New generation
  • Mokili ngele, LP [DSK1M]
  • Love kilawu, Sonodisc CD CD8438
  • Mokili Mercy, Sonodisc
Official website


Visual artist

Author: Hazoumè (Romuald)
Origin: Benin ,  
Date: 1962 –

Biography: Born in 1962 in Porto-Novo in the Republic of Benin, Romuald Hazoumé is Yoruba of origin. At a very young age, he focused on enhancing the elements of his environment. After being a brilliant student, he practiced high level sport before embracing his career as a painter – sculptor. He was the first artist to transform the waste of his environment into works of art, expressing his personality and talent through several sculptures and masks made since the 1980s with recycled materials. Emeritus artist, he gives life, through his works, to his imagination to reiterate all stages of creation and give a modern interpretation of the facts of society.

He has 5 solo exhibitions in 10 countries in Africa, Europe and the United States, and has participated in 19 group shows in 15 countries around the world. His last exhibition was inaugurated on May 09, 2003 at the AC Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Despite his great openness to the West and his many opportunities to settle outside the African continent, he remains a Beninese attached to his soil, keeps in touch with the cult of ancestors and is incarnated in the voodoo.

Thus, since 1993, he has embarked on the plastic interpretation of the Fa, the oracle which presides over divination and which is compared to a cosmogony, a Bible or a quran ever written. This studious work – so much it requires a long and rigorous initiation – is transmitted from father to son and represents for Romuald Hazoumé, an obvious because having answer to everything.
Through an important series of works undertaken in this direction, and where natural pigments and organic materials are related to the origin of the Fa, the artist wants to unveil the invisible and bring together characteristics common to different cultures.

A striking personality of art in Black Africa, attentive to criticism and suggestions, he steals from success to success by offering his audience a very rich exhibition, both visually, aesthetically, historically and politically.

Description: Historical representation depicting four characters on horseback. The characters in the upper register are probably, from left to right, Queen Taitu and Emperor Menelik. This unsigned work is attributed to Tadla di Addi Abarda.
The production of paintings with historical subject, called antika , developed from the 19th century, encouraged by the European demand.

Painting: Painter

Author: Chéri Samba
Origin: DRC ,  
Date: 1956 –

Biography: Samba wa Mbimba Nzinga, aka Chéri Samba, was born on November 30, 1956 in Kinito-Mvuila in Bas-Zaire. His father, a blacksmith, wants his son to succeed him in the trade. But Cheri is doing literary studies but lack of support, he can not pursue them and moved to Kinshasa.

Cheri introduces himself as an apprentice to the painter and draftsman Apuza whom he admires and is admitted to his studio. But the status of apprentice frustrates him. He would have liked to be hired as a collaborator since, since his youth, he has been drawing and at school he was considered a virtuoso in this field. Samba leaves his first boss three days after the engagement and will discover two other associate painters: Lomabaku and Mbuta Masunda with whom he spends only three months because his first boss recovers this time as a collaborator.

Desiring to realize his old dream of being independent, Chéri Samba opened his own workshop in 1975. He made some trips to the Congo in 1976 and 1977 to decorate a hotel in Brazzaville. In 1978, he went to Gabon where he was invited to paint cemeteries in a village. It has multiple participations in individual and collective exhibitions (1978, National Fair of Kinshasa, 1979, International Fair of Kinshasa, “Horizon 79” in Berlin in Germany, in 1980 and 81, French Cultural Center, 1982 Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, Goethe Institute in Berlin …).

Observer of the society of which he likes to submit the sequences to the criticism, Chéri Samba paints topics or themes drawn in the daily life.

The originality of Samba’s painting is characterized by a palette diluted in a background of more or less uniform color that is illustrated by stylized characters in eloquent and expressive attitudes, whose message is reinforced by texts, as in comics . The painter Chéri Samba is a narcissistic being who, in his art, likes to put himself at the center of situations, whether lived or simply imagined.

The art of Samba served as inspiration for the filmmakers. Director Ngangura showed an interesting film based on the artist’s works and their themes, entitled Kin Kiesse, a true mirror of the joyful life of the capital of Zaire. This film received an award at the Ouagadougou African Film Festival (Fespaco).

Materials: oil on canvas

Biography: Ludovic K. Fadairo was born on August 21, 1947 in Zinvié (Benin). From an early age, Fadaïro was destined for music. Today, he is one of the major painters of the African continent.

Between 1975 and 2000, Ludovic Fadaïro participated in more than 25 international group exhibitions in Canada, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal, Togo, Ivory Coast, France, Poland, Belgium and the USA. During the same period, he realized 23 individual exhibitions, notably in Cotonou, Montreal, Abidjan, New York, London, Paris, Barcelona, ​​Bamako, Warsaw, Atlanta.


J Amais topic has spilled much ink as traditional African sculpture 1 . It has been one of the masterpieces to measure the “civilization” of the black man and his ability to create, capacity variously appreciated throughout history until at the beginning of this century, cubism helping, unanimity begins to be made on the exceptional character of African sculptures that have always been confused with African art of which they are only a part, the most important probably, if one had to judge only by the number of created pieces that have reached us.

