total: 1,861,484 sq km
Total: 6,819 km
border countries (7):
South Sudan 2,158 km
Chad 1,403 km,
Egypt 1,276 km,
Ethiopia 744 km,
Eritrea 682 km,
Libya 382 km,
Central African Republic 174 km
Total: 7762 km
Hot and dry;
Rainy season varies by region (April to November)
Generally flat, featureless plain;
Desert dominates the north
Mean elevation: 568 m
Elevation extremes: lowest point: the Red Sea 0 m
Highest point: Jabal Marrah 3,042 m
small reserves of iron ore, copper, chromium ore, zinc, tungsten, mica, silver, gold;
agricultural land: 96%
arable land 15.7%; permanent crops 0.2%; permanent pasture 80%
other: 3% (2011 est.)
18,900 sq km (2012)
Population – distribution:
With the exception of a ribbon of settlement that corresponds to the banks of the Nile, northern Sudan, which extends into the dry Sahara, is sparsely populated; more abundant vegetation and broader access to water increases population distribution in the south extending habitable range along nearly the entire border with South Sudan; sizeable areas of population are found around Khartoum, southeast between the Blue and White Nile Rivers, and throughout South Darfur.
dust storms and periodic persistent droughts
Sudan’s vast territory, coupled with its history of near-constant civil conflict, has made gathering precise demographic data a daunting task. According to the 2008 census, Sudan’s population totaled 39.2 million, of whom 30.9 million lived in the North and 8.3 million in the South. Of the total population, males slightly outnumbered females (at 20.1 million versus 19.1million); those aged 16 years and younger constituted 47.2 percent of the total, of whom 46.7 percent were in the North and 49.0 percent in the South. The U.S. Census Bureau’s estimate of Sudan’s midyear 2008 population was 40.2 million, with a birthrate of 34 births per 1,000, a death rate of 14 per 1,000, and a rate of growth about 2.1 percent.
As long as Sudan continues to grow at or near its current pace, it will rank among the world’s fastest-growing countries. While population models vary, the U.S. Census Bureau projected a population of 49.8 million in 2015 and 63.1 million in 2025. Despite these projections, the country’s population growth rate has been steadily declining and will likely continue to do so. The U.S. Census Bureau and the World Bank estimated that population growth peaked in the 1970s and 1980s at 3.2 and 3.3 percent, respectively, and that it has gradually fallen since that time. From 1990 to 2000, the population grew by 2.8 percent; by the early 2000s, the rate had declined to about 2.6 percent or lower. Sudan’s estimate of its annual population growth from 1983 to 2008 was 2.8 percent.
Experts predict that the population growth rate will fall below 2 percent sometime around 2020. Sudan had a population density in mid-2008 of only 16 persons per square kilometer, but this figure is misleading because much of Sudan is uninhabitable, and its people are unevenly distributed throughout the country. Roughly two-thirds of Sudan’s population resides within 300–500 kilometers of Khartoum and is concentrated around Khartoum and in Al-Gezira. Government estimates for 2007 showed that the country’s most densely populated states were Khartoum (16.7 percent), Al-Gezira (11.1 percent), and South Darfur (9.4 percent), a population distribution seemingly confirmed by the 2008 census. In the South, the 2008 census showed that the most populous states were Jonglei (1.4 million), Central Equatoria (ca. 1.2 million), and Warab (ca. 1.0 million). For the most part, only urban elites have knowledge of basic family-planning practices. Sudan does not have a national family-planning program.
37,345,935 (July 2017 est.)
Sudanese (singular and plural)
Black 52%, Arab 39%, Beja 6%, Fur, Nuba, Fallata, and others 3% .
Arabic (official), English (official), Nubian, Ta Bedawie, Fur.
Sunni Muslim, small Christian minority.
Sudan’s ethnic and linguistic diversity is among the most complex in the world. Its nearly 600 ethnic groups speak more than 400 languages and dialects, many of them intelligible to only a small number of individuals. In recent decades, some of these small groups have been absorbed by larger groups, and migration often causes individuals reared in one tongue to converse only in the dominant language of the new area. Some linguistic groups have been absorbed by accommodation, others by conflict. In the case of migrants to the Three Towns, Arabic is the lingua franca even for Southerners, while the use of English continues to decline in quantity and quality.
The definition and boundaries of ethnic groups depend on how people perceive themselves and others. Language, cultural characteristics, and common ancestry may be used as markers of ethnic identity or difference, but they do not always define groups of people. Thus, the people called Atuot and the much larger group called Nuer speak essentially the same language, share many cultural characteristics, and acknowledge a common ancestry, but each group defines itself and the other as different.
Moreover, ethnic group names commonly used in Sudan and by foreign analysts are not always used by the people themselves. This fact is particularly true for non-Arab groups known by names coined by Arabs or by the British, who based the names on terms used by Arabs or others, not by the group itself. Thus, the Dinka and the Nuer, the largest groups in the South, call themselves, respectively, Jiang and Naadh, and not Dinka or Nuer. The distinction between Sudan’s Muslim and non-Muslim people has been of considerable importance in the country’s modern history and provides a preliminary ordering of ethnic groups. It does not, however, correspond in any simple way to distinctions based on linguistic, cultural, or racial criteria, nor to social or political solidarity.
Most languages spoken in Africa fall into four language superstocks. Three of them—Afro-Asiatic, Niger-Kordofanian, and NiloSaharan—are represented in Sudan. Each is divided into groups that are in turn subdivided into sets of closely related languages. Two or more major groups of each of the three superstocks are present in Sudan, historically both a north-south and an east-west migration crossroads. The most widely spoken language in Sudan is Arabic, a member of the Semitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family.
Cushitic, another major branch of Afro-Asiatic, is represented by Bedawiye (with several dialects), spoken by the largely nomadic Beja. Chadic, a third branch, is represented by its most important single language, Hausa, a West African tongue used in Nigeria by the Hausa themselves and employed by many other West Africans in Sudan as a lingua franca. Niger-Kordofanian is first divided into Niger-Congo and Kordofanian.
The widespread Niger-Congo language group includes many divisions and subdivisions of languages. Represented in Sudan are Azande and several other tongues of the Adamawa-Eastern language division, and Fulani of the West Atlantic division. The Kordofanian stock comprises only 30 to 40 languages spoken in a limited area of Sudan—the Nuba Mountains and their environs.
