Sudan (country), republic in northeastern Africa, the largest country of the African continent. It is bounded on the north by Egypt; on the east by the Red Sea, Eritrea, and Ethiopia; on the south by Kenya, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire); and on the west by the Central African Republic, Chad, and Libya. Sudan has a total area of 2,505,800 sq km (967,490 sq mi). Khartoum is the capital and largest city.
The population of Sudan is composed principally of Arabs in the north and black Africans in the south; many Arabs are of mixed ancestry. Other ethnic groups in northern Sudan include the Beja, Jamala, and Nubian peoples. The major black ethnic groups in southern Sudan are the Azande, Dinka, Nuer, and Shilluk. Some 70 percent of economically active people are engaged in agricultural or pastoral activities, another 22 are employed in services, and only 9 percent have jobs in manufacturing, construction, and mining.
The 2004 estimated population was 39,148,162, giving the country an overall population density of 17 persons per sq km (43 per sq mi). The most densely settled area is at the juncture of the White Nile and the Blue Nile. Sudan’s population is growing at a rate of 2.64 percent (2004) annually.
Land, Tourism and Natural Resources:
Sudan has a maximum length from north to south of more than 2,250 km (1,400 mi); the extreme width of the country is about 1,730 km (about 1,075 mi). It is divided into three separate natural regions, ranging from desert in the north, covering about 30 percent of all Sudan, through a vast semiarid region of steppes and low mountains in central Sudan, to a region of vast swamps (the As Sudd region) and rain forest in the south. Major topographical features of Sudan are the Nile River, its headstreams the White Nile and Blue Nile, and the tributaries of these rivers. The White Nile traverses the country from the Uganda border to a point near Khartoum, where it joins the Blue Nile to form the Nile proper. The Blue Nile rises in the Ethiopian Plateau and flows across east central Sudan. Of the Nile tributaries the most important is the ‘Aţbarah, which also rises in the Ethiopian Plateau. The Libyan Desert, a barren waste broken by rugged uplands, covers most of Sudan west of the Nile proper. The Nubian Desert lies in the region east of the Nile proper and the ‘Aţbarah. The Red Sea Hills are located along the coast. The highest point in Sudan, Kinyeti (3,187 m/10,456 ft), is in the southeast.
Village on the Nile, Sudan The Nile River is the most dominant physical feature in Sudan. Because water is a valuable resource in the east African country’s arid regions, the Nile and its tributaries are valued for providing much of the irrigation that sustains agricultural development. Small villages, such as this Shilluk settlement, use water from the river for subsistence farming. Photo Researchers, Inc./Robert Caputo
The primary natural resources of Sudan are water, supplied by the Nile River system, and fertile soil. Large areas of cultivable land are situated in the region between the Blue Nile and the ‘Aţbarah and between the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Other cultivable land is in the narrow Nile Valley and in the valleys of the plains region. Irrigation is extensively employed in these areas. The country also has vast areas of grasslands and forests, including acacia forests, the source of gum Arabic. Small deposits of many different minerals occur, the most important of which are chromium, copper, and iron ore. Petroleum was discovered in western Sudan in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Plants and Animals:
Vegetation is sparse in the desert zones of Sudan. Various species of acacia occur in the regions contiguous to the Nile Valley. Large forested areas are found in central Sudan, especially in the river valleys. Among the most common trees are the hashab, talh, heglig, and several species of acacia, notably sunt, laot, and kittr. Trees such as ebony, silag, and baobab are common in the Blue Nile Valley. Ebony, mahogany, and other varieties of timber trees are found in the White Nile Basin. Other species of indigenous vegetation include cotton, papyrus, castor-oil plants, and rubber plants.
Animal life is abundant in the plains and equatorial regions of Sudan. Elephants are numerous in the southern forests, and crocodiles and hippopotamuses abound in the rivers. Other large animals include giraffes, leopards, and lions. Monkeys, various species of tropical birds, and poisonous reptiles are also found, and insects—especially mosquitoes, seroot flies, and tsetse flies—infest the equatorial belt.
Sudan has a tropical climate. Seasonal variations are most sharply defined in the desert zones, where winter temperatures as low as 4°C (40°F) are common, particularly after sunset. Summer temperatures often exceed 40°C (110°F) in the desert zones, and rainfall is negligible. Dust storms, called haboobs, frequently occur. High temperatures also prevail to the south throughout the central plains region, but the humidity is generally low. In the vicinity of Khartoum the average annual temperature is about 27°C (about 80°F); and annual rainfall, most of which occurs between mid-June and September, is about 250 mm (about 10 in). Equatorial climatic conditions prevail in southern Sudan. In this region the average annual temperature is about 29°C (about 85°F), annual rainfall is more than 1,000 mm (40 in), and the humidity is excessive.
Popular Music of Sudan Promising young musicians in Sudan often are sent to the Institute of Music to study classical European and Arabic music. In recent years, these same musicians have become interested in researching and arranging folk songs and musical rhythms of their Sudanese culture. This is an example of a traditional folk song arranged by a classically trained singer and master ’ud (short, plucked lute) player. The hypnotic rhythm of this composition is influenced by the slow walk and low voice of camels owned by the Aballah people who inhabit the desert in the north of Kordofan."Nitlaga, Nitlaga" from Abdel Gadir Salim: Nujum Al-Lail/Stars of the Night .
The northern two-thirds of Sudan is an area of Islamic culture. European culture and religion have influenced the southern peoples, but traditional customs remain strong.
The application of Islamic law to banking practices in 1991 put an end to the charging of interest.
The official unit of currency is the dinar. In 1992 the dinar replaced the Sudanese pound, with an official exchange rate of 1 dinar to 10 pounds. The pound, however, remains a legal tender (263 pounds equal U.S.$1; 2002 average). Sudan has prohibited the establishment of foreign banks since 1985. The application of Islamic law to banking practices in 1991 put an end to the charging of interest in official transactions.