Singing songs and chatting in an ancient language, hundreds of cheerful Nubian travelers gathered at the Alexandria railway station for a long pilgrimage to a lost homeland.
Exiles in their own country, they journeyed 18 hours to celebrate a Muslim holiday in the Nile Valley of southern Egypt, a region their ancestors once dominated from a loose confederation of villages along the river banks.
In 1964, their shoreline was inundated when the Aswan High Dam created Lake Nasser, the largest reservoir in the world. Now the Egyptian government has floated plans to develop and populate land surrounding the lake - without reserving space for Nubians. But ethnic minority activists want terrain set aside for new villages so their brethren can live again on the Nile, returning from a northern Egypt diaspora and arid settlements established 44 years ago for displaced families.
"The settlements are false Nubia," said Haggag Oddoul, an author who has become an outspoken advocate for resettlement. "To restore our character and community, we need to be rerooted. We need to return."
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