The designation of a Nilo-Saharan superstock has not been fully accepted by linguists, and its constituent groups and subgroups are not firmly fixed, in part because many of the languages have not been well studied.
Schooling is compulsory for eight years of basic education. This may be followed by three years of general secondary school. At the secondary level, vocational programs for industrial, commercial, and agricultural studies are available for boys. Home economic programs are available for girls. The academic year runs from July to March.
Primary school enrollment in 2002 was estimated at less than 58% of age-eligible students; about 45% of those enrolled were girls. The same year, secondary school enrollment was less than 32% of age-eligible students. It is estimated that about 49% of all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 29:1 in 2003; the ratio for secondary school was about 26:1.
The government of Sudan recognizes education as a right for every citizen and guarantees access to free basic education. Achieving the Education for All targets is considered a pre-requisite for achieving socio-economic stability in Sudan.
The vision of the Interim Education Sector Strategic Plan (ESSP) is to create a distinctive education system based on science and values, with an emphasis on improving the access to school, the quality of the education being received, as well as a strengthening of the country’s educational system.
The plan outlines three strategic pillars: Improve access to schooling for all including pre-school, basic and secondary education, technical and vocational, and out-of-school youth and adults; Improve quality of schooling at all levels; Strengthen the institutional capacity of the education system through curriculum renewal, learning assessments, system, teacher, and school management, and school health and nutrition.
Increase access to basic education through increasing capacity, reducing household costs, and encouraging demand; To provide access to general, technical and vocational education at secondary level to eligible basic school graduates and reduce disparities through; Building new schools in areas with low enrollment rates and new streams to existing schools in densely populated areas; Removing barriers that prevent successful basic education graduates from joining secondary education; and ensuring access for special groups by establishing boarding facilities for students and housing for teachers; Establishing new technical schools and vocational centers.
To improve quality of learning in basic education, especially in early literacy and numeracy through:
⦁ Improving the learning environment and teaching quality
⦁ Providing teaching and learning materials
⦁ Ensuring healthy learning environments
⦁ Strengthening school supervision
The University of Khartoum was established in 1956. A branch of Cairo University was opened at Khartoum in 1955. Other institutions include the Islamic University of Omdurman and the universities of El-Gezirah (at Wad Madanī) and Juba. In 1999, it was estimated that about 7% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in tertiary education programs. The adult literacy rate for 2004 was estimated at about 59%, with 69.2% for men and 49.9% for women.
Sudan has an agricultural economy, employing 80% of the workforce, holding considerable potential for irrigated production. Cotton and sesame account for almost a quarter each of export earnings. The livestock sector is sizable as well. However, droughts have led to famines, and civil war has led to the virtual collapse of the economy. The slave trade is alive and prospering in Sudan, operating at about $50 a head in 1999. It is estimated that in the south as many as one million civilians have died and more than five million have been uprooted because of civil war. Economic development is also hindered by a poor transportation system that increases the cost of transporting goods over long distances; Sudan is the largest country in Africa.
Sudan has experienced protracted social conflict, civil war, and, in July 2011, the loss of three-quarters of its oil production due to the secession of South Sudan. The oil sector had driven much of Sudan’s GDP growth since 1999. For nearly a decade, the economy boomed on the back of rising oil production, high oil prices, and significant inflows of foreign direct investment. Since the economic shock of South Sudan’s secession, Sudan has struggled to stabilize its economy and make up for the loss of foreign exchange earnings. The interruption of oil production in South Sudan in 2012 for over a year and the consequent loss of oil transit fees further exacerbated the fragile state of Sudan’s economy. Ongoing conflicts in Southern Kordofan, Darfur, and the Blue Nile states, lack basic infrastructure in large areas, and reliance by much of the population on subsistence agriculture, keep close to half of the population at or below the poverty line.
Sudan was subject to comprehensive US sanctions, which were lifted in October 2017. Sudan is attempting to develop non-oil sources of revenues, such as gold mining and agriculture while carrying out an austerity program to reduce expenditures. The world’s largest exporter of gum Arabic, Sudan produces 75-80% of the world’s total output. Agriculture continues to employ 80% of the work force. Sudan introduced a new currency, still called the Sudanese pound, following South Sudan’s secession, but the value of the currency has fallen since its introduction. Khartoum formally devalued the currency in June 2012, when it passed austerity measures that included gradually repealing fuel subsidies. Sudan also faces high inflation, which reached 47% on an annual basis in November 2012 but fell to about 35% per year in 2017.
Sudan’s failure to service its international debt, together with a poor human rights record, led, in 1993, to the World Bank suspending financing of 15 development projects, and to the IMF suspending Sudan’s voting rights in the organization (they were restored in 2000). Sudan was the world’s largest debtor to the IMF in 2003, with arrears of over $1 billion. Total foreign debt exceeds $24 billion, and high inflation has put consumer goods beyond the reach of most. In 2003, the civil war and Sudan’s international isolation continued to inhibit growth in the nonagricultural sectors, although progress on the peace process was being made with strong backing from the international community. Petroleum discoveries in the south-central region of Sudan and their export in 1999 raised hopes of economic salvation, but political instability undermines the prospect for lasting improvement in the economy. The economy, in terms of GDP, grew at an annual rate of 6.32% between 2001 and 2005, largely due to increased oil production, enhanced light industry, and an expansion of export processing zones.
GDP (purchasing power parity):
$186.8 billion (2017 est.)
$180.1 billion (2016 est.)
$174.7 billion (2015 est.)
GDP (official exchange rate):
$119 billion (2017 est.)
GDP – real growth rate:
3.7% (2017 est.)
3.1% (2016 est.)
4.9% (2015 est.)
GDP – per capita (PPP):
$4,600 (2017 est.)
$4,500 (2016 est.)
$4,500 (2015 est.)
Gross national saving:
12.1% of GDP (2017 est.)
11.5% of GDP (2016 est.)
9.1% of GDP (2015 est.)
GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
services: 57.8% (2017 est.)
