the return

The successful intervention of our friends from Acropole Hotel in the problem with the issuing of my visa to Sudan, brought me to the airport of Bergen at dawn yesterday. The Lufthansa flights took me from Norway to the air-hub of Frankfurt and then across Europe, “upstream” the Egyptian Nile, over the Red Sea, via Jedda, and back over the Red Sea to the capital of Sudan, Khartoum, where the adventure of the short season of 2012 for the Medieval Sai Project started this morning…

During the flight, and while flying over Greece, I had the chance to watch a documentary called “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams“. It was written and directed by Werner Herzog in 2010 and has already won several awards. The film is about the Chauvet Cave in Southern France where the oldest traces of art have been located, in the form of cave paintings of amazing beauty.

It made me think of the way archaeology can become appealing to a wider audience, but also of the origins of humanity, as we can also so often come across on Sai Island, where lithics of the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) like the one in this photo have been found in the soil of our beloved island that is so rich in memories!

This hand-axe was found on the gravel plains just below Jebel Adou, behind the fertile banks and the zone of the settlements. The phenomenon has to do with the parallel development of the human activities on the islands of the Nile along with the pace of the formation of the body of these islands themselves. In other words, the rhythm that the silt of the Nile builds up the surface of these magical lands in this blessed body of water…

But I am already dreaming of reaching Sai…

Before heading to the rich in antiquities Northern Province of Sudan though, every expedition has to pass from Khartoum, to organize work and fulfill various bureaucratic and logistic procedures. Therefore, I found it a very fine coincidence when walking downtown this morning – so as to fix the telecommunication needs through which I can keep contact with the family back home (a simple mobile phone of the “Sudani” company) and with the readers of the Medieval Sai Project out there in the world wide web (a mDSL “Sudani” Wireless data terminal) – I came across a poster of the European Film Festival that was hosted in Khartoum from the 27th of November until the 4th of December 2011! I wonder whether “The Cave of Forgotten Dreams” found its way here…

I was also positively surprised by the fact that the Greek Community (called the Greek Compound in the poster) also hosted some of the screenings and this is a very good sign for the present and the future of the most important European community in modern Sudan.

The Medieval Sai Project has times and again showed interest for the recording of this history and one of our tasks in this scope is to interview as many as possible of the Greek families still resident in the country. So, in the afternoon I was invited by Liza Gabrielides to her home where I met with her father, Lefteris, and her mother, Eleni, and put together in paper their memories from a Sudan long gone and a Sudan still present. The interviews will be edited into a book at some time in the future, but today I am happy to present a photo of grandfather Lefteris with his grandson bearing the same name, and going to the Greek School of Khartoum. Somewhere in an imaginary background, the memories of grandpa Lefteris brought to the present two older generations of Greeks in Sudan! His maternal grandfather, Nikolaos Kouvaras, was the first of the family to come to Sudan; an event belonging to the history of the 19th century…

Closing the first of these “reports” with which I wish to conclude every day of this short season of the Medieval Sai Project in Sudan, I feel I need to explain that the first person singular of the narration is due to the fact that Henriette stayed back home in Bergen with Ilias, and so it is Alexandros who has the chance to experience this long-wished return to the Middle Nile Valley.

Tomorrow, I will also return to the National Museum, a scenery of dreams not at all forgotten…

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12 Responses to the return

  1. chirine nour says:

    your report alexandre is a soudanese oasis in our greek desert…!!!
    waiting for your national museum report and other fine coinsidances, mettings, excavations masha’allah!!!!

  2. ergamenis says:

    And I am now even more looking forward to sending more such feelings out there :-)

  3. zahir says:

    am keenly interested to know my ancient people history I spend lot of times searing the web pages finally i found your web i would like to thank u for your study about sai island my place i hope you post more information about the early people of sai supported by picture because i feel that am still belonging to those ancient people in-spite of living in the present time , for sai island unfortunately most of it native people were left the island to settle in the capital city or to work abroad like me ,,, thank you and please post more updates about your field trips

    • ergamenis says:

      Ustaz Zahir,
      thank you for your interest in our work and for your kind words.
      In the entries of this Internet space you will find quite some information and photographs from your homeland.
      Next week the Medieval Sai Project will be returning to the island.
      Is there someone from your family still there that you wish that we contact on your behalf?

