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African Kingdoms

East Africa


Kingdom of Nobatia (Nubia)
c.AD 350 - c.590

The Africa Nubian kingdom of Nobatia (or Nobadia) had its capital at Pachoras (modern Faras), and was located in modern northern Sudan and southern Egypt. The exact date of its founding is not known, but it seems to be early, perhaps early enough to be an indirect continuation or re-founding of the Meroë Kush kingdom. The traditional theory is that the old kingdom was destroyed during an invasion by Ezana of the Ethiopian kingdom of Axum. To contradict this, the Ethiopian account seems to describe the quelling of a rebellion in lands they already controlled. It also refers only to the Nuba, and makes no mention of the rulers of Meroë.

However, no details of rulers at Meroë are known after about AD 350, making their survival unlikely. There is a possibility that the kings, or at least something of the royal family, moved to Pachoras and re-found the kingdom as Nobatia. Unfortunately, no records exist to document anything about the kingdom other than its last days.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from External Links: The Archaeology of Settlement and Migratory Patterns of the Fur Tribe in Darfur, Sudan, and The History and Origins of the Current Conflict in Darfur (PDF).)


Details of the two hundred years from the fall of Kush to the middle of the sixth century are unknown. Nubia is inhabited by a people whom ancient geographers call the Nobatae (and have been labelled the X-Group by modern archaeologists, who are still at a loss to explain their origins). The Nobatae are clearly the heirs of Kush, as their whole cultural life is dominated by Meroitic crafts and customs, and occasionally they even feel themselves sufficiently strong, in alliance with the nomadic Blemmyes (the Beja of eastern modern Sudan), to attack the Romans in Upper Egypt. When this happens, the Romans retaliate, defeating the Nobatae and Blemmyes and driving them into obscurity once again.

Nobatian burial mound
This Nubian burial mound of a Nobatian king was discovered at Ballana, Lower Nubia, during excavations that were carried out in the 1930s, in the late phase of perhaps the most glamorous period of early archaeological discovery in North Africa


A Greek inscription by Silko at Kalabsha may be dated to around this time. Silko refers to himself as 'Basiliskos', or kinglet, of the Nobatae, and describes fighting the Blemmyes from Ibrim to Shellal and extracting an oath of submission from them. These would probably be the same Blemmyes who were defeated by Roman Emperor Diocletian in AD 297 when he called in a people known as the Nobate from the oases of the western Egyptian desert (on the fringes of Kush), to defend the southern frontier of the empire at Aswan.

fl c.536 - 555


Accepted Eastern Roman Christianity.

543 - 545

This period sees missionary work carried out by Julian, who proselytises in Nobatia on behalf of the Eastern Roman empire. The new religion appears to be adopted with considerable enthusiasm.

c.559 - c.590

Eirpanome / Eirpanomos

Christian. Last king at Nobatia?

fl 574/577


A rival, or sub-king?


Tokiltoeton is primarily known from a foundation inscription at the fortified settlement of Ikhmindi in Lower Nubia. This is a heavily fortified settlement founded either late in the pre-Christian era or at the start of the Christian era. It contains two churches, suggesting occupation continues at least into Nubia's medieval golden age. The inscription suggests that Tokiltoeton is responsible for the fortification work.


Christian missionaries from the Eastern Roman empire convert the Nubians. It is at this time, perhaps coincidentally, that records for Nobatia stop and those for Dongola seem to start, suggesting a relocation of the capital or a re-founding at a new location due to circumstances unknown.

Kingdom of Dongola / Makuria (Nubia)
c.AD 590 - 1314

The kingdom of Dongola, which was located in modern northern Sudan and southern Egypt, is by far the best known of the Nubian successor states, but it still contains gaps in the record. It was one of a group of Nubian kingdoms that emerged in the centuries after the fall of the Kushite kingdom which had dominated the region from 785 BC to AD 350. The others were Nobatia, with its capital at Pachoras (modern Faras), and Alodia in the south, with its capital at Subah (Soba) near what is now Khartoum.

However, Nobatia may have been an early form of the kingdom of Makuria (or, variously, Makouria, Maqurrah or Mukurra). It seems that a transfer of the capital may have occurred at the start of the seventh century, perhaps at the same time as the kingdom was converted to Christianity. The kingdom itself originally covered the area along the Nile from the Third Cataract to somewhere between the Fifth and Sixth Cataracts. It also had control over the trade routes, mines, and oases to the east and west. Its capital was Old Dongola (or Dunqulah), by which name the kingdom seems to be better known. The names of Dongola and Makuria are largely interchangeable, although Makuria appears to dominate after AD 652. Old Dongola was built in the fifth century as a fortress, but quickly developed a settlement around it which turned into a town. Note that dates are quite uncertain for most Dongolan/Makurian rulers.