Agriculture – products:
cotton, groundnuts (peanuts), sorghum, millet, wheat, gum Arabic, sugarcane, cassava (manioc, tapioca), mangoes, papaya, bananas, sweet potatoes, sesame seeds; animal feed, sheep and other livestock.
oil, cotton ginning, textiles, cement, edible oils, sugar, soap distilling, shoes, petroleum refining, pharmaceuticals, armaments, automobile/light truck assembly, milling.
Population below poverty line:
46.5% (2009 est.)
revenues: $8.198 billion
expenditures: $13.4 billion (2017 est.)
Agriculture plays an important role in Sudan economy. It supplies food for the people, employment opportunities and provides the industrial sector with raw materials. Sudan is considered as one of the three countries in the world that can contribute to the international food security. Pre-secession, Sudan has cultivable arable land estimated at 86 million hectares. Post-secession that has been diminished by no less than 35% of the total. However, less than 20% are utilized under three major farming sub-sectors: the irrigated, the semi-mechanized rainfed and the agro-pastoral traditional rain-fed. The agricultural sector has an important role to play in achieving food Security by increasing food production and providing employment opportunities in the rural area.
The poverty is prevalent all over the country, but the measure factors were the ill-conceived
development policies followed since independence which has neglected rural development from which the majority of population derive their live hood, the civil war and natural disasters (drought). The development policies were concentrated on irrigated agriculture which was supplied with most of the services such as stable irrigation, research, extension, credit and other infrastructure. The traditional agriculture was neglected to receive no research services, limited extension, credit, and infrastructure, basic social services in the form of education, primary health care, and safe water supply. Poverty alleviation program was launched in 1992 as a part of 10-years a comprehensive national strategy (1992-2000).
The government has launched the interim Poverty Reduction Strategy paper (2004-2006) as a commitment to strongly address the poverty problem of the country in a sustained manner. The bad performance of the agricultural sector is the maim causal of food insecurity in Sudan besides this the global phenomena like the climate change will also affect the agricultural sector.
Policy reform, include improving the structure of incentives for producers and other stakeholders within the sector and related sectors, reform credit and marketing institutions, rehabilitation and strengthening coordination between national agricultural and livestock research and extension centres and complementary policies in other related sectors, namely, roads, storage, transportation, communication, education, and health.
Fiscal policies, however, should include reductions in taxes and levies, price policies and removal of administrative bottlenecks (Ali, and Elbadawi, 2002). However, the reform included a structure of privatization for all public companies, corporation and most important irrigated agricultural scheme. The latter represented the backbone of the Sudanese agricultural production engine. Privatization resulted in the migration of farmers from those schemes. There was a decline in the ability and willingness of the people to participate in production activities.
The weak performance of the agricultural sector is the main causal of food insecurity in Sudan. Planners and policymakers should take in consideration that tow third of Sudanese work in the agricultural sector, so to reduce the food shortage in the rural areas, and the country as a whole is to develop the agricultural sector particularly the traditional sector which produces more than 60% of cereals. The government interventions can be in packages of researchers and extension in agriculture and livestock, institutional and management reforms, credit services, market accessibility and public investment. Privatization plans should be reconsidered as it partly enhances people from participation and entrench the feelings that they being deprived of their of production resources. These are some interventions needed to overcome the poor performance of the agricultural sector.
population without electricity: 24,700,000
electrification – total population: 35%
electrification – urban areas: 63%
electrification – rural areas: 21% (2013)
Electricity – production:
12.69 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – consumption:
10.26 billion kWh (2015 est.)
Electricity – exports:
0 kWh (2016 est.)
Electricity – imports:
N/A (2015 est.)
Electricity – installed generating capacity:
3.736 million kW (2015 est.)
Electricity – from fossil fuels:
34.4% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Electricity – from nuclear fuels:
0% of total installed capacity (2015 est.)
Telephones – fixed lines:
total subscriptions: 136,472
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: less than 1 (July 2016 est.)
Telephones – mobile cellular:
subscriptions per 100 inhabitants: 74 (July 2016 est.)
Internet country code:
percent of population: 28.0% (July 2016 est.)
Manufacturing and Industries
Following the development of oil fields in the then southern Sudan from 1998 onward, the economy grew rapidly, reaching levels of 8% per annum. In 2004, FDI reached a respectable 7% of GDP. However, the dramatic fall in oil revenues following the secession of what is now South Sudan in 2011 has impacted heavily on GDP growth, which now stands at -6% for 2013; total GDP was $66,565.9 million in 2013, after $63,152.2 million in 2012 but $67,320.8 million in 2011. Accordingly, GDP per capita was $3,373.0 in 2013 ($3,608.9 in 2012 and $3,524.0 in 2011). With FDI in 2013 at only 3.3% and inflation at around 45%, it is estimated that 25% to 30% of the population is unemployed.
Government participation in the manufacturing sector increased dramatically after the 1969 military coup and the adoption of a policy aimed at placing the country’s economic development in government hands, although private ownership continued. During 1970 and 1971 Khartoum nationalized more than thirty private enterprises. However, to counter the drop in foreign private investment that followed, Nimeiri announced that private capital would again be accorded favorable treatment, and the government passed the Development and Promotion of Industrial Investment Act of 1972, containing even more liberal provisions than precoup legislation.
The textile industry was provided with a 690 percent effective rate of protection in the 1980s. The protective policies for the sector have been ineffective because input supply to the textile firms has been erratic and inadequate due to a number of factors The area under cultivation for cotton has been reduced as a result of the decline in world cotton prices and incentives for sorghum & wheat cultivation (for reasons of food security); demand for the high quality, long-staple Sudanese cotton from abroad remained high; policies in relation to pricing and marketing of cotton have changed after liberalisation.
Cotton was bought at harvest time and distributed to the textile firms in installments. Domestic textile firms were able to buy cotton at prices lower than those prevailing in international markets. After liberalization, textile firms ended up paying the international price for cotton. The current arrangement for marketing cotton is that the Sudanese Cotton Corporation transports cotton to Port Sudan where textile firms make their purchases.
