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.
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.