It was apparently during the early second millennium AD that Nubians, or people who spoke a Nubian-related language and were semi-nomadic, began to arrive in the Meidob Hills, in Jebel Meidob in the north-eastern corner of the Darfur region. The resultant Meidob or Midob civilisation flourished, although not to any extent which affected the rule of the region. The hills are a concentration of volcanic mounds and deep ravines, and the depression on the western side of the hills is known as the Malha Crater, which contains valuable deposits of rock salt and muddy salt. This crater also contains fresh water springs and a small lake, and the salt gathered by the Meidob inhabitants was sold to the neighbouring Arabs on the trade markets. Archaeological sites containing cities, stone barrows, and rock paintings are to be found all over the hills. The region's ruins, language, a tradition of matrilineal succession, and a claim by the Meidobis to be Mahas Nubians in origin are all usually offered up as proof of rising influence in Darfur by Christian Nubians. They probably migrated there from Kordofan rather than the Nile Valley, with Nile traditions being introduced over time through trade and further migrations. The cities of Malha and Abu Garan are estimated to have supported population sizes of 6,000 people during a time of significantly higher rainfall in the hills.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information by 'Ken', and from External Links: The Archaeology of Settlement and Migratory Patterns of the Fur Tribe in Darfur, Sudan, and The History and Origins of the Current Conflict in Darfur (PDF), and Dictionary of African Christian Biography.)

535 - 537

The earliest-known church appears in Nubia, converted from a temple of Isis. The land is once more brought into the orbit of the Mediterranean world by Christian missionaries from the Eastern Roman empire, who are starting to make their way along the Nile and into the Nubian kingdoms.

543 - 545

This period sees missionary work carried out by Julian, who proselytises in Nobatia on behalf of the Eastern Roman empire. The new religion appears to be adopted with considerable enthusiasm.

Ballana Nubian burial
The Ballana burial mound discovered by archaeologists in Lower Nubia in the 1930s contained the body of a Nubian king complete with his crown, one arm reaching outwards with a bracelet still on that arm


By this time the kingdom of Nobatia/Dongola has converted to Christianity, as has Alodia. But, after the work of the Eastern Roman missionaries has been concluded, the kingdoms sink back into relative obscurity, and only re-emerge in the seventh century. Archaeological work has uncovered some elements of Old Dongola's construction, though. Two main churches are built, termed 'Building X' and the 'Church with the Stone Pavement' by archaeologists. They are positioned just a hundred metres outside the original city walls, indicating considerable expansion in a little over a century of Old Dongola's existence. 'Building X' is soon replaced by a new construction on the same site, the 'Old Church'.

Could it be the missionary work in this period that introduces possible Germanic elements into the region and helps to form Alodia? Given Dongola's apparent dominance of northern Nubia at this time, Alodia may be a splinter state, perhaps formed when Subah is seized by a new group who are sufficiently powerful to deny Dongola's authority, although this is just a theory.

640 - 642

Egypt is conquered by Islamic armies in 640-641, and Nubia is cut off from the rest of Christianity. The following year, Islamic forces venture south, fighting the Nubians of Dongola at the First Battle of Dongola (perhaps more a series of skirmishes and Nubian guerrilla tactics than an outright battle). The Nubians win the encounter(s), showering the invaders with lethal hails of arrows and halting Arab advances south of Egypt in a rare Islamic defeat for this period.

c.645 - 655

Zacharias I

651 - 652


Successfully resisted the Islamic invasion.


An invading Islamic army is repulsed at the Second Battle of Dongola, otherwise known as the Siege of Dongola. The Arabs lay siege to Old Dongola, using a catapult to fire into the city. The two main Christian churches, the 'Old Church' and the 'Church with the Stone Pavement', are destroyed around this time, probably by this very means. Nubian resistance is fierce, especially from the lethal archers, and the Arabs suffer heavy losses. No longer able to continue an attack which the Dongolan king, Qalidurut, shows every sign of continuing to resist, the Arab commander agrees a treaty known as the baqt, which ensures peace between Egypt and Dongola until the thirteenth century. Both the damaged churches are rebuilt soon afterwards, but the 'Old Church' also loses material that is taken to patch the city walls.

Around the same time, Dongola expands to annexe its northern neighbour, Nobatia (if it has not already done so and if the kingdoms are not one and the same). The use of the names Makuria and Nobatia at some points after this may imply the creation of a dual monarchy.