The revival of the textile and clothing industries is unlikely to be achieved by partial and piecemeal policy interventions. Recapturing the national market requires a sector specifically integrated programme. The most pressing policy issues are the followings:
a) The regular flow of locally produced and imported input to textile companies needs to be given the utmost attention. Eliminating cotton supply shortages requires multiple interventions including the expansion of the area under cotton cultivation; re-organization of the current marketing arrangements and elimination of unnecessary transport costs in the delivery of cotton to the textile firms; and provision of financial support to domestic textile firms in the form of low-cost working capital.
b) Obsolete technology is a real problem in the textile sector. The machines are old and the parts cannot be found easily. Apparently, part of the reason for this is that the textile units did not make appropriate allowances for the replacement of depreciating capital equipment. Lack of long-term credit availability is a major constraint in the modernization of the textile plants.
c) Non-price factors such as quality and design are as important, and perhaps more important, for the international competitiveness of the textile and clothing industry. Fashion exerts a good deal of influence in the consumption behaviour of households.
Banking and Finance
The traditional banking system was inherited from the AngloEgyptian condominium (1899-1955). When the National Bank of Egypt opened in Khartoum in 1901, it obtained a privileged position as banker to and for the government, a “semi-official” central bank. Other banks followed, but the National Bank of Egypt and Barclays Bank dominated and stabilized banking in Sudan until after World War II. Post-World War II prosperity created a demand for an increasing number of commercial banks. By 1965 loans to the private sector in Sudan had reached ĢSd55.3 million.
Before Sudanese independence, there had been no restrictions on the movement of funds between Egypt and Sudan, and the value of the currency used in Sudan was tied to that of Egypt. This situation was unsatisfactory to an independent Sudan, which established the Sudan Currency Board to replace Egyptian and British money. It was not a central bank because it did not accept deposits, lend money, or provide commercial banks with cash and liquidity. In 1959 the Bank of Sudan was established to succeed the Sudan Currency Board and to take over the Sudanese assets of the National Bank of Egypt. In February 1960, the Bank of Sudan began acting as the central bank of Sudan, issuing currency, assisting the development of banks, providing loans, maintaining financial equilibrium, and advising the government.
There were originally five major commercial banks (Bank of Khartoum, An Nilein Bank, Sudan Commercial Bank, the People’s Cooperative Bank, and the Unity Bank) but the number subsequently grew. The public was dissatisfied with the commercial banks, however, because they were reluctant to lend capital for long-term development projects. Since the Nimeiri government decreed the 1970 Nationalization of Banks Act, all domestic banks have been controlled by the Bank of Sudan.
In addition, the government established numerous specialized banks, such as the Agricultural Bank of Sudan (1959) to promote agricultural ventures, the Industrial Bank of Sudan (1961) to promote private industry, the Sudanese Estates Bank (1966) to provide housing loans, and the Sudanese Savings Bank established to make small loans particularly in the rural areas. The system worked effectively until the late 1970s and 1980s when the decline in foreign trade, balance-of-payments problems, spiraling external debt, the increase in corruption, and the appearance of Islamic banking disrupted the financial system.
The Faisal Islamic Bank, whose principal patron was the Saudi prince, Muhammad ibn Faisal Al Saud, was officially established in Sudan in 1977 by the Faisal Islamic Bank Act. The “open door” policy enabled Saudi Arabia, which had a huge surplus after the 1973 Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) increases in the price of petroleum, to invest in Sudan. Members of the Muslim Brotherhood and its political arm, the National Islamic Front, played a prominent role on the board of directors of the Faisal Islamic Bank, thus strengthening the bank’s position in Sudan. Other Islamic banks followed. As a consequence, both the Ansar and Khatmiyyah religious groups and their political parties, the Umma and the Democratic Unionist Party, formed their own Islamic banks.
Very few travelers make it to Sudan, but those who do normally come away raving about the wealth of ancient temples, monuments, and tombs, which includes more pyramids than Egypt itself. They’re so untouched by other visitors that you frequently have to brush away desert sands in order to get a better look at temple frescoes, painted back in a time when this part of the Sahara was still green savannah.
But it’s not just the utter romance of the archaeological sites that captivates. Sudan has some of the world’s best diving along its largely unexplored Red Sea coast, apricot-coloured dunes pierced by the life-giving Nile and, in the south and west, green forested mountains. It’s not just the scenery that you’ll recall long after a visit, but the people, who make up a real ethnic jigsaw puzzle and are some of the friendliest and most welcoming you can ever hope to meet.
The wonderfully evocative Egyptian temple of Soleb is one of the historical highlights of north Sudan. The temple was built in the 14th century BC by Amenhotep III, the same Pharaoh who gave us the famous temples of Luxor in Egypt, and the design and carvings are similar.
The delightfully dilapidated pyramids of Nuri, near Karima, are set among a stormy sea of orange sand. They are some of the most romantic pyramids in Sudan. Dating from around the 7th century BC these are both the oldest and largest pyramids in the country.
There were 300 camels in this group and it takes between one and two months to get them from Darfur to Egypt. These headers are very tough men and told me that they prefer to make the trek in summer because it’s ‘too cold’ in winter.
The seemingly insignificant town of Kerma may have been largely left behind by the rest of the world today, but that wasn’t always the case. This is one of the oldest inhabited towns in Africa and a place of immense historical importance. The area around Kerma has been occupied for at least 8000-10,000 years, but the town reached its peak around 1800-1600 BC when it was capital of the Kingdom of Kush and an important trade center during Egypt’s the Middle Kingdom. It was at this time that Kerma’s kings built two giant mud-brick temples, known as deffufas; the oldest, and arguably largest, mud brick buildings on the continent. The western deffufa in the picture stood about 19m high and stretched 50m long. Nobody is really certain what it was used for but most agree it served a religious purpose.
The modern town of Karima is a dusty Nile-side village of little import today, but that wasn’t always the case. Jebel Barkal, the table-topped mountain hanging on the town’s south side, was sacred ground for the Egyptians at the time of the 18th-dynasty Pharaohs. Both they and the Kushites believed that the mountain was home to the god Amun.
Naga consists of a large and well-preserved temple of Amun dating from the 1st century (pictured) and the Lion Temple dedicated to the lion-headed god Apedemak. The exact purpose of the site remains unclear as it’s located in an area that has never really been inhabited.
There are two main groups of pyramids at Begrawiya, the most famous pyramids in Sudan, separated by several hundred meters of sandy desert. In total there are about 100 pyramids – or remains of pyramids.
The reason many of the pyramids are missing their tops is thanks to a 19th Century Italian ‘archaeologist’ who thought treasure might be contained within. Rather than going about the laborious task of opening them properly he merely chopped the tops off and, somewhat to the surprise of many, he did indeed find treasure!
