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Population Overview

The population of Sudan is a combination of indigenous inhabitants of Nile Valley, and descendants of migrants from the Arabian Peninsula. Due to the process of Arabisation common throughout the rest of the Arab World, today Arab culture predominates in Sudan. The ethnic groups of Sudan are Arabs 70%, others being Arabized ethnic groups of Nubians, Copts, and Beja. Others (Fur, Nuba, Fallata). Sudanese Arabs are by far the largest ethnic group in Sudan, they are almost entirely Muslims; while the majority speak Sudanese Arabic; some other Arab tribes speak different Arabic dialects like Awadia and Fadnia and Bani Arak tribes who speak Najdi Arabic; Bani Hassan, Al-Ashraf, Kinanah and Rashaida who speak Hejazi Arabic. In addition, Arab tribes like the Baggara and other Darfurians, both who speak Chadian Arabic. Sudanese Arabs of Northern and Eastern parts descend primarily from migrants from the Arabian peninsula and some of the pre-existing indigenous populations of Sudan, most predominately the Nubian people who also share a common history with Egypt. Additionally, a few pre-Islamic Arabian tribes existed in Sudan from earlier migrations into the region from Western Arabia, although most Arabs in Sudan are dated from migrations after the 12th century.The vast majority of Arab tribes in Sudan migrated into the Sudan in the 12th century, intermarried with the indigenous African populations and introduced Islam.

In Sudan's 1993 census, the population was calculated at 25 million. No comprehensive census has been carried out since that time due to the civil war. Estimates of Sudan, including the population of South Sudan, ranged from 37 million (United Nations estimate) to 45 million (CIA estimate). Since the secession of South Sudan in July 2011, estimates place the current population of Sudan at a little over 30 million. The population of metropolitan Khartoum (including Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North) is growing rapidly and ranges from six to seven million, including around two million displaced persons from the southern war zone as well as western and eastern drought-affected areas.

Population Statistics

Achieving good counts of the population is difficult in Sudan, because conducting a census has been difficult due to various conflicts and wars in the southern, eastern and western regions of Sudan over the past few decades. The government of South Sudan (led by the former SPLM resistance movement) has in the past accused Sudan of deliberately manipulating the census in oil-rich regions such as the Abyei district, on the border between Sudan and South Sudan. The population count is a determining factor for the share of wealth and power each part of Sudan receives after the secession of South Sudan (See: Naivasha Agreement). Another complication is the Southern Sudanese refugees present in the north, whose citizenship in Sudan after the secession of South Sudan is now in question

Vital statistics

The vital statistics below include South Sudan!

Period                Live births          Deaths      Natural change          CBR*          CDR*          NC*   TFR*    IMR*

                            per year             per year    per year


1950-1955          452 000             233 000       219 000                         46.5           24.0           22.5   6.65     160

1955-1960          510 000             251 000       259 000                         46.7           23.0           23.8   6.65     154

1960-1965          572 000             268 000       304 000                         46.6           21.8           24.7   6.60     147

1965-1970          647 000             281 000       365 000                         46.5           20.3           26.3   6.60     137

1970-1975          737 000             298 000       438 000                         46.2           18.7           27.5   6.60     126

1975-1980          839 000             317 000       522 000                         45.1           17.1           28.1   6.52     116

1980-1985          950 000             339 000       611 000                         43.6           15.5           28.0   6.34     106

1985-1990          1 043 000          361 000       682 000                         41.7           14.4           27.3   6.08       99

1990-1995          1 137 000          374 000       763 000                         40.1           13.2           26.9   5.81       91

1995-2000          1 242 000          387 000       855 000                         38.6           12.0           26.6   5.51       81

2000-2005          1 324 000          373 000       951 000                         36.5           10.3           26.2   5.14       70

2005-2010          1 385 000          384 000       1 001 000                      33.8           9.4             24.4   4.60       64

* CBR = crude birth rate (per 1000); CDR = crude death rate (per 1000); NC = natural change (per 1000); IMR = infant mortality rate per 1000 births; TFR = total fertility rate (number of children per woman)

Languages of Sudan

Sudan is a multilingual country dominated by Sudanese Arabic. In the 2005 constitution of the Republic of Sudan, the official languages of Sudan are literary Arabic and English.

Approximately 70 languages are native to Sudan.

Sudanese Arabic is the most widely spoken language in the country. It is the variety of Arabic spoken throughout northern Sudan. It has much borrowed vocabulary from the local languages (El Rotana). This has resulted in a variety of Arabic that is unique to Sudan, reflecting the way in which the country has been influenced by both African and Arab cultures. Some of the tribes in Sudan still have similar accents to the ones in Saudi Arabia. Other important languages include Beja (AKA Bedawi) along the Red Sea, with perhaps 2 million speakers; Fur in the west (Darfur), with perhaps a million speakers; and the various Nubian languages along the Nile in the north, with half a million or so speakers. The most linguistically diverse region in the country are the Nuba Hills in Kordofan, inhabited by speakers of multiple language families, with Darfur and the Ethiopian-border regions being second.

Beja is the sole Cushitic language in Sudan. Arabic is Semitic, the Niger–Congo family is represented by many of the Kordofanian languages, and Indo-European by Domari (Gypsy) and English. Historically, Old Nubian, Greek, and Coptic (Egyptian) were the languages of Christian Nubia, and Meroitic the language of the Kingdom of Kush which conquered Egypt.

Sudan also has multiple regional sign languages, which are not mutually intelligible. But 2009 a proposal for a unified Sudanese Sign Language had been worked out, but was not widely known.

The most used languages are:

  1-  Arabic in all Sudan, along with the tribal languages.

        Sudanese Arabic.

        Najdi and Hejazi Arabic, (mainly in mid-north and mid-east regions).

        Chadic Arabic in western region, (mainly spoken by Baggara and various Arabized African tribes).

   2- Nubian language in far north, (mainly spoken by Nubians of Mahas, Dongola and Halfa).


   3- Beja language knows as Bedawit in far east alongside Red sea, (mainly spoken by Beja of Hadandawa, Ababda  

        and Bisharin).

   4- Fur language in far west, (mainly spoken By Fur people).

   5-Kordofanian languages consist of numerous languages like kadu, Katla, Mandi, Rashad, Lafofa and Talodi–Heiban.

   6-Nuba Mountains languages in Southern region, (different ethnic groups speak different languages).

   7- Temein languages.

   8- Domari language, (mainly spoken by Halabi/Nawar and Ghajar clans).

   9-Various Niger–Congo and Chadic languages, (mainly spoken by Western African tribes like the Fallata, also known 

      as Fulani and Hausa).

  10- Other tribal languages in all Sudan with some people speaking English.

Language policies

Under the 1998 constitution, only Arabic was the official language.

The 2005 constitution designated Arabic and English as the official languages of Sudan.[4]

Article 8:

  1- All indigenous languages of Sudan are national languages and shall be respected, developed and promoted.

  2- Arabic is a widely spoken national language in Sudan.

  3- Arabic, as a major language at the national level and English shall be the official working languages of the national

       government and the languages of instruction for higher education.

  4-  In addition to Arabic and English, the legislature of any sub-national level of government may adopt any other   

       national language as an additional official working language at its level.

