Islamic Culture in Nubia

With the assistance of the Mamluk rulers of Egypt, the Kingdom of Makuria fell to the Juhayna Arabs through a combination of conquest and intermarriage in the mid 14th century. Nubia quickly adopted the Arabic language and the religion of Islam. The Dongola Reach soon came under the sway of the far-flung Funj kingdom, or al-Saltana al-Zarqa (the Black Sultanate). Mohamed Ali Pasha, Ottoman Turkish ruler of Egypt, conquered Sudan in 1821, but the Mahdi overthrew the Egyptian colonial government in 1881. Sudan enjoyed a brief period of independence under him and his successor the Khalifa Abdallahi. British General Lord Kitchener defeated the Mahdist army led by the Khalifa in 1898 at the Battle of Omdurman, bringing Sudan under Anglo-Egyptian colonial rule until it gained independence from Egypt in 1956.

These struggles are reflected in the survey area by several substantial Qasr (fortresses) and Diffi (fortified mansions). Qasr Khandaq was the oldest, going back to Christian times. Qasr Wad Nemeri was the largest, accompanied by over forty Qubbas, domed funerary monuments to important individuals and holy men or sheikhs. The fortress at el-Kab was perhaps connected to the famous Darb al-Arba'in (Forty Days Road), a key route funneling camels, slaves, and valuable trade goods into Egypt.


Islamic pottery from the Sudan is often hand made with incised decoration.

Imported porcelain and glass beads came from Europe and China. The chunk of coral must have come from the Red Sea. The small incised and impressed bowls are from Turkish pipes.

The copper Egyptian 5 piaster coin found at Qasr Wad Nemeri is dated 1898, perhaps dropped there by one of Kitchener's soldiers on his way to defeat the Mahdist army of "Dervishes" at Khartoum.