Archaeological excavation of sites on the Nile above Aswan has confirmed human habitation in the river valley during the Paleolithic period that spanned more than 60,000 years of Sudanese history. By the eighth millennium B.C., people of a Neolithic culture had settled into a sedentary way of life there in fortified mud-brick villages, where they supplemented hunting and fishing on the Nile with grain gathering and cattle herding. Contact with Egypt probably occurred at a formative stage in the culture’s development because of the steady movement of population along the Nile River.
Northern Sudan’s, or Nubia’s, earliest record comes from Egyptian sources, which described the land upstream from the first cataract, called Cush, as “wretched.” For more than 2,000 years after the Old Kingdom (ca. 2700-2180 B.C.), Egyptian political and economic activities determined the course of the central Nile region’s history. Even during intermediate periods when Egyptian political power in Cush waned, Egypt exerted a profound cultural and religious influence on the Cushite people.
Over the centuries, trade developed. Egyptian caravans carried grain to Cush and returned to Aswan with ivory, incense, hides, and carnelian (a stone prized both as jewelry and for arrowheads) for shipment downriver. Egyptian traders particularly valued gold and slaves, who served as domestic servants, concubines, and soldiers in the pharaoh’s army. Egyptian military expeditions penetrated Cush periodically during the Old Kingdom. Yet there was no attempt to establish a permanent presence in the area until the Middle Kingdom (ca. 2100-1720 B.C.), when Egypt constructed a network of forts along the Nile as far south as Samnah, in northern Sudan, to guard the flow of gold from mines in Wawat.
By the eleventh century B.C., the authority of the New Kingdom dynasties had diminished, allowing divided rule in Egypt, and ending Egyptian control of Cush. There is little information about the region’s activities over the next 300 years. In the eighth century B.C., however, Cush reemerged as an independent kingdom ruled from Napata by an aggressive line of monarchs who gradually extended their influence into Egypt. About 750 B.C., a Cushite king called Kashta conquered Upper Egypt and became ruler of Thebes until approximately 740 B.C. His successor, Painkhy, subdued the delta, reunited Egypt under the Twenty-fifth Dynasty, and founded a line of kings who ruled Cush and Thebes for about a hundred years.
The dynasty’s intervention in the area of modern Syria caused a confrontation between Egypt and Assyria. When the Assyrians in retaliation invaded Egypt, Taharqa (688-663 B.C.), the last Cushite pharaoh, withdrew and returned the dynasty to Napata, where it continued to rule Cush and extended its dominions to the south and east.
Egypt’s succeeding dynasty failed to reassert control over Cush. In 590 B.C., however, an Egyptian army sacked Napata, compelling the Cushite court to move to a more secure location at Meroe near the sixth cataract. For several centuries thereafter, the Meroitic kingdom developed independently of Egypt, which passed successively under Persian, Greek, and, finally, Roman domination. During the height of its power in the second and third centuries B.C., Meroe extended over a region from the third cataract in the north to Sawba, near present-day Khartoum, in the south.
The pharaonic tradition persisted among a line of rulers at Meroe, who raised stelae to record the achievements of their reigns and erected pyramids to contain their tombs. These objects and the ruins of palaces, temples, and baths at Meroe attest to a centralized political system that employed artisans’ skills and commanded the labor of a large workforce A wellanaged irrigation system allowed the area to support a higher population density than was possible during later periods. By the first century B.C., the use of hieroglyphs gave way to a Meroitic script that adapted the Egyptian writing system to an indigenous, Nubian-related language spoken later by the region’s people.
Meroe ‘s succession system was not necessarily hereditary; the matriarchal royal family member deemed most worthy often became king. The queen mother’s role in the selection process was crucial to a smooth succession. The crown appears to have passed from brother to brother (or sister) and only when no siblings remained from father to son. Although Napata remained Meroe ‘s religious center, northern Cush eventually fell into disorder as it came under pressure from the Blemmyes, predatory nomads from east of the Nile. However, the Nile continued to give the region access to the Mediterranean world. Additionally, Meroe maintained contact with Arab and Indian traders along the Red Sea coast and incorporated Hellenistic and Hindu cultural influences into its daily life.
Inconclusive evidence suggests that metallurgical technology may have been transmitted westward across the savanna belt to West Africa from Meroe ‘s iron smelteries. Relations between Meroe and Egypt were not always peaceful. In 23 B.C., in response to Meroe ‘s incursions into Upper Egypt, a Roman army moved south and razed Napata. The Roman commander quickly abandoned the area, however, as too poor to warrant olonization. In the second century A.D., the Nobatae occupied the Nile’s west bank in northern Cush. They are believed to have been one of several well-armed bands of horse- and camel-borne warriors who sold protection to the Meroitic population; eventually, they intermarried and established themselves among the Meroitic people as a military aristocracy. Until nearly the fifth century, Rome subsidized the Nobatae and used Meroe as a buffer between Egypt and the Blemmyes. Meanwhile, the old Meroitic kingdom contracted because of the expansion of Axum, a powerful trading state in modern Ethiopia to the east. About A. D. 350, an Axumite army captured and destroyed Meroe city, ending the kingdom’s independent existence.
The Christian Nubia
By the sixth century, three states had emerged as the political and cultural heirs of the Meroitic kingdom. Nobatia in the north also known as Ballanah, had its capital at Faras, in what is now Egypt; the central kingdom, Muqurra, was centered at Dunqulah, the old city on the Nile about 150 kilometers south of modern Dunqulah; and Aiwa, in the heartland of old Meroe in the south, had its capital at Sawba. In all three kingdoms, warrior aristocracies ruled Meroitic populations from royal courts where functionaries bore Greek titles in emulation of the Byzantine court. The earliest references to Nubia’s successor kingdoms are contained in accounts by Greek and Coptic authors of the conversion of Nubian kings to Christianity in the sixth century.
According to tradition, a missionary sent by Byzantine empress Theodora arrived in Nobatia and started preaching the gospel about 540. It is possible that the conversion process began earlier, however, under the aegis of Coptic missionaries from Egypt, who in the previous century had brought Christianity to the area. The Nubian kings accepted the Monophysite Christianity practiced in Egypt and acknowledged the spiritual authority of the Coptic patriarch of Alexandria over the Nubian church. A hierarchy of bishops named by the Coptic patriarch and consecrated in Egypt directed the church’s activities and wielded considerable secular power.
