Sudan: Random Facts and Trivia

Some random facts and trivia for the country of the world Sudan, different cultures and people, civil war, literacy biography of Mahdi.



Sudan is a country of 2 distinct cultures and many subcultures. The 6 northern provinces, containing 3/4 of the population, are inhabited by Arabic-speaking Muslims, while the population of the 3 southern ones consists of darker, nilotic blacks who are animist (believing that all living things and natural phenomena have souls), with a Muslim/Christian minority. Throughout the existence of the Sudan, it has been the northerners, unified by language and religion, who have dominated the country, while in the south, suspicion of the north has been the only unifying factor.

The 16-year-long Sudanese civil war, which was not ended until March, 1972, represented opposition to a policy of Arabization and Islamization which was being forced on the south. Although little reported in the West, this was one of the greatest wars of this century in terms of death toll. This war, between the Arabized Muslim north and the animist and Christian south, took over 500,000 lives, mostly southern, representing 1/8 of that region's populace. Another 500,000 or more southerners fled their homes, going either into the bush or into refugee camps in neighboring black African countries. Following the 1972 Addis Ababa agreement, mediated by Ethiopia's Emperor Haile Selassie and providing for southern autonomy, Anya Nya guerrillas, the backbone of southern resistance, were absorbed into the Sudanese Army and police.

While some 90% of the population is illiterate, for women this figure rises to 98%. Women are generally regarded as emancipated politically (they have the vote) but not socially. Women rarely enter public places unescorted. A riot occurred in Khartoum when a young woman appeared in a miniskirt.

In Khartoum, the streets are laid out in the pattern of the British flag.

The extreme northwestern part of the country, an area of over 50,000 sq. mi., is virtually uninhabited.

A national hero is Mohammed Ahmed ibn Abdullah, known as the Mahdi. A religious mystic, Mohammed Ahmed in 1881 proclaimed himself the expected Mahdi (a Muslim messiah) and announced a Jihad (holy war) to drive out the Turko-Egyptian occupiers of the country. His dervish forces, armed only with spears, swords, and knives, in 3 years captured 21,000 rifles while killing or capturing 20,000 Turkish and Egyptian soldiers. In 1885, Khartoum, defended by British General Charles "Chinese" Gordon fell. (The British had occupied Egypt in 1882.) Five months later the Mahdi died of typhus. The Mahdist state remained independent until reconquered in 1898 by British and Egyptians led by Gen. Horatio Kitchener, who was served by a young officer named Winston Churchill.

Sudan is the world's leading supplier of gum arabic with 50,000 tons (80% of the world's supply) exported each year.

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