The places of traditional African sculpture

What does “traditional Africa” ​​mean? If we consider only sculpture, it must be admitted that such an Africa is inhabited by blacks whose basic religious traditions are “animist”. Such an Africa excludes North Africa or “Maghreb”. But again, caution is needed: the arts challenge the borders. How does one understand the integration of Sudan into the Maghreb when one knows that this country includes two inhabited regions one by white-skinned men, Muslims, and the other by black-skinned men whose religious traditions could to be close to those of most blacks? Is Islam sufficient here as a criterion for classification? He does notand colonization, which in principle lasted less than half a century, are relevant criteria of division: populations sharing the same cultures overlap with them. Faced with these questions, we decided to write for the man of today: he refers much more to the states than to large areas whose boundaries for him would be unclear. As with any African artistic creation, we preferred to classify African sculpture into four main groupings ” sculpture in West Africa , Central Africa , Southern Africa and East AfricaThey have the advantage of smoothing the weight of geographical factors over art, and they question the geographical determinism underlying the classification of forests, savannas and the Sahel in Africa, after all. Mali or Burkina Faso in the savannah or Sahel zones have not prevented them from producing masks as complex as those of the forest areas, or in principle the raw material, wood, is more abundant. in these cases, it owes much more to the will and freedom of man than to an external conditioning, however restrictive it may be.
It has also been observed that sculpture is practiced on a large scale only in sedentary societies, living on the fruits of the earth. Africa does not escape this rule: the nomads, mainly Muslims, forced to permanently transport all of their furniture and their gods do not carve … There is a tendency to believe that sculpture requires a certain stability of the conditions of life in society and the existence of cults compatible with the representation of the gods.

Read the entire article .

1. By “traditional African sculpture” is meant that which comes from a context where ancestral traditions mark the object socialized by rites, authenticated by a use, consecrated by an association with the sacred, or with initiation.

There are 48 answer (s):

Mask , DRC
Head , Nigeria
Mask , Ghana / Ivory Coast
Head , South Africa Ngongo ya Chintu , Headquarters, DRC Headquarters , TanzaniaStatue , Nigeria Leopard , Nigeria Salt Shaker , Sierra Leone Mask , Nigeria Statue , MaliMask , Gabon Pipe , South Africa Spoon , South Africa Nkisi nkondi , Congo / CabindaStatue , Cameroon Statue , Mali Statue , Cabinda

Architecture: House

Origin: Cameroon ,   Mousgoum

Description:  For three centuries, the Mousgoum have built their homes in the plains on the Cameroon / Chad border. The Mousgoum and their famous houses, called tolek in their language (Munjuk), have been known to the Western world since the 1850s at least, when the German explorer Heinrich Barth traveled to North and Central Africa.

For Mousgoum, as for many cultures around the world, art and architecture have become important supports for maintaining, in tangible and visible forms, a knowledge of the past . Tolek mousgoum, a dome made of clay, was endangered by the 1930s, by the combination of forced labor introduced by the French colonial power, the emigration of Mousgoum, changes in the social structure mousgoum, diseases and death. In 1994, there was little tolekakay still standing.

However since 1995, there has been a resurgence in the construction of its houses. Nearly twenty are now in Pouss and its surroundings. Parallel to this, the end of 1995 saw an explosion of the mural, which often represented the tolek. At the end of the nineteenth century, the tolek became a synchretic form, native in its genesis and charged with the understanding and interpretation of the Mousgoum on external ideas.

Origin: South Africa , Lieliefontein, Namaqualand 

Description:  The portable hut (“/ haru-oms”) of the Nama, one of the many groups of Khoikhoi pastoralists, is unique in South Africa. Due to its structure, the hut of mats is a semi-permanent shelter: a tent that is almost a house. It can be assembled and disassembled quickly and is perfectly adapted to a nomadic way of life. Its various elements, a light wooden frame and a braided blanket can be easily loaded on the backs of oxen and transported through the semi-desert plains and mountains of Namaqualand. This increased the mobility of Nama pastoralists and allowed them to travel a great distance during transhumance.

The aerodynamic shape of the dome allowed to hold a maximum volume in a minimum of space. The armature in branches held together by ropes made of vegetable fibers does not need any other support. The circular plan and domed roof gave a feeling of space inside although the actual space was restricted. The mats attached to the wooden frame according to a defined scheme, allowed to regulate the internal temperature. In dry weather, the air passed through the mats and refreshed the interior of the house, but in the wet season, the fibers of the mats expanded under the effect of moisture, and made the cover impermeable. Two matte doors at the front and back of the house could be rolled in order to increase ventilation and increase the diffuse light that filtered through the interstices of the mats. The realization of the mats for the construction of a new house was long and thorough, and was the task of the women. But once built, the house needed little maintenance, and the various elements could be repaired or replaced easily.

The house in mats is very rare nowadays. We can see variants built with plastic or sheets.