The church sanctioned a sacerdotal kingship, confirming the royal line’s legitimacy. In turn, the monarch protected the church’s interests. The queen mother’s role in the succession process paralleled that of Meroe ‘s matriarchal tradition. Because women transmitted the right to succession, a renowned warrior not of royal birth might be nominated to become king through marriage to a woman in the line of sucession. The emergence of Christianity reopened channels to Mediterranean civilization and renewed Nubia’s cultural and ideological ties to Egypt.
The church encouraged literacy in Nubia through its Egyptian- trained clergy and in its monastic and cathedral schools. The use of Greek in liturgy eventually gave way to the Nubian language, which was written using an indigenous alphabet that combined elements of the old Meroitic and Coptic scripts. Coptic, however, often appeared in ecclesiastical and secular circles. Additionally, early inscriptions have indicated a continuing knowledge of colloquial Greek in Nubia as late as the twelfth century. After the seventh century, Arabic gained importance in the Nubian kingdoms, especially as a medium for commerce.
The Christian Nubian kingdoms, which survived for many centuries, achieved their peak of prosperity and military power in the ninth and tenth centuries. However, Muslim Arab invaders, who in 640 had conquered Egypt, posed a threat to the Christian Nubian kingdoms. Most historians believe that Arab pressure forced Nobatia and Muqurra to merge into the kingdom of Dunqulah sometime before 700. Although the Arabs soon abandoned attempts to reduce Nubia by force, Muslim domination of Egypt often made it difficult to communicate with the Coptic patriarch or to obtain Egyptian- trained clergy. As a result, the Nubian church became isolated from the rest of the Christian world.
The Coming of Islam
The coming of Islam eventually changed the nature of Sudanese society and facilitated the division of the country into north and south. Islam also fostered political unity, economic growth, and educational development among its adherents; however, these benefits were restricted largely to urban and commercial centers. The spread of Islam began shortly after the Prophet Muham- mad’s death in 632. By that time, he and his followers had converted most of Arabia’s tribes and towns to Islam (literally, submission), which Muslims maintained united the individual believer, the state, and society under God’s will. Islamic rulers, therefore, exercised temporal and religious authority.
Muslims imposed political control over conquered territories in the name of the caliph (the Prophet’s successor as supreme earthly leader of Islam). The Islamic armies won a major North African victory in 643 in Tripoli (in modern Libya). However, the Muslim subjugation of all of North Africa took about seventy-five years.
Contacts between Nubians and Arabs long predated the coming of Islam, but the Arabization of the Nile Valley was a gradual process that occurred over a period of nearly 1,000 years. Arab nomads continually wandered into the region in search of fresh pasturage, and Arab seafarers and merchants traded in Red Sea ports for spices and slaves. Intermarriage and assimilation also facilitated Arabization. After the initial attempts at military conquest failed, the Arab commander in Egypt, Abd Allah ibn Saad, concluded the first in a series of regularly renewed treaties with the Nubians that, with only brief interruptions, governed relations between the two peoples for more than 600 years
The Arabs realized the commercial advantages of peaceful relations with Nubia and used the treaty to ensure that travel and trade proceeded unhindered across the frontier. The treaty also contained security arrangements whereby both parties agreed that neither would come to the defense of the other in the event of an attack by a third party. The treaty obliged both to exchange annual tribute as a goodwill symbol, the Nubians in slaves and the Arabs in grain. This formality was only a token of the trade that developed between the two, not only in these commodities but also in horses and manufactured goods brought to Nubia by the Arabs and in ivory, gold, gems, gum arabic, and cattle carried back by them to Egypt or shipped to Arabia.
Acceptance of the treaty did not indicate Nubian submission to the Arabs, but the treaty did impose conditions for Arab friendship that eventually permitted Arabs to achieve a privileged position in Nubia. Muslim pilgrims en route to Mecca traveled across the Red Sea on ferries from Aydhab and Sawakin, ports that also received cargoes bound from India to EgyptThe Rule of the Kashif
For several centuries Arab caliphs had governed Egypt through the Mamluks. In the thirteenth century, the Mamluks seized control of the state and created a sultanate that ruled Egypt until the early sixteenth century. Although they repeatedly launched military expeditions that weakened Dunqulah, the Mamluks did not directly rule Nubia.
The Decline of Christian Nubia
Until the thirteenth century, the Nubian kingdoms proved their resilience in maintaining political independence and their commitment to Christianity. In the early eighth century and again in the tenth century, Nubian kings led armies into Egypt to force the release of the imprisoned Coptic patriarch and to relieve fellow Christians suffering persecution under Muslim rulers. In 1276, however, the Mamluks (Arabic for “owned”), who were an elite but frequently disorderly caste of soldier- administrators composed largely of Turkish, Kurdish, and Circassian slaves, intervened in a dynastic dispute, ousted Dunqulah’s reigning monarch and delivered the crown and silver cross that symbolized Nubian kingship to a rival claimant (see The Rule of the Kashif, this ch.). Thereafter, Dunqulah became a satellite of Egypt. Turks conquered Egypt and incorporated the country into the Ottoman Empire as a pashalik.
Because of the frequent intermarriage between Nubian nobles and the kinswomen of Arab shaykhs, the lineages of the two elites merged and the Muslim heirs took their places in the royal line of succession. In 1315 a Muslim prince of Nubian royal blood ascended the throne of Dunqulah as king. The expansion of Islam coincided with the decline of the Nubian Christian church. A “dark age” enveloped Nubia in the fifteenth century during which political authority fragmented and slave raiding intensified.
At the same time that the Ottomans brought northern Nubia into their orbit, a new power, the Funj, had risen in southern Nubia and had supplanted the remnants of the old Christian kingdom of Aiwa. In 1504 a Funj leader, Amara Dunqas, founded the Black Sultanate (As Saltana az Zarqa) at Sannar. The Black Sultanate eventually became the keystone of the Funj Empire. By the mid-sixteenth century, Sannar controlled Al Jazirah and commanded the allegiance of vassal states and tribal districts north to the third cataract and south to the swampy grasslands along the Nile.
