Sudan is the largest country in north Africa. It lies directly south of Egypt.  Much like Egypt, the Nile river and its tributaries are the life of this very hot desert country. People have lived in Sudan for thousands of years farming by the Nile and herding livestock. Pyramids tell of a time when the Pharos made Sudan their home. Today, with a population of about thirty five million, Sudan is a developing modern country attempting to somehow find its place in the international community. 

         The Land

Sudan is a huge country. It is about the size of Western Europe. The marking feature of the country is the Nile river, formed by the White Nile and the Blue Nile which meet in the capital city. In general the country is flat. The exceptions are the coastal mountains in the east, the Nuba Mountains, and the far western mountains. There is also a marked distinction between the north and south. Northern Sudan is very dry, consisting of large expanses of desert and arid planes. Southern Sudan contains large areas of rain forests and swamps making it much more adaptable for farming. 


The History

sudsmap3Sudan’s history goes back thousands of years before Christ and is almost as old as the Nile itself. The Cush kingdom of the Old Testament was located in present-day northern Sudan, and for thousands of years the center of power along the Nile shifted between Egypt and Sudan. The sixth century saw the rise of Christianity in Sudan. The Christian faith officially remained until the Islamic Conquest in the thirteenth century yet many people kept their faith until the fifteenth or sixteenth century. Islamic rulers from the Ottoman empire led the country for several centuries until the 1880’s when the British, along side the Egyptians, took control of Sudan. The conquest was part of an effort to control the river as well as a response to the Mahdist Islamic revolution seen as a possible threat to the stability of the area. In 1956 the British government, realizing the inevitability of Sudanese independence, granted the country its wishes and stepped down. From 1956 to 1989 several governments tried to rule the country but frequent drought and the constant clash between the north and the south brought them all down. In 1989 Sudan’s current leader President Gen. Omar al-Bashir took power in a military coup. Over the last twelve years Bashir has led the country in a holy civil war against the southern rebels.  

The Climate

Sudan is hot, very hot. There is a dry season and a rainy season. The length of the rainy season is largely determined by how far north one lives. The extreme south of Sudan normally has a nine month rainy season while a city like Atbara in the North is lucky to get more than a week of showers. Khartoum usually has a two month rainy season lasting throughout July and August. Temperatures in Sudan are highest in May and June, which is also the common season for sand storms. Average daily highs range between 100F and 110F with an occasional day in the 120’s F. Because the country is mostly desert there is usually a large difference between day time and night time temperatures. In Khartoum a January day might have a high of 80F and dip to 45F at night. 


The Population

fruit guySudan has one of the most ethnically diverse populations in the world. Over four hundred ethnic groups have their own language which they use along side a trade language such as Arabic. The population has two major groups, the Muslim peoples living in the north, and the darker skinned peoples of the south. Because of famine and war, almost three million southerners live in the north, which now is home to about 75% of the country’s population. Greater Khartoum, the largest city in the country, has a population of about six million. Sudan’s current total population is around thirty five million people.

The Economy

Sudan’s economy is based primarily on agriculture which accounts for about 80% of the work force. Most of the remaining 20% work in industry to support the agricultural sector. Because this economy is so dependant on agriculture, the low rainfall commonplace in the past few years has seriously hampered the economy, pushing unemployment to about 30%. Sudan’s large foreign debt and deteriorating international relations have limited foreign investment and hindered the development of the nonagricultural sector. Contrary to most trends, but met with much skepticism is the international interest in developing Sudan’s Oil industry. Sudan is thought to have oil reserves similar to those of Saudi Arabia, but most of that oil lies in south-central Sudan, in the middle of the civil war, making it a potential resource for the north or the south. In short, civil war, drought, absurd inflation and chaotic politics are all working against this already struggling economy.govern

The Goverment

It is difficult to give an accurate picture of the Sudanese government. As is the case with many other developing African nations, there is a dichotomy between theory and practice, what is on paper and what is happening. In theory, Sudan is a federal republic of twenty six states led by a directly elected president who works alongside a national assembly. In practice Sudan is led by President Gen. Omar al-Bashir who took power in a military coup and has appointed people to different positions and occasionally dissolved the National Assembly. Sudan is a country in the midst of a civil war and its government reflects it.

The War

The current civil war between the north and the south has been going on since 1984 when the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) was formed and began fighting the Khartoum government. The south does not support the Khartoum government which has tried to impose traditional Islamic law on the entire country. The north sees the war as a holy war against the unbelievers who threaten the “true faith”. But the conflict predates the current war. War between the north and the south dates back thousands of years. The current war has killed more than half a million people and driven around five million others from their homes. Slavery and civilian bombing are common tactics, planned starvation alone has killed close to one million. But the war is not only between the north and the south, the Christians and the Muslims, the Arabs and the Black Africans. Fighting is common between the southern tribes and is often as devastating as the war with the north. In Sudan, war is part of everyday life, it is just the way things are. The real question is if it will ever change.

The Test

1. The main two rivers of Sudan are the ________________.     a. White Nile and the Blue Nile
b. White Nile and the Brown Nile
c. Blue Nile and the Brown Nile

2. Christianity came to Sudan ______________.

     a. Never
b. in the 4th Century
c. in the 6th Century

3. Sudan was a colony of which European country?

     a. France
b. England
c. Germany

4. The rainy season in the far north usually lasts _____________.

     a. one week
b. three weeks
c. one month or more

5. The current population of Khartoum is about _____________.

     a. two million
b. four million
c. six million

6. Agriculture accounts for about ______ of Sudan’s work force.

     a. 45%
b. 65%
c. 80%

7. The current President of Sudan is ___________.

     a. Turabi
b. al-Bashir
c. al-Mastul



1-a,  2-c,  3-b,  4-a,  5-c,  6-c,  7-b