Questions from Readers

Answers by Ibrahim Omer

Q: Is there a difference between Nubia/Nubians and Kush/Kushites?

A: There is a common tendency among scholars and media sources to use the term 'Ancient Nubia/Nubia' as an alternative to 'Kush'. Historically, the Kushites and the Nubians have probably represented two separate, yet related, ethnic populations. The term 'Nubia' is associated with the emergence of a 'Nubian/Nobatian' population in the Nile Valley area starting in the third century CE. The Nubian populations settled and dominated the northern and central areas of the ancient domain of the Kushite kingdom, as well as a small portion of southern Egypt.

Suggested articles: Ethnicity, The Post- Meroitic era (History), and The Nobatian X-Group (History), X-Group (Burials).

The questions of the readers below are answered assuming 'Nubian/s' to be synonymous with 'Kushite/s'.

Q: Are all Sudanese Nubians?

A: It appears that the question assumes an already-made conclusion about who is Nubian. It is important to note that modern studies do not only designate populations according to their ethnicities but also according to their cultural backgrounds. Accordingly, the answer is 'No'; that is not all Sudanese are Nubians. Nevertheless, the Nubian heritage and origin is the dominant one in Sudan. Almost all the populations of Northern, Central, and Eastern Sudan share the Nubian heritage, including those who define themselves as Arabs such as the 'Jaalyeen'(جعليين )and Shiegiya (شايقيا). This does not deny that there has been, throughout history, a strong Nubian influence in other parts of Sudan; Southern and Western.

Q: What populations in Sudan DO NOT share the Nubian heritage?

A: There are various populations in Sudan that belong to ethnicities and cultures other than Nubian. These include the Nilotic tribes in the south, and the West African originated tribes in the far-West, in addition to other groups such as the Arab-Bedouin of the Rashaida tribe, and other. Yet, even for those there is much to be detected on the influence and impacts of the Nubian civilization.

Q: How can you prove that the Nubians are the ancestors to the Arabs of Northern Sudan?

A: Drawings inside burials and in various artefacts show clearly the features of ancient Nubians. It is concrete fact that they look very similar to the present Northern Sudanese features including those who define themselves as Arabs. The skin colors, the distinguished facial features, and the range of hair textures and colors; all testify to their Nubian origin of present northern Sudanese. It is beyond doubt that the Ancient Nubians had inhabited the long stretch of Nile valley in Sudan starting from Halfa in the North to Kosti in the South. I don't think that there is any legitimate argument or theory that would prove otherwise. The Arabic language and Islamic identity were so dominant and strong to the extent that the Nubian identity became questionable and many assumed that it diminished and withered.

Q: Why should the Arab Sudanese people change their Arabic identity to Nubian?

A: It is in the interest of no one to call for a change in the identity of the Arab Sudanese to become just a Nubian. The objective here, for me and for many concerned Sudanese is raise a missing recognition and self-esteem feeling cherishing the reality of their Nubian origin.

Q: Why is it important that the Sudanese Arabs recognize their Nubian origins?

A: I believe it is the Nubian identity that makes the Sudanese nation unique and distinguished. This uniqueness is reflected in the, culture, interaction with numbering nations, and certainly on their physical features. I think it is improper to live with an incomplete knowledge of ones identity.

Q: Why do we have to recognize our Nubian origins if we can just define ourselves as Sudanese?

A: Here, the question is 'why do we have to recognize our ancient history and ancestry?' I believe studying our ancient history and becoming aware of our true ancestry enhances our knowledge of ourselves and deepens our perception of our very Sudanese identity. I guess this is the objective of studying History and Archeology and building upon the past at large. The values and traditions embodied deep in the Sudanese culture are themselves a reflection of both our Arab and Nubian origins. Probably what distinguishes the Sudanese personality with all the good and noble qualities that are usually linked to it may owe it distant origins to this Nubian heritage. And apart from all that nothing good can come from keeping our Nubian heritage as unknown, ambiguous, and hidden.

Q: Archeological evidence for the ancient Nubian civilization has only been uncovered in regions of Nile valley where the Sudanese populations today define them selves as Nubians, not Arab. Doesn't that prove that the Sudanese-Arabs do not share a common ancestry with the Nubians?

A: This is particularly not true. Archeological evidence for the ancient Nubian civilization has not only been uncovered in the regions of Nile valley where Sudanese populations today define themselves as exclusively Nubian. The old city of Meroe, for example, is situated in central Sudan where what we term as Arab tribes are dominant. Furthermore, and even more to the south are the great archeological sites of Mussawarat es Sufra and Naga, few kilometers north of Khartoum, where Arab people live. As a matter of fact, archeological evidence for ancient Nubia have been uncovered as far south as Kosti on the White Nile.

Q: How do you describe the influence of Nubian heritage in Western Sudan?

A: Western Sudan is the most diverse region within the borders Sudan. In fact the term 'western Sudan' is too general to describe the varying cultures and ethnicities in the region. In short, populations of western Sudan that live closer to the Nile are noticeably more influenced by the Nubian heritage than those who live farther away. Speaking about the influence and impacts, many elements have to be considered and evaluated at the same time. However, if we consider the element of culture alone, we may suggest that all the people of western Sudan are Nubians. This conclusion can be drawn from the fact that people of Northern, Eastern, Central, and Western Sudan, with few minor differences, do practice similar customs and social traditions.

The primary material of the website is authored by Ibrahim Omer © 2008.