Darfur was the Fur homeland. Renowned as cavalrymen, Fur clans frequently allied with or opposed their kin, the Kanuri of Borno, in modern Nigeria. After a period of disorder in the sixteenth century, during which the region was briefly subject to Borno, the leader of the Keira clan, Sulayman Solong (1596-1637), supplanted a rival clan and became Darfur’ s first sultan. Sulayman Solong decreed Islam to be the sultanate’s official religion. However, large-scale religious conversions did not occur until the reign of Ahmad Bakr (1682-1722), who imported teachers, built mosques, and compelled his subjects to become Muslims. In the eighteenth century, several sultans consolidated the dynasty’s hold on Darfur, established a capital at Al Fashir, and contested the Funj for control of Kurdufan.
As a pashalik of the Ottoman Empire, Egypt had been divided into several provinces, each of which was placed under a Mamluk bey (governor) responsible to the pasha, who in turn answered to the Porte, the term used for the Ottoman government referring to the Sublime Porte, or high gate, of the grand vizier’s building. In approximately 280 years of Ottoman rule, no fewer than 100 pashas succeeded each other. In the eighteenth century, their authority became tenuous as rival Mamluk beys became the real power in the land. The struggles among the beys continued until 1798 when the French invasion of Egypt altered the situation. Combined British and Turkish military operations forced the withdrawal of French forces in 1801, introducing a period of chaos in Egypt. In 1805 the Ottomans sought to restore order by appointing Muhammad Ali as Egypt’s pasha.
Initially, the Egyptian occupation of Sudan was disastrous. Under the new government established in 1821, which was known as the Turkiyah or Turkish regime, soldiers lived off the land and exacted exorbitant taxes from the population. They also destroyed many ancient Meroitic pyramids searching for hidden gold. Furthermore, slave trading increased, causing many of the inhabitants of the fertile Al Jazirah, the heartland of Funj, to flee to escape the slave traders. Within a year of the pasha’s victory, 30,000 Sudanese slaves went to Egypt for training and induction into the army. However, so many perished from disease and the unfamiliar climate that the remaining slaves could be used only in garrisons in Sudan.
In the 1850s, the pashalik revised the legal systems in Egypt and Sudan, introducing a commercial code and a criminal code administered in secular courts. The change reduced the prestige of the qadis (Islamic judges) whose sharia courts were confined to dealing with matters of personal status. Even in this area, the courts lacked credibility in the eyes of Sudanese Muslims because they conducted hearings according to the Ottoman Empire’s Hanafi school of law rather than the stricter Maliki school customary in the area.
Slavery had been an institution of Sudanese life throughout history, but southern Sudan, where slavery flourished particularly, was originally considered an area beyond Cairo’s control. Because Sudan had access to Middle East slave markets, the slave trade in the south intensified in the nineteenth century and continued after the British had suppressed slavery in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Annual raids resulted in the capture of countless thousands of southern Sudanese and the destruction of the region’s stability and economy. The horrors associated with the slave trade generated European interest in Sudan.
In 1874 Charles George Gordon, a British officer, succeeded Baker. Gordon disarmed many slave traders and hanged those who defied him. By the time he became Sudan’s governor general in 1877, Gordon had weakened the slave trade in much of the south. Unfortunately, Ismail’s southern policy lacked consistency. In 1871 he had named a notorious Arab slave trader, Rahman Mansur az Zubayr, as governor of the newly created province of Bahr Al hazal. Zubayr used his army to pacify the province and to eliminate his competition in the slave trade. In 1874 he invaded Darfur after the sultan had refused to guard caravan routes through his territory. Zubayr then offered the region as a province to the Khedive. Later that year, Zubayr defied Cairo when it attempted to relieve him of his post, and he defeated an Egyptian force that sought to oust him. After he became Sudan’s governor general, Gordon ended Zubayr’ s slave trading, disbanded his army, and sent him back to Cairo.
In 1895 the British government authorized Kitchener to launch a campaign to reconquer Sudan. Britain provided men and materiel while Egypt financed the expedition. The Anglo-Egyptian Nile Expeditionary Force included 25,800 men, 8,600 of whom were British. The remainder were troops belonging to Egyptian units that included six battalions recruited in southern Sudan. An armed river flotilla escorted the force, which also had artillery support. In preparation for the attack, the British established army headquarters at Wadi Haifa and extended and reinforced the perimeter defenses around Sawakin.
In March 1896, the campaign started; in September, Kitchener captured Dunqulah. The British then constructed a rail line from Wadi Haifa to Abu Hamad and an extension parallel to the Nile to transport troops and supplies to Barbar. Anglo-Egyptian units fought a sharp action at Abu Hamad, but there was little other significant resistance until Kitchener reached Atbarah and defeated the Ansar. After this engagement, Kitchener’s soldiers marched and sailed toward Omdurman, where the Khalifa made his last stand.
On September 2, 1898, the Khalifa committed his 52,000-man army to a frontal assault against the Anglo-Egyptian force, which was massed on the plain outside Omdurman. The outcome never was in doubt, largely because of superior British firepower. During the five-hour battle, about 11,000 Mahdists died whereas Anglo-Egyptian losses amounted to 48 dead and fewer than 400 wounded.
The Anglo-Egyptian Condominium, 1899-1955
In January 1899, an Anglo-Egyptian agreement restored Egyptian rule in Sudan but as part of a condominium, or joint authority, exercised by Britain and Egypt. The agreement designated territory south of the twenty-second parallel as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Although it emphasized Egypt’s indebtedness to Britain for its participation in the reconquest, the agreement failed to clarify the juridical relationship between the two condominium powers in Sudan or to provide a legal basis for the continued British presence in the south. Britain assumed responsibility for governing the territory on behalf of the Khedive.
In the condominium’s early years, the governor general and provincial governors exercised great latitude in governing Sudan. After 1910, however, an executive council, whose approval was required for all legislation and for budgetary matters, assisted the governor general. The governor general presided over this council, which included the inspector general; the civil, legal, and financial secretaries; and two to four other British officials appointed by the governor general. The executive council retained legislative authority until 1948.