  5- There shall be no discrimination against the use of either Arabic or English at any level of government or stage of 



Ethnic groups

Tribes of Sudan

    Ababda                                   Halaween                            Manasir

    Abddallab                               Hamar                                  Masalit

    Arakeien                                 Hasania                               Midob

    Ashraf                                     Hawara                                Nuba
    Ga'alin                                    Ja'Alin                                  Nubian

    Jamoi'a                                  Jemi'ab                                Rashaida

    Baggara                                 Kababish                            Rubatab

    Bataheen                                Kinanah                              Shaigiya

    Beja                                         Kinouz                                 Shukria

    Bideiria Dahmshiia              Kawahla                              Tama people

    Danagla                                  Kazraj Ansar                      Zaghawa

    Fulani                                      Mahas                                 Zubaid

    Fur                                           Mahria


The Arab presence is estimated at 70% of the Sudanese population. Others include the Arabized ethnic groups of Nubians, Copts, and Beja. Sudan has 597 tribes that speak over 400 different languages and dialects. Sudanese Arabs are by far the largest ethnic group in Sudan, they are almost entirely Muslims; while the majority speak Sudanese Arabic; some other Arab tribes speak different Arabic dialects like Awadia and Fadnia and Bani Arak tribes who speak Najdi Arabic; Rufa'a, Bani Hassan, Al-Ashraf, Kinanah and Rashaida who speak Hejazi Arabic. In addition, the Western province comprise various ethnic groups, while few Arab Bedouin of the northern Rizeigat and others who speak Sudanese Arabic and share the same culture and backgrounds of the Sudanese Arabs, The majority of Arabized and indigenous tribes like the Fur, Zaghawa, Masalit and some Baggara ethnic groups, who speak Chadian Arabic, show less cultural integration, not often included in Sudanese Arabs definition, due to cultural, linguistic and genealogical variations with other Arab and Arabized tribes. Sudanese Arabs of Northern and Eastern parts descend primarily from migrants from the Arabian peninsula and some of the pre-existing indigenous populations of Sudan, most predominately the Nubian people who also share a common history with Egypt and Beja. Additionally, a few pre-Islamic Arabian tribes existed in Sudan from earlier migrations into the region from Western Arabia, although most Arabs in Sudan are dated from migrations after the 12th century. The vast majority of Arab tribes in Sudan migrated into the Sudan in the 12th century, intermarried with the indigenous Nubian and African populations and introduced Islam.

In common with much of the rest of the Arab world, the gradual process of Arabization in Sudan following these Arabian migrations after the 12th century led to the predominance of the Arabic language and aspects of Arab culture, leading to the shift among a majority of Sudanese today to an Arab ethnic identity. This process was furthered both by the spread of Islam and an emigration to Sudan of genealogical Arabs from the Arabian Peninsula, and their intermarriage with the Arabized indigenous peoples of the country.[citation needed]

Sudan consists of numerous other non-Arabic tribes, such as the Masaleet, Zagawa, Fulani, Northern Nubians, Nuba, and Bija.

The Beja people

The Beja people (Arabic: البجا‎) are an ethnic group found mostly in Sudan, but also in parts of Eritrea, and Egypt. They also live and move through parts of the Sahara desert.

Most of them live in the Sudanese states of Red Sea around Port Sudan, River Nile, Al Qadarif and Kassala, as well as in Northern Red Sea, Gash-Barka, and Anseba Regions in Eritrea, and southeastern Egypt. There are smaller populations of other Beja ethnic groups in Egypt's Eastern Desert. Some Beja groups are nomadic. The Kharga Oasis in Egypt is home to a large number of Qamhat Bisharin who were displaced by the Aswan High Dam. Jebel Uweinat is a revered by the Qamhat.


The term Bejawi comes from Ta-Itjawy "people of Itjawy".

Ta-Seti Neferet, the mother of Egyptian King Amenhemet I's was of a peoples from Upper Egypt known as Ta-Seti. He built a great city state called "Amenemhat-itj-tawy" ("Amenemhat the Seizer of the Two Lands"), more simply called Itjtawy. Populations from the Ta-Seti region came to people Itj-tawy and from this power centre, Amenemhat I's armies extended the Egyptian empire. Egyptologists who believe Amenemhat I may have waited until his twentieth year to make the move to his new city base their evidence on an inscription found on the foundation blocks of the pyramid's mortuary temple. It records Amenemhat's royal jubilee, and also that year one of a new king had elapsed, suggesting that the pyramid was started very late in the king's reign. King Amenemhat I reorganized the administration of the country, keeping the hereditary nomarchs who had supported him, while weakening the regional governors by appointing new officials at Asyut, Cusae and Elephantine. Another move, both to dilute the army's power and to raise personnel for coming conflicts, was his reintroduction of conscription. In order to protect Egypt and fortify captured territory in Nubia, he founded a fortress at Semna in the region of the second Nile Cataract, which would begin a string of future 12th Dynasty fortresses. Along with protecting his newly acquired territory, he also create a stranglehold over economic contacts with Upper Nubia and further south.

Amenemhat's Ta-Seti army and conscripts came to be known Ta-Itj-tawy. In modern languages this is pronounced Bigawy, Bedjawi or Bejawi.

The Beja have been named "Blemmyes" in Roman times,"Buga"s in Aksumite inscriptions in Ge'ez[citation needed], and "Fuzzy Wuzzy" by Rudyard Kipling. Kipling was specifically referring to the Hadendowa, who fought the British, supporting the "Mahdi," a Sudanese leader of a rebellion against the Turkish rule administered by the British.


The Beja speak Beja or To Bedawie, an Afro-Asiatic language usually classified as Cushitic, but sometimes seen as an independent branch. The French linguist Didier Morin (2001) has made an attempt to bridge the gap between Beja and another branch of Cushitic, namely Lowland East Cushitic languages and in particular Afar and Saho, the linguistic hypothesis being historically grounded on the fact that the three languages where once geographically contiguous. Most Beja speak the Beja language, however certain sub-clans do not, the Beni Amers for instance speak a variety of Tigre, while most of the Halengas speak Arabic.[3]

Even though the influence of Arabic cannot be denied, Beja speakers do not consider that their language is today an endangered language. The very facts that the highest moral and cultural values of this society are in one way or the other linked to their expression in Beja, that Beja poetry is still highly praised, and that the claims over the Beja land are only valid when expressed in Beja, are very strong social factors in favour of its preservation. True enough Arabic is considered as the language of modernity, but it is also very low in the scale of Beja cultural values as it is a means of transgressing social prohibitions. Beja is still the prestigious language for most of its speakers because it conforms to the ethical values of the community.


The Bejas contain smaller clans, such as the Bisharin, Hedareb, Hadendowa (or Hadendoa), the Amarar (or Amar'ar), Beni-Amer, Hallenga and Hamran, some of them partly mixed with Bedouins in the east. The European colonial masters and the explorers became fascinated with the Bejas which they often described in eulogistic terms.

The Bejas attach a high importance to their hair. Their prominent crown of fuzzy hair (called tiffa in their language) has characterized the Beja for centuries. Bejas believe that they are the descendants of Sekhmet and her human consort. Some Egyptian Bejawi clans believe that they are descendants of Maahes Warrior Chiefs of High Priests of Amun at Thebes . Priest-Kings Pinedjem I, Psusennes I and Osorkon the Elder and their armies are believed to be the ancestors of Egypt's Western Desert Bejawi. Omdas Sheikh Qamhat Khawr al`allaqi was last remnant of one of Egypt's oldest surviving lineages. His death in 1936 was widely considered the death knell for the Qamhat Bisharin. Egyptologist Heinrich Brugsch traced Qamhat Khawr kiji tribal clans through female lines to the 20th Dynasty Wehem Mesut. Egyptologist Zakaria Goneim traced their ancestress mother to an even earlier dynasty.


