Facts About the Culture, Geography, and History of Sudan
The following 12 interesting facts will enable you get a rough picture of what awaits you to explore on this expansive land
12. The official name of Sudan is the Republic of the Sudan (Jumhuriyat as-Sudan).
Sudan is predominantly Arabic-speaking nation with a significant population comprising people of whose origin can be traced to the Arabian Peninsula. Its Arabic name ‘Jumhuriyat as-Sudan’ is popularly used by its people and its Arab brothers than its English-translated name ‘Republic of Sudan’.
11. On January 1, 1956, Sudan gained independence from Egypt and the UK.
Sudan is one of the earliest countries to gain independence. However, it is also one of the few countries to have been colonized by a fellow African country.
Sudan was initially colonized by Britain, and later on, under agreement, both Britain and Egypt colonized Sudan after Egypt gained its independence.
10. The name “Sudan” translates to “the land of the blacks” in Arabic. It is taken from the Arabic bilād as-sūdān.
Ancient Sudan was the ancestral land of the Black Nilotic tribes. When Arabs invaded and established territory, some of these black Nilotic tribes were assimilated through intermarriages and slavery while others were pushed further southwards.
Nonetheless, the Arabs gave this recognition of this ancestral land by naming it ‘Bilad as-Sudan’ which translates to ‘the land of the blacks’ and simply abbreviated as ‘Sudan’.
9. The river Nile runs from the north to the south of Sudan.
River Nile, Africa’s largest and one of the longest rivers, has its source from East Africa. It draws most of its waters from Lake Victoria. It is the main river that sustains agriculture in Sudan and Egypt.
River Nile pours its waters into the Mediterranean Sea. Over 80% of the Egyptian population is located along the banks of River Nile as it is the only reliable source of water for its vast population.
8. Deriba Caldera is the highest point in Sudan at an elevation of 3,042 m, located in Darfur in the western part of Sudan.
Deriba Caldera is part of the Marra volcanic mountains. It comprises of two lakes – the larger but shallower salty water lake and the smaller but deeper freshwater lake.
7. With 114 native languages and more than 500 accents, Sudan has a diverse multilingual population.
The bulk of native languages are of the Nilotic origin. Intermarriages between blacks and Arabs dating more than 15 centuries has meant that there are extremely few Sudanese of purely Arabic origin.
Most of them have Nilotic blood. These intermarriages created different accents that borrow heavily from both the Arabic and Nilotic ethnic words. This helps to account for the over 500 accents found in Sudan.
6. After the formation of South Sudan, the size of Sudan was reduced by 25%.
South Sudan, being the bigger than Kenya, and almost same size as France, is an expansive land on its own. Yet, it only comprises about a quarter of the once larger Sudan.
After secession at the turn of this millennium, Sudan retained three-quarters of the land. Although this split denied it the title of being the largest country in Africa, it nonetheless, occupies the top five slots.
5. Sudan has one doctor for every 10,000 people.
Healthcare distribution in Sudan is complicated. This is due to the massively expansive land, diverse and sometimes scattered populations, and the historical, racial and religious biases.
As such, the number of doctors per population in the Arab north is higher than that of the predominantly non-Arab south and west. Also, although there are large populations in urban centers than the sparsely populated rural, there is a disproportionately large number of doctors in urban centers than in rural areas.
Nonetheless, the ratio of one doctor for every 10,000 people acutely falls below the WHO recommended ratio of 45 doctors for every 10,000 people.
4. There are more pyramids in one small section of the northern Sudanese desert than there are in the whole of Egypt.
Although Egypt is synonymous with pyramids, Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt. However, most pyramids found in Sudan are smaller in size compared to those found in Egypt.
This is why Egypt takes the giant share of pyramid fame. Furthermore, the Pharaoh dynasty in Egypt, though of black ancestry like the ‘pyramid’ dynasties of Sudan, it has a much more elaborate history and greater exposure to the rest of the world due to its strategic position that made it more known.
3. Precious stones and metals represent the largest export items, while industrial machinery is the largest item category imported by Sudan.
Sudan has a huge array of precious stones and metals. This forms the bulk of the exports of this arid land. However, it does also export oil and sugar. Its high-value import is machinery, which is utilized mainly for extraction, petrochemical, and agricultural purposes. Its other imports include foodstuff, mainly wheat and tea.
2. The second civil war (1983-2005) in Sudan became the reason for the death of two and half million people.
Sudan experienced one of the longest civil wars in the world. The first civil war began immediately after its independence in the late part of the 1950s and ran intermittently throughout the 1960s.
However, the second civil war exploded in the 1980s after the ultraconservative Arab regime took over the reign of power and declared Sudan an Islamic State despite a huge population of Christians and animists. The predominantly Christian and animist south decided to rebel and fight for independence.
This civil war, led by the Sudanese People Liberation Army (SPLA) under the command of Dr. John Garang, fought bitterly until a peace treaty was formed in 2005 paving the way for a unitary government pending Referendum in which South Sudan overwhelmingly voted to secede thus ushering in Africa’s youngest Republic.
1. Sudan is nicknamed the Arab world’s food basket, as it accounts for 45% of arable land in the Arab world.
Unlike the rest of the Arab world that is mostly barren desert, Sudan has a significant arable land.
It is able to produce most of its food needs and export some to the Arab world. Despite Sudan accounting for less than 10% of Arab land, it counts for almost half of its arable land.
However, a significant part of this arable land is under large-scale irrigation program. Sugarcane and Cotton are some of the leading crops. Sorghum, millet, and gum arabic are also of significant production.
Sudan is an expansive land with great diversity. It is both a member of the African Union and the Arab League. It has more than 114 ethnic groups with over 500 ethnic dialects.
It holds the world’s highest population of pyramids. There is more to learn about the rich historical, cultural, and geographic heritage of this great land, which you can only gain by paying a visit.
Related: Guide to North Africa