During the condominium period, economic development occurred only in the Nile Valley’s settled areas. In the first two decades of condominium rule, the British extended telegraph and rail lines to link key points in northern Sudan but services did not reach more remote areas. Port Sudan opened in 1906, replacing Sawakin as the country’s principal outlet to the sea. In 1911 the Sudanese government and the private Sudan Plantations Syndicate launched the Gezira Scheme (Gezira is also seen as Jazirah) to provide a source of high-quality cotton for Britain’s textile industry. An irrigation dam near Sannar, completed in 1925, brought a much larger area in Al Jazirah under cultivation.
The rise of Sudanese Nationalism
Sudanese nationalism, as it developed after World War I, was an Arab and Muslim phenomenon with its support base in the northern provinces. Nationalists opposed indirect rule and advocated a centralized national government in Khartoum responsible for both regions. Nationalists also perceived Britain’s southern policy as artificially dividing Sudan and preventing its unification under an Arabized and Islamic ruling class. Ironically, however, a non-Arab led Sudan’s first modern nationalist movement.
In 1921 Ali Abd al Latif, a Muslim Dinka and former army officer, founded the United Tribes Society that called for an independent Sudan in which power would be shared by tribal and religious leaders. Three years later, Ali Abd al Latif s movement, reconstituted as the White Flag League, organized demonstrations in Khartoum that took advantage of the unrest that followed Stack’s assassination. Ali Abd al Latif s arrest and subsequent exile in Egypt sparked a mutiny by a Sudanese army battalion, the suppression of which succeeded in temporarily crippling the nationalist movement.
In the 1930s, nationalism re-emerged in Sudan. Educated Sudanese wanted to restrict the governor general’s power and to obtain Sudanese participation in the council’s deliberations. However, any change in government required a change in the condominium agreement. Neither Britain nor Egypt would agree to a modification. Moreover, the British regarded their role to be the protection of the Sudanese from Egyptian domination. The nationalists feared that the eventual result of friction between the condominium powers might be the attachment of northern Sudan to Egypt and southern Sudan to Uganda and Kenya. Although they settled most of their differences in the 1936 Treaty of Alliance, which set a timetable for the end of British military occupation, Britain and Egypt failed to agree on Sudan’s future status.
Nationalists and religious leaders were divided on the issue of whether Sudan should apply for independence or for union with Egypt. The Mahdi’s son, Abd ar Rahman al Mahdi, emerged as a spokesman for independence in opposition to Ali al Mirghani, the Khatmiyyah leader, who favored union with Egypt. Coalitions supported by each of these leaders formed rival wings of the nationalist movement. Later, radical nationalists and the Khatmiyyah created the Ashigga, later renamed the National Unionist Party (NUP), to advance the cause of Sudanese-Egyptian unification. The moderates favored Sudanese independence in cooperation with Britain and together with the Ansar established the Umma Party.
In February 1953, the United Kingdom and Egypt concluded an agreement providing for Sudanese self-government and self-determination. The transitional period toward independence began with the inauguration of the first parliament in 1954. On 18 August 1955, a revolt in the army in Torit Southern Sudan broke out, which although quickly suppressed, led to a low-level guerrilla insurgency by former Southern rebels, and marked the beginning of the First Sudanese Civil War. On 15 December 1955, the Premier of Sudan Ismail al-Azhari announced that Sudan would unilaterally declare independence in four days time. On 19 December 1955 the Sudanese parliament, unilaterally and unanimously, declared Sudan’s independence. the British and Egyptian Governments recognized the independence of Sudan on 1 January 1956. The United States was among the first foreign powers to recognize the new state.
The new Republic of Sudan, under a parliamentary government, was proclaimed on 1 January 1956. On 17 November 1958, a military dictatorship was installed, headed by Lt. Gen. Ibrahim Abboud, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, after a bloodless coup that had the support of some party leaders. President Abboud’s military regime was overthrown on 26 October 1964, and civilian politicians ruled for the next five years.
A revolutionary council led by Col. Gaafar Mohammed Nimeiri (Ja’far Muhammad Numayri) overthrew the government in a bloodless coup on 25 May 1969 and established the Democratic Republic of Sudan. The new government suspended the constitution, the Supreme Council of State, the National Assembly, and all political parties; the ex-president and former ministers were arrested. Nimeiri became prime minister in October 1969. On 25 May 1971, he proclaimed that Sudan would become a one-party state, with the Sudanese Socialist Union the sole political organization. the settlement with autonomist forces in the south was reached in February 1972, when negotiators for the Sudanese government and the South Sudan Liberation Front, the Anyanya rebels, agreed on a cease-fire and on autonomy for the southern provinces.
Nimeiri was reelected without opposition in 1977 and 1983, but his regime had to weather considerable turmoil both domestically and in relations with neighboring countries, especially Libya. An abortive left-wing coup attempt in July 1971 led to the execution of leading Sudanese Communists; the banning of the Trade Union Federation, the Public Servants Union, and the Teachers Union (all formerly Communist-dominated); and the expulsion of East German security advisers. Another alleged coup was foiled in January 1973, and an abortive, Libyan-inspired attempt on Nimeiri’s life was disclosed by the Sudanese government in April 1974. Student riots and disclosure of yet another abortive coup came in October 1974, and during the following year, the Nimeiri government faced and successfully suppressed at least two military rebellions.
In July 1976, an attempted coup by the Ansar brotherhood, allegedly with Libyan support, was crushed. In subsequent years, Nimeiri charged repeatedly that Libya was aiding Muslim dissidents in Sudan. On 16 March 1984, Omdurman was bombed by what Sudan, Egypt, and the United States claimed (but Libya denied) was a Libyan air force TU-22. Nimeiri declared a state of emergency in April 1984 to cope with protests over rising prices and a new government Islamization program (in July of that year, the National People’s Assembly rejected his attempt to make Sudan an officially Islamic state).
Riots broke out in the spring of 1985, when, in order to gain new loans from international creditors, Nimeiri removed subsidies on basic commodities, causing prices to rise. On 7 April 1985, Nimeiri was replaced by a military council headed by Gen. Abdel-Rahman Swar ad-Dhahab. The country was renamed the Republic of Sudan, the ruling Sudanese Socialist Union was abolished, political and press freedom was restored, and food prices were lowered. Sudan reverted to a policy of nonalignment in foreign policy, backing away from its close ties with Egypt and the United States.