Bejawi worshiped Isis at Philae until the 6th century. After the temple was closed down officially in the 6th century A.D. by the Byzantine emperor Justinian, Beja converted to Christianity in the 6th century under the influence of the three Nubian Christian Kingdoms that flourished along the Nile for 600 years: Nobatia, Makuria, and Alodia, as well as the Christian Kingdom of Aksum, under whose rule most lived from the 3rd to 8th centuries. Around the decline of the Aksumite kingdom, the Bejas founded five kingdoms in what is now northern Eritrea and east-northeastern Sudan.[citation needed] In the 10th century Islam spread and gained popularity among the Beja people, though some pre-Islamic beliefs continued until the 19th century. As of 2007, the majority of Beja are believed to be Muslim. Nevertheless, many Coptic Upper Egyptians of Saiddi and Beja stock are still Christians, especially in the regions of Kharga Oasis and Qena Upper Egypt. There is a significant population of Sudanese Copts in Northern Sudan as well. Most Beja peoples are Sufi.[citation needed]Shariah law is always trumped by the ancient Beja tribal law, known as Salif, which is governed by a council of elders. Black magic is practiced against enemies, and sacred fire is used to ward off spirits causing sickness and accidents.Some qamhat bishari kiji clans worshiped a pantheon of deities including qebui, saa, meskhenet, sekhmet, nefertem, maahes, menhit and mut , well into the 19th century. Their attachment to Paganism is credited as a major factor in their eventual extermination during ottoman times.


Baggāra , derives from Arabic word (Arabic: بقارة‎) literally means "Cowman", are a set of communities and/or coalition of many other inhabiting the portion of Africa's Sahel mainly between Lake Chad and southern Kordofan, numbering over one million. They have a common language which is one of the regional colloquial Arabic languages. They also have a common traditional mode of subsistence, nomadic cattle herding, although nowadays many lead a settled existence. Nevertheless, collectively they do not all necessarily consider themselves one people, i.e., a single ethnic group. The term "baggara culture" was introduced in 1994 by Braukämper. The political use of term "baggara" in Sudan denote a particular set of tribes is limited to Sudan. It often means a coalition of majority Arabs and few indigenous African tribes (mainly Fur, Nuba and Fallata) with other Arab tribes of western part of Sudan (mainly Guhayna), as opposed to Bedouin Abbala Arab tribes, The bulk of "baggara Arabs" live in Chad. The rest live, or seasonally migrate to, southwest Sudan (specifically the southern portions of Darfur and Kordofan), and slivers of the Central African Republic, South Sudan, and Niger. Those who are still nomads migrate seasonally between grazing lands in the wet season and river areas in the dry season.

Their common language is known to academics by various names, such as Chadian Arabic, taken from the regions where the language is spoken. For much of the 20th century, this language was known to academics as "Shuwa Arabic", but "Shuwa" is a geographically and socially parochial term that has fallen into disuse among linguists specializing in the language, who instead refer to it as "Nigerian Arabic" or "Chadian Arabic" depending on the origin of the native speakers being consulted for a given academic project. The term "Shuwa" is peculiar to the region of Borno State in the tip of northeastern Nigeria, where it is used by the majority non-Arabic speakers to describe the

Origins and divisions

The origin of the Baggara is undetermined. According to a 1994 research paper, the group arose in Chad from 1635 onwards through the fusion of an Arabic speaking population with a Fulani population. DNA tests indicate they have a common lineage with Chadic and Fulani speakers. Like other Arabic speaking tribes in the Sahara and the Sahel, Baggara tribes have origin myths claiming ancestry from specific Arab tribes who migrated directly from the Arabian peninsula or from other parts of north Africa.

Baggara tribes in Sudan include the Rizeigat, Ta’isha, Beni Halba, and Habbaniya in Darfur, and the Messiria Zurug, Messiria Humur, Hawazma, and Awlad Himayd in Kordofan, and the Beni Selam on the White Nile. For complete and accurate account about Baggara tribes, see: Baggara of Sudan: Culture and Environment. The Misseiria of Jebel Mun speak the Nilo-Saharan language of their traditional neighbors, Tama (Tama as spoken by this tribe is also called Miisiirii).

The small community of "Baggara Arabs" in the southeastern corner of Niger is known as Diffa Arabs for the Diffa Region. They occupy the shore of Lake Chad and migrated from Nigeria since World War II. Most of the Diffa Arabs claim descent from the Mahamid clan of Sudan and Chad.


The Baggara of Darfur and Kordofan were the backbone of the Mahdist revolt against Turko-Egyptian rule in Sudan in the 1880s. The Mahdi's second-in-command, the Khalifa Abdallahi ibn Muhammad, was himself a Baggara of the Ta'aisha tribe. During the Mahdist period (1883–98) tens of thousands of Baggara migrated to Omdurman and central Sudan where they provided many of the troops for the Mahdist armies. After their defeat at the Battle of Karari in 1898, the remnants returned home to Darfur and Kordofan. Under the British system of indirect rule, each of the major Baggara tribes was ruled by its own paramount chief (nazir). Most of them were loyal members of the Umma Party, headed since the 1960s by Sadiq el Mahdi.

The main Baggara tribes of Darfur were awarded "hawakir" (land grants) by the Fur Sultans in the 1750s. As a result, the four largest Baggara tribes of Darfur—the Rizeigat, Habbaniya, Beni Halba and Ta’isha—have been only marginally involved in the Darfur conflict. However, the Baggara have been deeply involved in other conflicts in both Sudan and Chad. Starting in 1985, the Government of Sudan armed many of the local tribes among them the Rizeigat of south Darfur and the Messiria and Hawazma of neighboring Kordofan as militia to fight a proxy war against the Sudan People's Liberation Army in their areas. They formed frontline units as well as Murahleen, mounted raiders that attacked southern villages to loot valuables and slaves.

The Baggara people (and subgroups) were armed by the Sudanese government to participate in the counterinsurgency against the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army. The first attacks against villages by the Baggara were staged in the Nuba Mountains. The Sudanese government promoted attacks by promising the Baggara people no interference so they could seize animals and land. They formed the precursors to the Janjaweed - a famous para-military.

During the Second Sudanese Civil War thousands of Dinka women and children were abducted and subsequently enslaved by members of the Missiriya and Rezeigat tribes. An unknown number of children from the Nuba tribe were similarly abducted and enslaved. In Darfur, a Beni Halba militia force was organized by the government to defeat an SPLA force led by Daud Bolad in 1990-91. However, by the mid-1990s the various Baggara groups had mostly negotiated local truces with the SPLA forces. The leaders of the major Baggara tribes declared that they had no interest in joining the fighting.


Beja people

Baggara tribe

Nubian people

The Nubians (Arabic: نوبيون‎/Arabic: نوبة‎) are an ethnic group originally from northern Sudan, and southern Egypt. The Nubian people in Sudan inhabit the region between Wadi Halfa in the north and Aldaba in the south. The main Nubian groups from north to south are the Halfaweyen, Sikut, Mahas, and Danagla. They speak different dialects of the Nubian language.