  4. zahir says:

    First, thank you for your interaction with me and I would like to thank you again for your efforts in bringing civilization of Sai, I wish if I were with you next week to go to Sai, for my relatives there are still many of them living in the island among them my uncle Ustaz Abdoon ( retired teacher), my blindness, sons of my aunt and my acquaintances, and you can contact Mr. Mohamed Abdel-Karim, ( Arodeen School Headmaster ) and if you have any difficulty in accommodation during your stay in Sai I am offering you our house its a big house and modern to a certain extent, but only needs some cleaning and is easily accessible from some places I think that you had to visit and this is a modest contribution from my part to Sai and you, Dear may I know the nature of your mission is it a study of for Sai’s human in the Middle Ages or is it more in-depth study ? ………. thank you very much.

    • ergamenis says:

      We thank you for all the kind words and offers, ustaz Zahir!
      When on Sai, I will try to find your relatives. If you have contacts with them, you may also wish to tell them that I am staying for a couple of days with the French mission at the dig house near the Qalat Sai.
      Our research aimed initially at the documentation of the traces of the Medieval past on the island and the cataloguing of the discovered in the past objects from that period. We completed a survey in 2009 and we presented a map in a report published in the journal Beiträge zur Sudanforschung from the University of Vienna, where there is still in print the report from the second season of 2010 when we started excavations at the site with the four granite columns suggested as the cathedral of the island during the era of the Christian Nubian civilization.
      Our aim is to complete the work at that site, continue with further sites of interest like Dibasha, and advance as much as possible the knowledge of the Medieval past of Sai.
      We see that period as continuing into the post-Medieval period and we wish to work with principles that promote the awareness of the importance of the local population’s historical links with their homeland and the respect of the cultural landscape, unfortunately both threatened by the plan for a dam on the Dal Cataract.

  5. zahir says:

    Thank you for giving your valuable time in replying my previous comments, regarding Dal Dam most Nubians aware of the fact of the possibility of extinction of their civilization in the event of construction of the said dam and we wish to combine Nubians efforts with your organization to sensitize the government about the negative effects of the dam. Dear I knew from your letter that Dibasha will be listed in the program of your visit and am glad to tell you that Dibasha is the homeland of my grandfather and definitely you know about its old cathedral, locally known as “Osheen Kissai ” in Nubian dialect and if you have time don’t miss the chance to visit a place that I think will be linked to your study which is a cave in the eastern part of Sai along the Nile, called in the local dialect of Nubian (Foojen Ofi), the first word means: bat and second means: hole to be translated as ” bat cave ” because it is inhabited by swarms of bats , this cave is full of mystery and there are many rumors about it one of them says that it extends from the eastern side of the island and ends in the North district of the island at Sasab but no one entered the cave to prove the same thank you very much and hope you all success in your mission.

  6. ergamenis says:

    Just before departing for the island of Sai, I wish that all will go well with the Internet connection there and that I will be able to continue blogging in the coming four days. And I hope that I will find the people optimistic and determined for their future.
    Of course, I will see to what extent the information you provide us, concerning Foojen Ofi, can be used already from this season, although the limited time might be an obstacle in implementing all things. In any case, this and future advice of yours are surely noted and will be taken in consideration.
    Thank you again, ustaz Zahir!

  7. zahir says:

    Dear all I hope you a good day on Sai island and hope you smoothly crossed the river to Sia since I heard some news about the breakdown of Sai Bantoon ..please keep posting more updates .. thank you.

    • ergamenis says:

      Thank you for the wishes, ustaz Zahir!
      We have all come across, in fact, on the first day of work of the pontoon after the accident!
      The son of the late rais (al baraka fikum) did a good job :-)
      This afternoon, I will visit Dibasha, and then try to arrange meetings for tomorrow with Ustaz Abdoon and Mohamed Abdel Karim!

  8. zahir says:

    I hope you have fun and useful time on the island of Sai, and am very glad to see this beautiful photos from Sai and would like to send my warm greetings to my dear friend, Sheikh Ad Din, a good example of a man who loves his native ……..good luck and I look forward to know your news .

    • ergamenis says:

      We are very glad ourselves that you keep up the contact and the interest!
      Today I visited your friends and family in Arodin and also located the cave of the bats! There are actually at least three!
      The discussions with the locals are always producing useful information for the reconstruction of the history of the island, exchanged always in a cordial atmosphere and with a fine cup of tea or coffee, while the cave is indeed a very interesting place for the study of the exploitation of the soil on Sai for various purposes (fertilizing, perhaps mining etc.).
      More on both topics in the future!

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