Translated and adapted from GP Klinghardt, South African Museum, Sagittarius , Volume 2, Number 1 March 1987

Architecture: Tombs

Origin: Uganda ,   Kasubi

Description:  The kasubi tombs 5 kilometers from Kampala are the place where four former kings of Buganda are buried: Mutesa I (1856-1884), Mwanga II (1884-1897), exiled to the Seychelles in 1899 where he died in 1903 , Chwa II (1897-1939), Mutesa II (1939-1966), exiled to England where he died in 1969 and buried in Kasubi in 1971. This historic site was also the former site of the royal palace of Buganda Kingdom.

The site contains several domed buildings covered with a thatched roof. Three of them are particularly tall. The largest of all, measuring 14 meters in diameter, Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga , is the burial chamber of kings. Then there is a two-door building, Bujyabukula , through which visitors pass when they go to the graves. The third Ndoga-Obukabais building is the drum house. Inside these buildings, and especially in the Muzibu-Azaala-Mpanga , magnificent palm-leaf rings rise from floor to roof, adorning and punctuating the space. The support posts that are covered with beaten bark surprise by their straightness.

The buildings contain a variety of objects that belonged to kings.

The site was listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001.

Architecture: Stele

Origin: Ethiopia , Axum 
Date: 3rd – 4th century

Description:  The most famous remains of Axum, the legendary city of the Queen of Sheba, are the stelae or obelisks that stand together in a field. The largest, weighing 500 tons, would have reached 33 meters in height if it had not fallen. She lies on the ground in several pieces. There is a hole in the ground next to it on the site of another stele, which was removed and transported to Rome during the Italian occupation. The hole is covered and ready to receive the return of the monolith.

A number of steles still stand on the site. The largest, shown opposite, culminates at 23 meters in height and rests on a limestone altar. They are all cut in a single block of granite and all have an altar, which would have been used for sacrifices. These stelae are the largest monolithic monuments known in the Old World. Their use and age remain a mystery. Some scholars, based on representations of ancient coins discovered at the foot of monuments, think they could have been carved and erected to the 3rd or 4th century AD. The nearby graves could mean that these obelisks were used as memorials to deceased kings and queens. But this is only a hypothesis.

Architecture: Bandiagara Cliff, Ireli Village

Origin: Mali ,   Dogon

Description:  Between the 13th and 14th centuries, the Dogons settled in a mountainous area southwest of the Niger Loop, divided into three zones: the cliff, the plateau and a strip of semi-desert plain. Essentially farmers, they managed to develop the smallest piece of land among the scree. They have developed a remarkable civilization based on a highly codified symbolism and on a cosmogony experienced daily, at the center of which there is always the human being.

Anxious to protect themselves from the incursions of the warriors, some built their homes under the shelters of the pink sandstone cliff of Bandiagara. Adapted to the topography of the land, the family concessions whose thick walls give them the appearance of fortresses, are organized around a courtyard. Mill and granary granaries, in the form of fortified towers, are often located at the corners of the main yard enclosure.

Inside the houses a ventilation system makes it possible to regulate the temperature.

Materials: raw earth

Architecture: Great Zimbabwe

Description:  Great Zimbabwe has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1986. The city stretches over 80 hectares in a valley and surrounding hills. The site is the largest group of ancient buildings in sub-Saharan Africa. It is composed of two sites dominated by the ruins of the hill where stands the acropolis , a true fortress with walls imbued with granite rocks. The ruins of the valley, home to the Grande Enceinte , represent a remarkable monumental ensemble, surrounded by a rampart 250 meters in circumference, consisting of 15,000 tons of carefully squared stone blocks.

The technique used is dry stone masonry , without the use of mortar. The walls can reach 8 meters high and 4 meters thick at the base. Many of them are decorated with elaborate patterns.

The history of Great Zimbabwe can be divided into three periods: the occupation of the site began in the eleventh century, with the construction of huts made of earth and wood on the hill. In the 13th century, huts were replaced by larger earthen houses and the first stone walls appeared. The fourteenth century marked the peak of society thanks to trade with the east coast of Africa. But in the mid-fifteenth century the decline of Great Zimbabwe began, which slowly died out, probably due to the exhaustion of its local resources.

Architecture: Churches of Lalibela

Description:  In the IV th century, the royal power of Aksum adopted Christianity as its official religion. It is mainly between the XII th and XV th century, the territorial expansion of the Christian state, that Christianity spread in central Ethiopia. From this time dates an exceptional heritage of churches dug in the rock, related to the activity of the monks. When the Axumite empire collapsed in the XI th century, a new dynasty, the Zagwe dynasty took power and turned the Ethiopian capital of Axum in Roha. The best known of the eleven kings of the Zagwé dynasty was Lalibela (1185-1225).

It built 11 churches over a period of 25 years between the end of the XII th and the beginning of XIII th century. Digging in the rock, surrounded by deep trenches, most communicate through narrow tunnels and small bridges. All such Biet Giorgis Church (Church of St. George, built in the XII th century) are monoliths were carved directly into the rock, from a huge block of stone. St. George’s Church was the last one built under Lalibela. The elegance of its cruciform plan and its singular position, at the bottom of the cavity dug by its builders, make it one of the strangest monuments of Christendom.

The site has been inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1978.