In ancient times Nubians were depicted by Egyptians as having very dark skin, often shown with hooped earrings and with braided or extended hair. Ancient Nubians were famous for their skill and precision with the bow


Nubians are the people of southern Egypt and northern Sudan, settling along the banks of the Nile from Aswan. They were very famous for their horsemanship, for which they rode their horses bareback and held on by their knees, making them light, mobile, and efficient, and a good cavalry choice. Their Nubian language is an Eastern Sudanic language, part of the Nilo-Saharan phylum.

The Old Nubian language is attested from the 8th century, and is thus the oldest recorded language of Africa outside of the Afro-Asiatic group. It was the language of the Noba nomads who occupied the Nile between the First and Third Cataracts and the Makorae nomads who occupied the land between the Third and Fourth Cataracts following the collapse of the Kingdom of Kush sometime in the 4th century CE. The Makorae were a separate tribe who eventually conquered or inherited the lands of the Noba: they established a Byzantine-influenced state called the Kingdom of Makuria which administered the Noba lands separately as the eparchy of Nobadia. Nobadia was converted to Miaphysitism by the Orthodox priest Julian and Bishop Longinus of Constantinople, and thereafter received its bishops from the Pope of Alexandria.

The name "Nubia" or "Nubian" has a contested origin. It may originate with an ancient Egyptian noun, nebu, meaning gold. Another etymology claims that it originates with the name of a particular group of people, the Noubai, living in the area that would become known as Nubia. Scholars may also refer to Nubians as Kushites, a reference to the Kush, the territory of the Nubians as it was called by Ancient Egyptians. It may originate with the Greek historian Strabo, who referred to the Nubas people

The earliest history of ancient Nubia comes from the Paleolithic Era of 300,000 years ago. By around 6000 BCE, the Nubians had developed an agricultural economy and had contact with Egypt. The Nubians began using a system of writing relatively late in their history, when they adopted the Egyptian system.


Nubian Egyptians have had a strong interest in the archeological discoveries of recent decades that have brought a richer knowledge of ancient Nubia. Nubians were often subjected to discrimination in Egypt before this research became widely known. Nubians now take pride in their cultural history. Some express an affinity with Sudanese culture, as many have relatives in Sudan. This common identity has been celebrated in poetry, novels, music and storytelling.

Nubians in modern Sudan include the Danaqla around Dongola Reach, the Mahas from the Third Cataract to Wadi Halfa, and the Sikurta around Aswan. These Nubians write using their own script. They also practice scarification: Mahas men and women have three scars on each cheek, while the Danaqla wear these scars on their temples. Younger generations appear to be abandoning this custom.

Nubia's ancient cultural development was influenced by its geography. It is sometimes divided into Upper Nubia and Lower Nubia. Upper Nubia was where the ancient Kingdom of Napata (the Kush) was located. Lower Nubia has been called "the corridor to Africa", where there was contact and cultural exchange between Nubians, Egyptians, Greeks, Assyrians, Romans, and Arabs. Lower Nubia was also where the Kingdom of Meroe flourished. The languages spoken by modern Nubians are based on ancient Sudanic dialects. From north to south, they are: Kenuz, Fadicha (Matoki), Sukkot, Mahas, Danagla.

Kerma, Nepata and Meroe were Nubia's largest population centres. The rich agricultural lands of Nubia supported these cities. Ancient Egyptian rulers sought control of Nubia's wealth, including gold and the important trade routes within its territories. Nubia's trade links with Egypt led to Egypt's domination over Nubia during the New Kingdom period. Egypt's language, writing system, and architecture were imposed on Nubia. The emergence of the Kingdom of Meroe in the 8th century BCE led to Egypt being under the control of Nubian rulers for half a century, although they preserved many Egyptian cultural traditions. Nubian kings were considered pious scholars and patrons of the arts, copying ancient Egyptian texts and even restoring some Egyptian cultural practices.[15] After this, Egypt's influence declined greatly. Meroe became the centre of power for Nubia and cultural links with sub-Saharan Africa gained greater influence.


Today, Nubians practise Islam. To a degree, Nubian religious practices involve a syncretism of Islam and traditional folk beliefs. In ancient times, Nubians practised a mixture of traditional religion and Egyptian religion. Before the spread of Islam, many Nubians were adherents of Christianity.

Ancient Nepata was an important religious centre in Nubia. It was the locaton of Gebel Barkal, a massive sandstone hill resembling a rearing cobra in the eyes of the ancient inhabitants. Egyptian priests declared it to be the home of the ancient deity Amun, further enhancing Nepata as an ancient religious site. This was the case for both Egyptians and Nubians. Egyptian and Nubian deities alike were worshipped in Nubia for 2500 years, even while Nubia was under the control of the New Kingdom of Egypt. Nubian kings and queens were buried near Gebel Barkal, in pyramids as the Egyptian pharaohs were. Nubian pyramids were built at Gebel Barkal, at Nuri (across the Nile from Gebel Barkal), at El Kerru, and at Merroe, south of Gebel Barkal


The Mahas are a sub-group of the Nubian people located in Southern Egypt and Northern Sudan along the banks of the Nile. The Mahas have been referred to as Nubians since the creation of Lake Nasser when indigenous people of several different cultures were made to relocate. The Mahas are one of the few remaining remnants of the Qamhat Bishari tribe. Just as Ababda people are Bejan that are bilingual in Arabic and Beja,and sometimes described as Bedouins the Mahas are Bejan ethnic described as Nubian.

Hasania tribe

Hasania (or Hassania) are members of a Muslim tribe of Arab origin. As of 1911, they were inhabitants of the desert between Merwe and the Nile at the 6th Cataract, and the left bank of the Blue Nile immediately south of Khartoum.


Nubian woman 1900

Rashaida people

The Rashaida or Rashaayda (also see Bani Rasheed) (Arabic: بني رشيد, الرشايدة) are an Arab tribe populating Eritrea and north-east Sudan.In 1846, many Rashaida migrated from Hejaz in present day Saudi Arabia into what is now Eritrea and north-east Sudan after tribal warfare had broken out in their homeland. The Rashaida (which means refugee) of Sudan and Eritrea live in close proximity with the Beja people. Large numbers of Bani Rasheed are also found on the Arabian Peninsula. They are related to the Banu Abs trib.The Rashaida are Arabs who kept their traditional dress, culture, customs, camel breeds and religion (Sunni Islam).The racing camel breeds of the Rashaida tribe are prized all over Sudan and the Arabian Peninsula and fetch very high prices. The Rashaida speak Hejazi Arabic.

Kawahla people

Kawahla is an ethnic group of Eastern Sudan. They speak Sudanese Arabic. Members of this ethnicity are Muslims. The population of this ethnicity exceeds 1,000,000. They used to settle among the Beja. they came to the east of Sudan from Saudi Arabia by the Red Sea. One of their hobbies was robbing camels and sheep from any tribe that entered their territory, one of the most Famous Kawahla for Stealing is the Nifadiea tribe of Al harres who stole Most of the Oil in Sudan in the 20th Century . the Kawahla are Known to be the descents of Zubayr ibn al-Awam and has over 90 Segments of the tribe it is also the biggest tribe in Sudan most of the Kawhla are farmers one of the main crops they grow is Sorgum,wheat,cotton,beans(luba) and other fruits such as La loba and Nabag.


