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A Hadendoa Beja nomad.
Regions with significant populations
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Hadendoa is the name of a nomadic subdivision of the Beja people. Other Beja include the Bisharin and Ababda. The area inhabited by the Hadendoa is today parts of Sudan, Egypt and Eritrea.


According to Roper (1930), the name Haɖanɖiwa is made up of haɖa 'lion' and (n)ɖiwa 'clan'. Other variants are Haɖai ɖiwa, Hanɖiwa and Haɖaatʼar (children of lioness).

The Hadendoa are traditionally a pastoral people, ruled by a Hereditary Chief, called a Ma'ahes, who, in colonial times, was directly responsible to the Anglo-Egyptian government of Sudan. Osman Digna, one of the best-known chiefs during the Mahdiyyah rebellion under Muhammad Ahmad, was a Hadendoa, and the tribe contributed some of the fiercest of the Dervish warriors in the wars of 1883–98. So determined were they in their opposition to the Anglo-Egyptian forces that the name Hadendoa grew to be nearly synonymous with rebel. This was the result of religious enthusiasm reinforced by British and Egyptian misgovernment.

Their elaborate hairdressing gained them the name of "Fuzzy-wuzzies" among the British troops during the Mahdist War. Osman Digna was a Mahdist general who led the Hadendoa to break a British infantry square in the Battle of Tamai, although he ultimately lost the battle itself. This was the inspiration for Rudyard Kipling's poem, Fuzzy-Wuzzy. They earned an unenviable reputation during the wars by their hideous mutilations of the dead on the battlefields. After the reconquest of the Egyptian Sudan (1896–98) the Hadendoa accepted the new order without demur.


The language of the Hadendoa is a dialect of Bedawi, which is a member of the Cushitic branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Arabic is also spoken among the Hadendoa.


Sunni Islam is the religion of the majority of living Hadendoa. However, Coptic and Sufi Hadendoa are far from uncommon especially in Upper Egypt and Egypt's Western Desert.[citation needed]



  • Roper, E. M. Tu Bedawie: an elementary handbook for the use of Sudan government officials. (Hertford, 1930)
  •  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Hadendoa". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.  This work in turn cites:
    • Count Gleichen, ed., Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (London, 1905)
    • F. R. Wingate, Mahdism and the Egyptian Sudan (London, 1891)
    • G. Sergi, Africa: Anthropology of the Hamitic Race (1897)
    • A. H. Keane, Ethnology of the Egyptian Sudan (1884)