Hi, salam aleekom, welcome to Sudan, the bridge between northern und central Africa!
Sudan is located in north-east of Africa. The north of Sudan is covered by the Libyan Desert and the Nubian Desert – both reach all the way to Egypt. In the west, Libya and Chad border the country and South Sudan lies in the south. In the east, Sudan has a coastal strip on the Red Sea with Port Sudan, an important harbour town. Because of its excellent position on the sea Sudan developed as an important trade centre. South-east of Sudan lie Eritrea and Ethiopia.
The Nile- the Lifeline of the Sudan
The Nile is the lifeline of Sudan. Since ancient times, the river has snaked its way through the wide desert. The river made the establishment of earlier advanced civilisations possible. East and West of the Nile Valley are high mountains. The White Nile comes from Uganda and the Blue Nile from the mountains of Ethiopia. The two rivers meet in the capital city of Khartoum to form the longest river on earth. The Nile is an important transport route and provides fertile lands for cultivation.
Khartoum, Sudan's Capital
Khartoum lies almost directly in the centre of the country, as you can see on the map on the top right. The name Khartoum means 'elephant's trunk', as the city lies like the curl of a trunk around the confluence (the meeting place of two rivers) of the Nile rivers. The city consists of 3 parts: Khartoum, North Khartoum and Omdurman. The city has gone through many transformations – it was established as a military camp in 1820 by Ottoman viceroys. After many rebellions and attacks, the city was deserted and remained as a ghost town. When the country was shaken with war, the city was used as a refugee location. Today, Khartoum is the economic and political centre of Sudan. With 2,7 million inhabitants, it is a modern metropolis with universities, museums and luxurious hotels. When Sudan gained its independence from the British in the previous century, the city fathers founded the oldest university of Sudan.
Peoples and Languages
Arabic nomadic folk live in the desert. They move through the desert with their goat herds and camels, searching for the next best grazing land. They sleep in round tents which can be pitched quickly and which protect them from the extreme temperature changes of the desert. During the day, temperatures can rise to 40 degrees and during the night it can get very cold, with temperatures as low as 4 degrees. Arabs and black Africans live in the cities from all areas of the country.
The Nuba people farm crops in the mountains in southern Sudan. They grow millet and fruits. They celebrate a huge harvest festival, to which all the Nuba people come. Everyone wants to watch the wrestlings which they perform at these festivals. The Dinka people raise cattle. The more cattle a person has, the higher is its social status and success. Every young boy receives an ox at his initiation as a gift. From then on, the name of the animal also becomes the name of the boy.
The people live according to the Islamic rules and dress conservatively. The men wear long togas and a turban. Women also wear togas and underneath they wrap themselves in a fine, colourful material, like the woman in the picture on top. The Sudanese worship saints and spirits and pray to the virgin Mary, which is unthinkable for Arabian Islam-believers! Arabic is spoken mainly in the north. African languages, such as Dinka and Nubish are widely spoken in the south. Since Sudan was an English colony, the English language is also widely spoken.
Festivals and Holidays
Schools for Refugees
The educational opportunities aren’t very good for the general population. Around 30 percent of men and more than 50 percent of women cannot read or write. This is supposed to change – the governemnt is making improvements, especially for children and young people. The school system was reformed at the end of the last century. School was made compulsory. It’s a pity, that still only half of the children in the Sudan attend primary school. Less girls than boys attend, as they have to help out in the household. For this reason, fewer girls recieve an education. Their society expects girls to get married soon, so many families believe a long education for a girl is just a waste of time. A change in the way of thinking in the Islamic society is occuring slowly. A result of the civil war was the establishment of so-called ‚refugee schools’ for refugees from Darfur. One of these schools lies in Tine, a town on the border of Sudan. Teachers and refugees established it of their own initiative. Children can spend the first 7 school years here. It also doesn’t matter that the lessons take place outside. The most important thing is that the pupils don’t lose their connection to learning materials.
The economy and natural resourc
The Economy and Natural Resources
Civil wars and droughts have made the Sudan one of the poorest countries in the world. However, the land around the Nile is very fertile and the earth contains valuable ore, metals and other resources. Three quarters of the Sudanese live off farming and handcrafting. Children work from a young age in the fields and in the markets.
An important export good is cotton, which is grown in the irrigation zones between the White and the Blue Nile. Peanuts, sesame, millet, wheat and sugar are grown. Gum arabic is produced from the resin of the Acacia, which used to be used in the production of gummy bears. Today, gum arabic is so expensive that it is only used in dyes and ice-cream. Since ancient times, Sudan has been an important exporter of gold. Sudan also has access to iron and uranium. Rich oil reserves were only discovered within the last decade. Oil production and a fair distribution of the proceeds could reduce or even overcome the poverty in the country.
Wildlife of Sudan
Almost no plants grow in the northern deserts and semi-deserts of the Sudan. This is why there are also very few animals. Only animals which have adapted to this dryness, such as antilopes, desert foxes, jumping mice and hyhaenas, can survive. Reptiles like snakes or lizards have a better chance of surviving. The further south you go, the more of the savanna you will see. Zebras, very sociable animals, live here in herds. Due to all the stripes, it is sometimes impossible to see where the front and where the back is, as you can see in the picture at the top. The rainforest begins in the south-west. In the marsh regions, reeds, papyrus and water hyacinth grow. It is a paradise for all kinds of birds and snakes. Large national parks and bird conservation parks have been established in the Sudan. On the banks of the Nile and the marshes, many rare songbirds and birds of prey nest. One of the most primival lizards is indigenous to the Sudan. They are plated lizard which look like armoured skinks.
Sudan was the home of the ancient Nuba people. The Nuba kingdom reached from the first Nile cataract to deep within the Sudan. In legendary Kush around 900 BC, black African nobles forced out the Egyptian rulers. They established an empire which for a while reached from the Nile delta and whose culture surpassed even that of the Egyptians. In Arabic, Sudan means 'land of the black'. This description comes from the Arabs, who ruled over the black African folks for many centuries. The Sudanese managed to free themselves in a long civil war. The war ended in July 2011 with the independence of Sudan.
Sudan is an Islamic republic. Islam defines the lives of the Sudanese, as it is the state religion. The conversion to Islam waved in a social ascent, which is why over 70 percent of the Sudanese recognise Islam as their religion. Due to the earlier civil war, many people are still on the run and there are many reports of human rights violations. The people in Darfur suffer particularly from the results of the civil war. The Sudanese people’s liberation army fought for 20 years against the troups of the government. The war ended in 2011 and a peace treaty was made. The politicians of the north and south agreed on a separation. Since July 2011, South Sudan is an independant republic. Africa now has 54 states, not 53 like before. More about South Sudan
Stories from Sudan
As in all African countries, many fairytales are told and many songs are sung in the Sudan. The nomad people of the Sudan know many fantastic legends about life in the desert, exotic markets and unhappy love stories. Of course, there are also many tales about animals in the Sudan. Here you can read the tale 'The girl from the ostrich egg.'