The Manasir people (Arabic: المناصير‎) constitute one of many Sunni Arab riverine tribes of Northern Sudan. They are not to be confused with the Al Manaseer of the Gulf region in the Arabian Peninsula based mainly in the United Arab Emirates. They inhabit the region of the Fourth Cataract of the Nile and call their homeland Dar al-Manasir. Similar to their neighbouring tribes, the upstream Rubatab (الرباطاب) and the downstream Shaiqiyah (الشايقيّة), the Manasir are indigenous nile culture who adapted Islam and became Arabic speakers. Unlike other riverain tribes of the Sudan a considerable part of their population actually lives as Bedouins in the adjacent Bayudah Desert. The nomadic life of herding their stock of goats, sheep and camels in desert valleys is however limited for many to the rainy season, coinciding with the annual inundation of the Nile.


Similar to other Arab tribes, the people trace their origins back to one historical ancestor. According to the current oral tradition of many Manasir this person is called Mansur and belongs to the line of descendants of al-'Abbas, the uncle of Muhammad. According to their self presentation in a recent publication by a committee of Manasir responsible for relocation issues resulting from the Merowe Dam, which is going to affect all villages of Dar al-Manasir, multiple explanations of their origin are offered

The Manasir living in Gezira claim that their apical forefather is called Mansur bin Qahtan (منصور بن قحطان), belonging to the Southern Arabs called Qahtaniin (القحطانيين).

Some historians (sources not mentioned) trace the origin of the Manasir back to the Kawahla (الكواهلة), saying that they are sons of Mansur bin 'Aim (منصور بن عايم).

Other historians (sources not mentioned) insist that they are the descendants of a group of cousins from a Shaiqi clan called al-Hankab (الحنكاب), who had to migrate after internal fights. According to the last opinion Mansur is a direct descendant of King Sabir (الملك صبير).

It might be worth mentioning that earlier travellers witnessed Beja and Bisharin influences from the Red Sea Hills among the Manasir (INNES 1931:187). Strong similarities of their burial customs with that of the Nubians can still be observed .

Critical research suggests that the current Manasir community should be viewed as a voluntary amalgamation throughout the centuries between indigenous mostly Nubian groups, descendants of emigrating Arabs and recruited tribal minorities living among them or in the adjoining areas. By recognizing a common genealogical pedigree, all members of the tribe establish a system of mutual respect, rights and obligations, thereby uniting themselves in their claims for land and other resources against neighbouring tribes.

The current Manasir clans are divided into Riverain Manasir (Manasir al-Nil, مناصير النيل) and Bedouin Manasir (Manasir al-Badiyah, مناصير البادية),

  1---  Manasir al-Nil: al-Wahabab (الوهاب), al-Suleimaniyah (السليمانية), al-Kabanah (الكبانة), al-Diqeisab (الدقيساب), al-Hamsab (الهامزاب), al-Ga'al (الجعل), al-'Ababsah (العبابسة), al-Farei'ab (الفريعاب) [Rubatab], al-Hamdatiab (الحمدتياب) [Shaiqi] and al-'Amasib (العماسيب).

 2---   Manasir al-Badiyah: sharing the grazing grounds of Abisba' (ابسباع) and Sani (سانى) are al-Khabra (الخبرا), al-Hamamir (الحمامير), al-Muleikab (المليكاب) and al-Kagbab (الكجباب).

During the dry season some clans migrate to the desert area of the Kababish tribe to the west (Khala' Kabushiyah, خلاء كبوشية) others to the grazing grounds of Wad Hamid (بادية ود حامد) in the Ga'ali Country (الجعليين) or to the Rubatab (الرباطاب) Country

Tribal marks (Shilukh)

Like other tribes in Sudan, most Manasir of the grown-up generations have tribal marks (Shilukh, الشلوخ) which possibly originate from a Sheikh's animal burning mark (Wasm, وسم). The tribal marks are cut with a razor on the cheeks of a child to mark it belonging to a specific tribe. Among the Donqolawi and the Shaiqiya these marks usually consist of three horizontal scars, among the Rubatab and the Ga'aliin the lines are vertical, the scars in the case of the Rubatab being rather larger and closer together .The Manasir do not have a unique design of tribal marks, but copy either the upstream or downstream neighbouring tribes.

Ja'alin tribe

Ja'alin or Ja'al are an Arab, Semitic tribe. The Ja'alin constitute a large portion of Sudanese Arabs, and traditionally only speak Arabic They formerly occupied the country on both banks of the Nile from Khartoum to Abu Hamad. They trace their lineage to Abbas, uncle of the Islamic prophet Muhammad. They were at one time subject to the Funj kings, but their position was in a measure independent. At the Egyptian invasion in 1820 they were the most powerful of Arab tribes in the Nile valley. They submitted at first, but in 1822 rebelled and massacred the Egyptian garrison at Shendi with the Mek Nimir, a Jaali leader burning Ismail, Muhammad Ali Pasha's son and his cortege at a banquet. The revolt was mercilessly suppressed, and the Ja'alin were thence forward looked on with suspicion. They were almost the first of the northern tribes to join the mahdi in 1884, and it was their position to the north of Khartoum which made communication with General Gordon so difficult. The Ja'alin are now a semi-nomad agricultural people.They are a proud religious people.

The Jaaliyin are known to be direct descendants of Abbas, uncle to prophet Mohammed, the messenger of the Islamic faith.

This group of over two million people live in small villages and cities along the banks of the Nile River. The area is very hot and dry, with an average yearly rainfall of about three inches. In the summer, which lasts from April through November, daytime temperatures can reach as high as 120 or 130 degrees Fahrenheit.

The Jaaliyin are easily recognized by their facial scars, many of which are in the form of a T or H. The scars are a sign of tribal pride and are even more common on the women than on the men, for they are considered a sign of beauty. The Jaaliyin are a very close tribe and quickly identify with each other, coming to another’s aid in the event of trouble or during times of celebration.

Some Jaaliyin still farm and raise livestock along the banks of the Nile River, but today they more commonly consist of the bulk of the Sudanese urban population, forming a large part of the merchant class. Although many have moved to cities, such as the Sudanese capital of Khartoum, they still maintain their tribal identity and solidarity. In some cities they live in quarters inhabited solely by Jaaliyin, and they oppose marriages to people outside their tribe. Famous for maintaining ties with their homeland, they keep in contact with their original home and return for frequent visits, especially for marriages, funerals and Muslim festivals.

Kababish tribe

The Kababish (Arabic: كبابش‎) are a nomadic tribe of the northern Kordofan region of Sudan.The Kababish comprise about 19 different groups, which are all led by a single nazir or chief. Their main occupation is as camel herders, which gives them a high standing in Arabic society as camels are highly prized and valued.

The main religion of the Kababish is Sunni Muslim, but it is said that due to their nomadic lifestyle where water is short they are not strict followers of their religion's practices. The language of the Kababish is a form of Sudanese Arabic. Their origins are a mix of Arabic and African giving them a fairer complexion than the Africans and darker that the Arabs.Women classically dress in a long blue cloth wrapped a few times around their body, while the men wear long white tunics, loose white pants and white turbans. Most men will carry a dagger or sword and perhaps a rifle or shotgun, due to the harshness of desert life and the threat of banditry due to their valuable stock.

