This morning, I read an article about how Sudanese women are using secret Facebook groups to post pictures of police and others abusing protestors to identify them. Not only did these women unload on the contact info, but other tidbits like previous employers, where they went to college, families, friends, ex-girlfriends, and even down to what color their front door is. What led to these protests in the first place? Mainly, I’m gathering it’s a hodgepodge of garbage policies against women, sky-high inflation, and inaccessibility for basic goods and services. (The government even cut their Internet off, so they immediately went to VPN connections. Haha, nice try. “Nevertheless, she persisted.”)
|image from an Al Jazeera article|
The name Sudan is stemmed from its location south of the Sahara desert and originally meant “land of the Blacks.”
Sudan is a rather large country in the northeast corner of Africa. It’s surrounded by Egypt to the north; the Red Sea, Eritrea, and Ethiopia to the east; South Sudan and Central African Republic to the south; and Chad and Libya to the west. Most notably, the White and Blue Nile Rivers meet together in the city of Khartoum. The land has deserts, mountains, and plains and is rich in mineral deposits. The southern part gets more rain than the north, and there are actually swamps and rainforests in the south. The north is mostly desert and is plagued by sandstorms (called haboob – hee hee) that can be so thick that it blocks out the sun.
|Check out this haboob hitting Khartoum|
As the Sahara began to dry out much of the lands of northern Africa, people started settling closer to the fertile lands of the Nile. The Kingdom of Kush laid its stakes at the point where the White Nile and Blue Nile met. It was even mentioned in the Bible. Other Nubian kingdoms emerged and incorporated into others. Initially, they held off Arab expansion in the area and Christianity prevailed. Nubians developed their own language, and women held a high social status that included owning land, making their own financial decisions, and education. Around the 11th and 12th centuries, many of these kingdoms started to fall, some to Arab leaders and some to other African peoples (mainly the Funj). Between 1500-1700s, the Funj expanded and then saw the rise of Islam in this area. During the 1820s, the Ottoman ruler of Egypt invaded the northern part of Sudan. By the 1870s, the Mahdist forces essentially forced the people to adhere to Islam or be killed. Sharia Law took over and is still in place today. They ended up invading Ethiopia, and the British stepped in and fought for control against the French and Belgians. Around the turn of the 20th century, Sudan was controlled jointly by Egypt and Britain (because being controlled by one country doesn’t suck enough). The British basically divided it into two sections: north and south. This lasted until they gained their independence in 1956. There were several coups during the first several decades, and then Col. Omar al-Bashir declared himself the president in 1989. (And he’s still there.) Things went downhill after he forced a one-party system and a pro-Islam government, favoring Sudanese Arabs over non-Arab Sudanese. This contributed to the War in Darfur (on the western side of the country). This conflict is seen as a genocide, and the Janjaweed (an Arab-speaking nomadic militia) is often at the heart of these acts of brutality. A peace agreement was finally signed in 2006.
The capital city, Khartoum, is divided by two rivers: the White Nile and the Blue Nile. Bridges connect many parts of the city together across both rivers. This city of 5.2 million people was only established since 1821; however, it was just north of the far more ancient city of Soba (not to be confused with the Japanese noodle). Today, the city is the center of government, transportation, media, education, and commerce.
Sudan was once considered the 17th fasted growing economy roughly 10 years ago (2010), and it was mostly in oil. However, when South Sudan broke away, it took with it nearly 80% of their oilfields. This left the country in what’s called stagflation, where the inflation is high and the economic growth slows. Up until the discovery and establishment of the oil industry, agriculture has been the main economic driver. However, years of drought and a weakening of global agricultural prices crippled their staples. They have started to develop some hydroelectric dams along the rivers. Even at that, a large portion of the people live below the international poverty line (ranked at less than US$1.25/day).
The vast majority of Sudanese follow Islam (nearly 97%), mostly as Sufi or Salafi Muslims. Smaller groups of Christians do exist in Sudan, mainly following Protestantism or Roman Catholicism, although there are still some pockets of Greek Orthodox, Coptic Orthodox, Eritrean Orthodox, Ethiopian Orthodox, Anglican, and other denominations of Christianity.
After a change in their constitution in 2005, the official languages are Arabic and English. The most widely spoken language is a variety of Arabic called Sudanese Arabic. This variety borrowed quite a bit of vocabulary from other regional languages (namely Mabang, Nobiin, Fur, and Zaghawa) that it’s created quite a unique version of Arabic. In areas along the Red Sea, the Beja language can be heard while the Fur language is spoken in the Darfur region.
Most people think of Egypt when they think of pyramids, but Sudan has its own pyramids, too. Located near the city of Meroë, these pyramids are a collection of 200 pyramids built over 2000 years ago. The Meroitic Kingdom, in the eastern part of the country, ruled that area for nearly 900 years. Another archeological site called Kerma is about 5000 years old and also includes a large tomb known as Western Deffufa. Sudan’s culture extends back to antiquity, and it’s certainly been in the news during recent years (not quite for positive stories, though). But it’ll be interesting to see the cultural influences behind Sudan today.