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Total population
Regions with significant populations

Nobiin, Egyptian Arabic, Sudanese Arabic


Sunni Islam, Coptic Christianity

The Nubians (Arabic: نوبي‎, Nuubi) are an ethnic group originally from northern Sudan, and Southern Egypt now inhabiting East Africa and some parts of Northeast Africa. 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.[1] Ancient Nubians were famous for their vast wealth, their trade between central Africa and the lower Nile valley civilizations, including Egypt, their skill and precision with the bow, their 23-letter alphabet, the use of deadly poison on the heads of their arrows, their great military, their advanced civilization, and their century-long rule over the united upper and lower Egyptian kingdoms.[2]



A Nubian circa 1840

Nubia is the homeland of black Africa's earliest civilizations with a history which can be traced from 5000 BC starting in upper nubia called pre-kerma . BC onward through Nubian monuments and artifacts, as well as written records from Egypt and Rome. In antiquity, Nubia was a land of great natural wealth, of gold mines, ebony, ivory and incense which was always prized by her neighbors.

Nubians are the people of southern Egypt and northern Sudan. With a history and traditions which can be traced to the dawn of civilization, the Nubian first settled along the banks of the Nile from Aswan. Along this great river they developed one of the oldest and greatest civilizations in Africa. Until they lost their last kingdom in 1898 (islamic Nubia) the Nubians remained as the main rivals to Egypt, the other great civilization of North East Africa.

The Nubian and Egyptians conquered each other many times in their history. Taharqa is the best known of all Nubian rulers. Taharqa was the son and third successor of King Piye, the first king of Napata to have conquered Egypt. Taharqa was crowned king in c.690 in Memphis. He ruled over both Nubia and Egypt and devoted himself to all kinds of peaceful works, like the restoration of ancient temples in both Egypt and Nubia and building new sanctuaries, like the one at Kawa. Several historians maintain that Nubian rulers saw themselves not as conquerors, but as restorers of Egyptian glory. In February/March 673, an army sent by the Assyrian king Esarhaddon was defeated by the Nubians [3]. In April 671, the Assyrians were back, and this time, they captured Memphis on 11 July. Taharqa had left the city, but his brother and son were taken prisoner.

In Lower Egypt Esarhaddon appointed the native princes as governors. One of these was Necho I, a descendant of Tefnakht, who resided in Sais in the western Nile Delta. Meanwhile, Taharqo fought back, reoccupied Memphis in 669, and forced the princes into submission.

  • Alara c.780 – c.760
  • Maatra Kashta c.760 – c.747
  • Usermara Sneferra Piye c.747 – c.716
  • Neferkara Shabaqo c.716 – c.702
  • Djedkaura Shebitqo c.702 – c.690
  • Nefertumkhura Taharqo c.690 – 664
  • Bakara Tanwetamani 664 – after 656

This provoked a third Assyrian campaign, which ended when Esarhaddon died. He was succeeded by Aššurbanipal, who conducted the fourth campaign in 667/666, took Memphis, and sacked Thebes. Because the princes were obviously unreliable, the Assyrian king chose one of them who could be trusted: Necho. When, after Taharqo's death in 664, his successor Tanwetamani tried to reconquer Memphis (the subject of the Dream Stela); Necho beat him, and although he was killed in action, power remained in his family. It was his son Psammetichus I, who unified Egypt, and was clever enough to give the Assyrians the impression that he still served them after they had been forced to recall their garrisons when civil war broke out in Assyria in 651 to 648 BC. The Sphinx of Taharqa was found at Kawa Sudan, and is now on display in the British Museum.

Present day

The influx of Arabs to Egypt and Sudan had contributed to the suppression of the Nubian identity following the collapse of the last Nubian kingdom in 1900. A major part of the modern Nubian population were arabized. The Jaa'leen-the majority of Northern Sudanese and some Donglawes in Sudan, Kenuz and Koreskos in Egypt all claimed to be Arabs. However the vast majority of Nubians were converted to Islam, and Arabic became their main language, in addition to their indigenous old Nubian language. The unique characteristics of Nubians are their culture (dress, dances, traditions and music) as well as their indigenous language which is a common feature of most Nubians.

Prominent Nubians


  • Rouchdy, Aleya (1991). Nubians and the Nubian Language in Contemporary Egypt: A Case of Cultural and Linguistic Contact. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers. ISBN 9004091971. 
  • Valbelle, Dominique; Charles Bonnet (2007). The Nubian Pharaohs: Black Kings on the Nile. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press. ISBN 977416010X. 
  • Warnock Fernea, Elizabeth; Robert A. Fernea (1990). Nubian Ethnographies. Chicago: Waveland Press Inc.. ISBN 0881334804. 
  • Black Pharaohs - National Geographic Feb 2008

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