From a young age children start to work at herding camels for water and feeding. What makes the Kababish stand out from other nomads is that the tribe does not all move together, often the women will stay at their camps or dikkas while the men move north towards the Libyan desert

The Kababish's home is a simple place made of canvas or cloth walls and roofs made of camel hairs and hides. Inside will be a few ornaments and a large bed raised off the ground and bound together by leather straps. Meat, berries and whatever can be traded makes up the diet, as well as the Arabic staple of spiced tea

Since the famine in the 1980s life has become more strenuous for the Kabaish, which has seen many turn towards the cities or take up a more semi-nomadic life. Today the tribe is estimated to be anywhere between 70,000 and 350,000, most of whom are illiterate.

Kawahla tribe

Kawahla is an ethnic group of Eastern Sudan. They speak Sudanese Arabic. Members of this ethnicity are Muslims. The population of this ethnicity exceeds 1,000,000. They used to settle among the Beja. they came to the east of Sudan from Saudi Arabia by the Red Sea. One of their hobbies was robbing camels and sheep from any tribe that entered their territory, one of the most Famous Kawahla for Stealing is the Nifadiea tribe of Al harres who stole Most of the Oil in Sudan in the 20th Century . the Kawahla are Known to be the descents of Zubayr ibn al-Awam and has over 90 Segments of the tribe it is also the biggest tribe in Sudan most of the Kawhla are farmers one of the main crops they grow is Sorgum,wheat,cotton,beans(luba) and other fruits such as La loba and Nabag.

Masalit tribe

The Masalit (masara in Masalit; Arabic: ماساليت‎) are a nation of people of Darfur in western Sudan and Wadai in eastern Chad. They speak Masalit, a Nilo-Saharan language of the Maba group. They numbered about 250,000 in 1983.

Between 1884 and 1921 they established a state called Dar Masalit.

The Masalit are well known for their Muslim piety

Shukria tribe

The Shukria are a large clan of Arab nomads. They are from the Goureish tribe, and their ancestor is Abdullah Aljawad bin Jaafar Altayar. They are known for nomadic life in the Buttana region of Sudan between the Atbara River and the Blue Nile southwest of the city of Khartoum. The family name of the principal branch of this clan is Abu Sin. Gedaref city is the center of the Shukria country, was formerly called Suk Abu Sin. Other towns include Halfa Aljadeeda, Kassala, Rofaa, Alfao, Algirba, and Tamboul.

They live primarily in rural villages and settlements situated along small waterways. These villages are of two different types: large villages, and the more common style of villages strung out along the Nile River in a continuous chain of closely adjacent huts.

The Shukria are primarily Sunni Muslims. They speak an Arabic dialect called Shukriyya.


Vertical shilukh (Manasir man)

Nuba tribe

Nuba is a collective term used here for the peoples who inhabit the Nuba Mountains of South Kordofan state, in Sudan. Although the term is used to describe them as if they composed a single group, the Nuba are multiple distinct peoples and speak different languages. Estimates of the Nuba population vary widely; the Sudanese government estimated that they numbered 1.07 million in 2003



The Nuba people reside in the foothills of the Nuba Mountains. Villages consist of family compounds, and the men's house (Holua) in which unmarried men sleep.

A family compound consisting of a rectangular compound enclosing two round mud huts thatched with sorghum stalks facing each other called a shal. The shal was fenced with wooden posts interwoven with straw. Two benches ran down the each side of the shal with a fire in the middle were families will tell stories and oral traditions. Around the shal was the much larger yard, the tog placed in front. The fence of the tog was made of strong tree branches as high as the roof of the huts. Small livestock like goats and chickens and donkeys were kept in the tog. Each compound had tall conical granaries called durs which stood on one side of the tog. At the back of the compound was a small yard were maize and vegetables like pumpkin, beans and peanuts were grown.

For families that were small a compound was not needed and a mud hut with a fence would be enough. The entrance was as large as a man so people had to climb the ladder and dive in to get grain. Inside the houses there was very little furniture, only a bamboo bed frame with a baobab rope mat on top and the hearth in the middle with firewood. Possessions and tools were hung or leaned against the wall. A small garden behind the house was used to grow vegetables like beans and pumpkin while sorghum and peanuts were grown away in the hills. One's wealth is measured by cattle so they are kept in a enclosure called a coh for cows and a cohnih for calves. The Nuba people eat sorghum as their staple. It is boiled with water or milk to make kal eaten with meat stew called waj. Corn is also roasted and eaten with home made butter.


Most of the Nuba peoples speak one of the many languages in the geographic Kordofanian languages group of the Nuba Mountains. This language group is in the major Niger–Congo languages family. Several Nuba languages are in the Nilo-Saharan languages family.

Over one hundred languages are spoken in the area and are considered Nuba languages, although many of the Nuba also speak Sudanese Arabic, the official language of Sudan.


The Nuba people are primarily farmers, as well as herders who keep cattle, goats, chickens, and other domestic animals. They often maintain three different farms: a garden near their house where vegetables needing constant attention, such as onions, peppers and beans, are grown; fields further up the hills where quick growing crops such as red millet can be cultivated without irrigation; and farms farther away, where white millet and other crops are planted. A distinctive characteristic of the Nubas is their passion for athletic competition, particularly traditional wrestling. The strongest young men of a community compete with athletes from other villages for the chance to promote their personal and their village’s pride and strength. In some villages, older men participate in club- or spear-fighting contests. The Nubas’ passion for physical excellence is also displayed through the young men’s vanity—they often spend hours painting their bodies with complex patterns and decorations. This vanity reflects the basic Nuba belief in the power and importance of strength and beauty.


The primary religion of many Nuba peoples is Islam, with some Christians, and traditional shamanistic beliefs also prevailing. Men wear a sarong and occasionally a skull cap. Young men remained naked, while children, including girls, wear only a string of beads. Older women and young women wore beads and wrap a sarong over their legs and sometimes a cloak tie on the shoulder. Both sexes practice scarification and circumcision. Men shave their heads, older men wear beards, women and girls braid their hair in strands and string it with beads.

The majority of the Nuba living in the east, west and northern parts of the mountains are Muslims, while those living to the south are either Christians or practice traditional animistic religions. In those areas of the Nuba mountains where Islam has not deeply penetrated, ritual specialists and priests hold as much control as the clan elders, for it is they who are responsible for rain control, keeping the peace, and rituals to insure successful crops. Many are guardians of the shrines where items are kept to insure positive outcomes of the rituals (such as rain stones for the rain magic), and some also undergo spiritual possession.


In the 1986 elections, the Umma Party lost several seats to the Nuba Mountains General Union and to the Sudan National Party, due to the reduced level of support from the Nuba Mountains region. There is reason to believe that attacks by the government-supported militia, the Popular Defense Force (P.D.F.), on several Nuba villages were meant to be in retaliation for this drop in support, which was seen as signaling increased support of the S.P.L.A. The P.D.F. attacks were particularly violent, and have been cited as examples of crimes against humanity that took place during the Second Sudanese Civil War

The Nuba Mountains

The Nuba people reside in one of the most remote and inaccessible places in all of Sudan, the foothills of the Nuba Mountains in central Sudan. At one time the area was considered a place of refuge, bringing together people of many different tongues and backgrounds who were fleeing oppressive governments and slave traders.

The Nuba Mountains mark the southern border of the sands of the desert and the northern limit of good soils washed down by the Nile River. Many Nubas, however, have migrated to the Sudanese capital of Khartoum to escape persecution and the effects of Sudan’s civil war. Most of the rest of the 1,000,000 Nuba people live in villages of between 1,000 and 50,000 inhabitants in areas in and surrounding the Nuba mountains. Nuba villages are often built where valleys run from the hills out on to the surrounding plains, because water is easier to find at such points and wells can be used all year long. There is no political unity among the various Nuba groups who live on the hills. Often the villages do not have chiefs but are instead organized into clans or extended family groups with village authority left in the hands of clan elders.

