The Egyptian People
Bringing Egypt closer to you.
The Egyptian populous is divided into four cultural groups consisting of Copts (An Egyptian belonging to or descended from the people of ancient or pre-Islamic Egypt), Bedouins (An Arab of any of the nomadic tribes of the Arabian, Syrian, Nubian, or Sahara deserts), Nubians (Any of a group of closely related Nilo-Saharan languages spoken in the Sudan) and Egyptian peasants or fellahin (A peasant or agricultural laborer in an Arab country, such as Syria or Egypt).
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.
Copts, the native Christian minority of Egypt; estimates of the number of Copts in Egypt range from 5% to 17% of the population. Copts are not ethnically distinct from other Egyptians; they are a cultural remnant, i.e. the Christians who have not been converted to Islam in the 14 centuries since the Muslim invasion. The Coptic language, now extinct, was the form of the ancient Egyptian language spoken in early Christian times; by the 12th century it was superseded by Arabic.
Most Copts belong to the Coptic Church, an autonomous Christian sect that officially adheres to Monophysitism, which was declared(451) a heresy by the Council of Chalcedon.
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 travelers, if in need, are welcome to the food and water but are bound not to touch the remaining articles.
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 traveled north, invading Luxor to reestablish classical Pharaonic culture.
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 fellahin 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 wife of the fellah wears dresses with long sleeves and trailing flounces and a black veil, which she sometimes uses to cover her face. On market days and other special occasions the women wear earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and anklets. These ornaments are usually made of beads, silver, glass, copper, or gold. They make a pleasant musical sound as the fellah walks along the dusty lanes of the village. Most of Egypt's fellahin live in the villages along the Nile.
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