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Egypt: First Nubian language dictionary published

Koma Waidi which means ;Tales of the Past' is a a dictionary pamphlet made to preserve the Nubian language
'Koma Waidi' which means 'Tales of the Past' is a dictionary pamphlet made to preserve the Nubian language, 21 January 2020 [KOMA WAIDIFacebook]

In a bid to save the Nubian language from extinction, a group of activists have produced a dictionary pamphlet to preserve rare vocabulary which is at threat of dying out.

“Koma Waidi”, which means Tales of the Past, contains 230 words.

“It is important to act now to save the Nubian language from total disappearance,” a volunteer, Hafsa Amberkab, told the Arab Weekly.

“This great language sustains a new loss every day.”

In 1964, then President Gamal Abdel Nasser forced some 60,000 Nubians out of their homes, forcing them to relocate to other parts of Egypt so that he could construct the High Dam.

Their homes are submerged under the 2,000 square foot Lake Nasser, the reservoir of the dam and one of the largest man-made lakes in the world.

As they were displaced, the Nubians’ homes, culture and language were destroyed as they adapted to a new life in the city and spoke Arabic.

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Before this, the Nubian language had its own alphabet and vocabulary.

As they prepared to create the dictionary, Amberkab and the rest of the team filmed the older generation of Nubians still able to speak the language and had the interviews translated into Arabic, English and Spanish.

As the older generations with knowledge of the language die out, so has the language, making “Koma Waidi” an essential project to preserving its heritage.

Today, there are no schools or universities in the country that teach the Nubian language, despite calls by Nubian residents to allow them to do so.

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Nubians complain they are racially discriminated against, marginalised and that their peaceful protests calling for the respect of their cultural rights are regularly quashed.

Successive governments have promised Nubians they will be repatriated and compensated for losing their homes, but none have followed through.

In September 2017 Amnesty urged authorities to release 24 Nubian activists who were calling for their right of return to their homeland.

They also asked authorities to declassify 16 villages on traditional Nubian land from being a military zone so they could return.

Much of the Nubians’ homeland classified as state military land has been sold off to private investors.

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