Second Sudanese Civil War

After some earlier incursions by the SPLA, the Second Sudanese Civil War started full scale in the Nuba Mountains when the Volcano Battalion of the SPLA under the command of the Nuba Yousif Kuwa Mekki and Abdel Aziz Adam al-Hillu entered the Nuba Mountains and began to recruit Nuba volunteers and send them to SPLA training facilities in Ethiopia. The volunteers walked to Ethiopia and back and many of them perished on the way.

During the war, the SPLA generally held the Mountains, while the Sudanese Army held the towns and fertile lands at the feet of the Mountains, but was generally unable to dislodge the SPLA, even though the latter was usually very badly supplied. The Governments of Sudan under Sadiq al-Mahdi and Omar al-Bashir also armed militias of Baggara Arabs to fight the Nuba and transferred many Nuba forcibly to camps.

In early 2002 the Government and the SPLA agreed on an internationally supervised ceasefire. International observers and advisors were quickly dispatched to Kadugli base camp and several deployed into the mountains to co-located with SPLA command elements. The base camp at Kauda for several observers included Swiss African advisor, French diplomat, an Italian and an American former US Army officer.

At that time, Abdel Aziz Adam al-Hillu was the governor of Nuba Mountains. During the course of the following months, relief supplies from the UN were air dropped to stem the starvation of many in Nuba Mountains.

The ceasefire in Nuba Mountains was the foundation for the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed in January 2005. This fragile peace remains in force, but infighting in the south, plus the Government of Sudan involvement in Darfur have resulted in issues which may break the peace agreement.

Secession - South Sudan

Southern Sudan voted for secession from Sudan in the Southern Sudanese independence referendum, 2011. This provision was agreed to in the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). The secession victory established the formation of a new country, South Sudan, from the southern portion of Sudan. However, conflict between Northern and Southern forces, and against the Nuba peoples, renewed again in the region in 2011 — see Sudan–SPLM-N conflict (2011) for detailed information.


Eyes and Ears Of God – Video surveillance of Sudan film by peace activist Tomo Križnar on YouTube

Rubatab tribe

The Rubatab tribe is a tribe in Sudan that speaks Arabic. Their accent is different from other tribes in Sudan, but the language is the same, including the alphabets. People from other tribes may have difficulty understanding them because of their distinct accent.

People in Rubatab show respect for each other, even when it comes to greeting each other. They usually shake hands and put the left hand on the other person’s shoulder (for men) saying “salaam aleikum” and the other answers by saying “wa aleikumu salaam”. Women show respect for each other by shaking hands, hugging or kissing each other on each cheek. People in the tribe have traditional Islamic names, like Mohammed and Ahmed

The Rubatab people have a distinct dance style from other tribes. Weddings are the only occasions where men dance with women. The people generally prefer painting rather than crafting. Many people are farmers, and few are artists. A notable exception is Mohammed Sadiq, a famous comedian and actor.

The music is simple. The instruments are homemade. Women play drums and men play tambour. Men and women have their own distinct drums.

Architecturally[clarification needed], many one-story buildings are made with bricks and cement. Each home has two doors, one for men and one for women.

The dress style is similar to the northern Sudanese people. Men wear a jalabiya and women wear toub. Women wear tobes that are one piece of generally a brightly colored cloth that is wrapped around the entire body and covers the hair. Underneath women wear dresses, which are worn without the toub in indoors. The jalabiya is a traditional white full-length, long-sleeved gown that men wear with white trousers underneath. Rich women wear jewellery to show their wealth. Also, there is heavy emphasis on beauty in the eyes and women emphasize their eyes with eyeliner

Social behavior

The people of the Rubatab tribe play many different games. Women play a game called "Higla". In this game, they draw a circle on the floor and throw rocks inside the circle and jump. Men play a game called football (soccer) and a game with rocks and sticks. They usually play these games after school or during break times.

The Rubatab people follow Islamic holidays. They have many traditional foods. One is called asida (porridge in English). It is made from sorghum, and they eat it with a tomato sauce. Another one is called gorassa it looks like pancake, and it is eaten with tomato sauce. They have three meals each day, breakfast is at 10 a.m., lunch is at 3 p.m. and dinner (optional) is at 10 p.m.

By traditions, when a child is born, the mother is not allowed to go out until 40 days after the birth. She stays at home with some relatives and friends. People come and give the mother money. On the seventh day after birth the child is officially named. A sheep or a cow is killed for a feast to celebrate this event. The size of the feast and the type of animal depends on the family's wealth. After 40 days have passed, there is another party, and the mother is free.

When someone dies, people call everyone from their family and all the family members come to the house. If the father dies, people close the room and wash the dead body. They wash the whole body with water, and afterwards they would put perfume on the body, and they put white cloth around the body. They put the body on the bed, and the body is then taken to the grave where it is buried according to Islamic procedures. When a husband die, the wife wears white, and she stays in her home for four months and ten days. She is not supposed to put on any makeup. This is to show respect to the deceased

Shaigiya tribe

The Shaigiya (Arabic: الشايقيّة) are one of the three dominant tribes in Northern Sudan, the others being the Ja'Alin and Danagla. The leaders of these three tribes share the key positions in the Sudanese government of national unity

The Shaigiya are a riverain agricultural people. Today they claim to descend from Shayig Ibn Humaidan of the greater Ja'Alin of Beni Abbas, who came from Arabia at the time of the conquest of Egypt in the 7th century and intermixed with Nubian people. Yet according to Nicholls, at the end of 19th century, non of the Shaigiya nobles would accept Arab descent. The Shaiqi Arabic dialect is well known for its "biting off", of the last letter in a word. Traditionally they strongly been represented in the Army, Police, and border guards, while other tribes were involved in occupations such as spinning, weaving and transportation.

The tribe's traditional homeland lies on both banks of the Nile from Kurti down to the Third Cataract, and in portions of the Bayuda Desert. The country is the most fertile along the Nile between Egypt and Khartoum. Many of the villages are well built; some of the houses are fortified. The Merowe Dam, just upstream from this area, is disrupting the local population


They are known for their bravery, generosity, and enlightenment. "They are the one to hunt the Lion."Freedom-loving and hospitable, they had schools in which all Muslim science was taught, and were rich in corn and cattle. Their fighting men, mounted on horses of the famous Dongola breed, were feared throughout the eastern Sudan. Their chiefs wore coats of mail and carried shields of hippopotamus or crocodile skin. Their arms were lance, sword or javelin. The Shaigiya are divided into twelve sections or sub tribes, each descended from one of the twelve sons of the founder, Shaig. Many jokes involve a shaigiya quarelling with a jayila. Many times the shaigiya is the sharp, and jayila is the stubborn

The Shaigiya tribe speaks and writes in Arabic. Some sections living towards the Red Sea area have a language that is akin to what the Hadendowa speak. They have an accent which bites off of the last letter of some words. A common name for a male is Al-sir, which means secret. A common name for a female that hardly anyone uses outside of the tribe is Had-Alraid, which means the most amount of love you can give to someone or something

There is a special instrument that you hear in every shaigiya tribe music. One is tambour, or Tanbūra, a kind of lyre. The shaigiya tribe is used to make homes from bricks that are made of mud and cow dung as other northern and Arab tribes did. The roof is made of straws to keep their house cool. The main times when a man puts art on the body is when they put henna on their hands only for a wedding. For the women they put henna for their own marriage.

