Ababda people

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Total population
250,000 (1989)
Regions with significant populations
Beja, Arabic
Islam (Sunni)
Related ethnic groups
other Beja

The Ababda or Ababde – the Gebadei of Pliny, and possibly the Troglodytes of other classical writers – are nomads living in the area between the Nile and the Red Sea, in the vicinity of Aswan in Egypt and north Sudan. They are a subgroup of the Beja people who are bilingual in Beja and Arabic.


Ababda bedouin in Wadi um Ghamis (1961)

The Ababda extend from the Nile at Aswan to the Red Sea, and reach northward to the Qena-Quseir road, thus occupying the southern border of Egypt east of the Nile. They call themselves "sons of the Jinns." With some of the clans of the Bisharin and possibly the Hadendoa, they represent the Blemmyes of classic geographers, and their location today is almost identical with that assigned them in Roman times.[1]

Sheikh Hasan Aly Mustafa of the Ababda Beja.

They were constantly at war with the Romans, who eventually conquered them. In the Middle Ages, they were known as Beja, and convoyed pilgrims from the Nile valley to Aidhab, the port of embarkation for Jeddah. From time immemorial, they have acted as guides to caravans through the Nubian desert and up the Nile valley as far as Sennar. They intermarried with the Nubians, and settled in small colonies at Shendi and elsewhere up to Muhammad Ali's conquest of the region in the early 19th century. They are still great trade carriers, and visit very distant districts.[1]

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  1. ^ a b  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Abābda". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 5.

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