Old Dongola
In a rare defeat during the seventh century, the invading Arab army found itself unsuccessful when it tried to take the fortress of Old Dongola during its second attempt to capture the kingdom

c.697 - c.722

Merkurios / Mercurius


The archaeologist-named 'Church of the Granite Columns' is constructed on the site of the 'Old Church' towards the end of the seventh century. It is a comparatively grand building, suggesting that it might be serving as Old Dongola's cathedral.

c.722 - c.738

Cyriacus I / Kyriakos I

c.738 - c.744

Zacharias II


The succession here is confused, with two permutations available. Alternative dates are shown in red.

c.744 - c.748


Or c.744-c.768.

c.748 - c.760


Or c.780-c.790

c.750 - 1150

Despite the poor availability of records to date even its kings properly, the kingdom is known to be stable and prosperous, enjoying a golden age that lasts for about four centuries.


Markos / Mark

Or c.768-c.780.

c.760 - c.768

Cyriacus II / Kyriakos II

c.790 - c.810

Mikael / Michael

c.810 - c.822

Johannes / John

c.822 - c.831

Zacharias III Israel



Qanun the Usurper

Held the throne very briefly.

c.831 - c.854

Zacharias III Israel

Restored to the throne. Died c.854.

c.854 - c.860

Ali Baba

A product of Islamic influence or of Arab birth?

c.860 - c.870


c.872 - 892

Georgios I / George I

892 - c.912



In the south of Nubia another kingdom emerges. Named Dotawo, it has a capital at Dau (modern Djabel-Adda), but it may not be a kingdom at all, merely a colony of Makuria. In Old Dongola, the 'Church with the Stone Pavement' is demolished and the 'Cruciform Church' is built in its place, although many other churches also exist by now.

c.912 - c.943

Istabanos / Stephen

c.943 - c.958

Kubri ibn Surun

Only the second king with an Islamic influence.

c.958 - c.969

Zacharias IV

c.969 - c.980

Georgios II / George II

969 - 1174

Makuria conquers its rival medieval Nubian state at Alodia, uniting two of the region's largest states during the late Nubian golden age. At the same time, during the patriarchate of Philotheos (979-1003), King Georgios II receives an appeal for transmission to the patriarch from an unnamed ruler of Ethiopia who is seeking the appointment of a new Metropolitan. The letter describes how a woman, apparently queen of the Bani al-Hamuya (the script of the Arabic text lends itself to various interpretations), is laying waste to the country and is harrying the emperor and his followers from place to place in an effort to wipe out Christianity completely.

c.980 - c.999


c.999 - c.1030


c.1030 - 1080

Georgios III / George III


Royal marriages are facilitated with the restoration in the middle of the century of the principle of the son of the royal sister inheriting the Makurian throne. Strong royal authority diminishes in the face of progressing feudalisation, leaving the kingdom in the hands of an extensive group of local dignitaries drawn from the royal family and the state administration. The sons of the ruling king increasingly often became bishops in the church and a number of rulers spend the remaining years of their lives after abdication in monasteries, sometimes outside the kingdom. This obviously does not favour political stability within the state.

1080 - 1089

Salomo / Solomon

1089 - 1130

Basileios / Basil

1130 - 1171

Georgios IV / George IV

King Moses George of Dotawo?

1171 - 1272

The kingdom enters a sharp decline, due in part to increased Bedouin attacks after these tribes people have been pushed south by the Ayyubids. Cities have to be defended by new walls, buildings are made stronger, and some settlements are moved to more defendable locations. Control over Alodia is lost and Makurian-Egyptian relations cool. The expedition lead by Saladin's brother against Makuria, which terminates in the taking of Qasr Ibrim and the garrisoning of troops in the fortress there for a period of several years results in growing animosity. The baqt is forgotten.

Church of the Granite Columns, Old Dongola
The 'Church of the Granite Columns' remained in use during Nubia's golden age and decline, but following the kingdom's collapse, the entire city fell into decay and ruin

1171 - 1210

Moise Georgios

King Moses George of Dotawo?

Despite the efforts of Moise Georgios, no peace is negotiated between Makuria and the Ayyubids. The consequences are serious for the Nubian kingdom. Food imports from Egypt are reduced substantially, forcing Makuria toward greater agricultural self-sufficiency. The granary supervisor becomes one of the leading officials in the kingdom. Considerable effort is put in building new fortifications or refurbishing existing but neglected defences. A progressive Nubianisation of church and state administration occurs, with Greek and Coptic losing preference as the official languages in favour of Old Nubian. All of the literature in the kingdom is translated into the kingdom's vernacular at this time. Relations with Alodia are also strengthened, apparently by blood ties between the two ruling families.

1210 - 1268


1268 - 1274

David I

King David of Dotawo?

1274 - 1276

David II

Forced to flee a Bahri Mameluke attack.


A Bahri Mameluke army under the command of Malik Zahir, deputy leader to Baybars in Egypt, is claimed to conquer Sudan. This is an uncertain time for Sudan, with few records to back up any such claim, but David II is indeed forced to flee a Mameluke attack. Whether this attack is a definitive conquest is much harder to say, but it is viewed by Arab sources as a great victory.