Most children attend government school. Women are usually the teachers while the men are farming and planting. All lessons are important, but are most emphasized religion, languages, and math. Religion is considered important because children attend religious schools called Khalawi. A Khalawi is a place where kids go to before they enter a school to learn and memorize the Quran. As every body should know they would have to speak a language so somebody understands them, but they also learn different languages to help them later on in life. Math might be very important because if they are selling something, then they will have to do the math so they don’t get mixed up with money and lose their money

Social Behavior

Children in the Shaigiya tribe like to play a kind of game called "Seega" which is similar to tic-tac-toe. First they draw a big square with 9 small squares inside on the sand, two children play, each has five stones, each stone of a different color. Each tries to align their own stones in a line of 3, while the other blocks and tries to prevent his/her adversary from making a straight line.

The Shaygiya greeting is similar to most other tribal Sudanese greetings or Muslim greetings. When the Shaigiya people meet someone who is older, they say, ”Assalamulaykum haj” or “Marhaba haj”, pat their hands on the left shoulder and then shake hands. If they meet their friend they will say, ”Marhaba” or “Ezayakum”. Ladies hug each other and shake hands.

When there is a wedding, the groom puts on "henna". Henna is a kind of black decoration that people usually put on their hands and feet. Henna is a paste made of a kind of plant’s leaves, people dry the leaves and make it into powder then add some oil and water. After that, they apply the paste over their skin. Brides use it in a decorative manner, usually with floral decorations. If applied once, it takes on a reddish hue, twice will turn it black.

Eating habits are standard almost throughout Sudan, breakfast is around 10am, lunch is at 3pm and dinner at 7pm. The main course will always be a kind of bread called “gurassa” which is made of flour. It is usually dipped into meat curries. They have black tea with milk and sugar after every meal.

When someone dies, funeral rites for the dead are carried out immediately. The families of the dead wear black or white, and the men take the corpse, wash it and cover it with large white sheet and bury it. Widows usually mourn for a stipulated four month period.

When a baby is born, the baby’s mother and the town's women ululate (zagarieet) to announce the baby's arrival, and after 7 days, the family hosts a party to give the newborn baby a name.

Social Structure

Men in the Shaigiya tribe are good at hunting animals. Hunting is popular. Most mornings, men work in the fields tending their crops. Wives take care of children and give food to their husbands when they are working in the field. Boys in the Shaigiya tribe help in the field after school. Girls stay at home to help their mothers and make themselves more beautiful(decorate themselves with fancy clothes and other decorations). They are not allowed to go out very much until 15 years old. The leader of a family always is the father, but when troubles come to the leader, the mother or the uncle of this family will lead instead.


The Shaiqiya lived in the north around Karima  and Korti. Their origins are still a mystery, as very little of written evidence is found. Around 1690 the tribe broke loose from the Kingdom of Funj, defeating the Abdelab governor and were the only independent tribe in the region. The first account of the Shaigiya tribesmen was given by the Scottish traveller James Bruce in his book "The discovery of the source of Nile", who noticed the tribe migrated from more southern regions to its present homeland around 1772. Still the best early description came from an adventurer and historian John Lewis Burckhardt, who, mesmerised by the Shaigiya, spent some time with the tribe. His accounts of the events were published at 1819 in the "Travels in Nubia". The predatory character of the tribe speaks of change from Bruce's time, "My guide, in constant dread of the Shaiqiya would not allow me to light a fire although the nights were getting very cold"[W.Burckhardt - Travels in Nubia]. Evidently the tribe was ruled by two Mac/s(the title given by the kings of Funj to tribal chiefs), Mac Jaweesh and Mac Zubeir. Military training of the Shaiqiya youth was brutal, and at very early age they were capable of launching spears from a horseback by astonishing precision. Their unexplainable intolerance of other tribes led to raids against their neighbours and beyond. They attacked villages and caravans as far as Wadi Halfa in the north, and Shendi in the south forcing some families of the neighbouring tribes to emigrate westwards (Danagla). Constantly attacking the town of Shendi and killing some of local Mac Nimr's uncles forced the Ja'Alin to seek help from the king of Funj, who at his political decline was too weakened and unable to help. Burckhardt who spent time in Merowe around 1807 gives us more description of the tribe >>"Shaiqiya are continually at war.They all fight on horseback,in coats of Mail.Fire-arms are not common amongst them,their only weapons being Lance,Target and Sabre.They are all mounted on Dongola Stallions and are famous for their horsemanship.Their youth conduct raids sometimes as far as Darfur.The Shaiqiya are perfectly independent people,and possess great wealth in corn and cattle.They are renowned for their hospitality;and the person of their guest,or companion is sacred.If the traveller possesses a friend among them and has been plundered on the road,his property will be recovered,even if it has been taken by the King.Many of them can write and read.Their learned men are held in great respect by them;they have schools,wherein all the sciences are taught,which form the course of the Mohammedan study,Mathematics and Astronomy excepted.Such of the Shaiqiya as are soldiers,indulge in frequent use of wine and spirits made of Dates.The manners of their women are said to be very depraved."<< [W.Burckhardt - Travels in Nubia]. They were challenged around 1811 at Dongola by the Mamelukes, but continued to dominate a considerable part of Nubia. They resisted the Turkish/Egyptian invasion in 1820, at the battle of Korti after refusing to submitt and were defeated due to the use of fire-arms and cannons and retreated southwards. Mac Jaweesh along the majority of his men sought asylum in Shendi in hope to persuade the Ja'Ali chief Mac Nimr to join forces against the much stronger enemy. Mac Nimr declined the offer and the Shaiqiya were handed over to the Turks, who promised to pardon the Shaiqiya warriors and return their land if they accepted the service in Turkish ranks.After the deal was struck Shaiqiya were used during the suppression of the Ja'Alin revolt(1822) and demonstrated astonishing brutality. For their services they obtained lands of the Ja'Alin between Shendi and Khartoum.

In the Mahdist War of 1884/85, General Gordon's first fight was to rescue a few Shaiqiya (still serving with the invader) besieged in a fort at Al Halfaya, just north of Khartoum. The fortress at Al-Ubayyid in 1883, was held by Major Ahmed Hussein Pasha (Suarab Section) and despite Hicks Pasha's attempt to relieve him, the fortress fell to the Mahdi. (Major Hussein escaped to Egypt in 1891 and came back during to the reconquest in 1898. His family still resides in Omdurman Bahri and Hajar al Asal.)His grand children went far as Germany where they go by the name Hussein. In April 1884, Saleh Bey (Saleh Wad el Mek), head of the tribe, and 1400 men surrendered to the Mahdi's forces. Numbers of Shaigiya continued in the service of General Gordon and this led to the proscription of the tribe by the Mahdi. When Khartoum fell, Saleh's sons were sought out and executed by the Dervishes

On the reconquest of the Sudan by the Anglo-Egyptian army (1896/98) it was found that the Shaigiya were reduced to a few hundred families. After this the tribe thrived. They figured prominently in the Egyptian Army and later the Sudan Defence Force. General Ibrahim Abboud, decorated with the MBE for his valour at Keren in 1941, was a Shaiqi from the Onia section and later President of the Sudan in 1964.


Nuba man with body painting

A Nuba woman