1276 - c.1277


c.1277 - 1279

Masqadat / Meskedet

1279 - 1286

Barak / Berek

1286 - 1288

Samamun / Shamumun

King George Simon of Dotawo?

1288 - ?


Name unknown.

Samamun / Shamumun




Name unknown.

1290 - 1293

Samamun / Shamumun

Restored for a second time.

1293 - 1304

Increased aggression from Mameluke Egypt and internal discord begins the state's fading and collapse. Following the Egyptian sack of Makuria, the native kings are supplanted by Mameluke rulers, although it is not clear if they are puppets of Egypt, governors, or independent rulers. Mameluke rulers are shown in green.

1293 - ?


Mameluke ruler.

? - 1304


Mameluke ruler.


Native rulers are restored to the throne of Dongola, but the kingdom's disintegration continues.

1304 - 1305


1305 - 1312


Officially replaced by a Nubian Muslim.

1312 - 1312/15


1312/15 - 1323?

Mameluke client kings from Egypt again secure control of the kingdom. An inscription erected in Old Dongola in 1317 by Saif ad-Din'Abdallah Bershambo is taken as the record of a military expedition from Egypt which places him in command of Old Dongola in the name of Sultan Al-Nasir Muhammad I of Egypt.

1312/15 - 1320

Saif ad-Din'Abdallah Bershambo

Mameluke ruler.

1320 - 1323

Kanz al-Dawla

Mameluke ruler.



Mameluke ruler, held the throne for three days.


Once again the Mameluke possessors of Dongola are replaced by a native ruler, but it is too late to save the kingdom. Kerembes' hold on power is short-lived, and when he is replaced, he is the last of his kind.



Restored. Last Nubian king.

1323 - ?

Kanz al-Dawla

Mameluke ruler restored.

1314 - 1324

The kingdom collapses, most especially due to the aggression from Egypt. It is possible, given the apparent overlaps with Dotawo's kings, that Makuria's rulers flee south to that city which becomes their final bolt-hole. Egypt's interference also sees Arabic speech and religion gradually seep into Nubia over the course of the century, and the region's other medieval state, Alodia, also fades into obscurity and eventual replacement by the Abdallab empire.

fl c.1350


Mameluke ruler.


Egyptian governance of Makuria continues for a while, but that too appears to fade into obscurity, leaving large areas of Nubia either ungoverned or ruled by locals on a piecemeal basis. Old Dongola remains populated until the nineteenth century, when the population migrates about eighty kilometres (fifty miles) to the north, crosses the Nile, and founds (modern) Dongola.

Abdallab Empire of Nubia
c.AD 1480 - 1504

Since the early years of the fourteenth century, Nubia had witnessed the gradual penetration of small Arabic groups moving southwards from Egypt with their families. Their influence was such that native Nubian kingdoms kingdoms like Alodia are reputed to have fractured, leaving them ripe for conquest. In time the Arabs formed larger groups with political aspirations and when a leader appeared in the form of Abdullah Jamma, he was able to form them into a unified tribe or confederation. With his new forces under his command, he was able to face one of the sole surviving native Nubian kingdoms, the aforementioned Alodia, capturing its capital at Soba. There he formed a short-lived empire, replacing Christian faith with Islam. Now the Christian kingdom of Dotawo was the last of its kind in Nubia.

Some scholars doubt the existence of Abdullah, since 'jamma' means 'the gatherer', an ideal name for an eponymous founder figure. A widely accepted alternate view of the conquest of Alodia has the Arabs joining up with the next wave of incomers, the Funj, to conquer the region without any mention of Abdullah. However, 'jamma' would also seem to be an ideal nickname for someone who has formed a nation out of disparate tribes and families, so it's just as likely that his Arab conquest did in fact take place. Whether he existed or was a replacement for the true founder of this 'empire', Alodia's northern border was maintained somewhere between the Fifth and Sixth Cataracts of the Nile. The Nubian language was extinguished from the south, with only a few place names surviving, while in the north it survived, notably in the Blue Nile region. The formerly Christian Nubians were completely Islamicised, even in Makuria and Nobatia.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Cambridge History of Africa: From c.1050-c.1600, from The Sudan Handbook, by Derek A Welsby, and from the Encyclopaedia of African History: Volume 1 A-G.)

c.1480 - 1504

Abdullah Jamma 'the Gatherer'

Founded the empire after conquering Alodia.


The Funj have recently been migrating into Nubia from the Sudd, forced out by pressure from the Shilluk people. Once in Nubia, they defeat Abdullah Jamma, absorb his short-lived Abdallab empire, and set up the Arabic-speaking Funj sultanate of Sinnar. This rules the region for three centuries, although other minor states also exist in Sudan at the same time.

Nubian Church fresco
The Christian church in Nubia was extinguished by the creation of the Abdallab empire, leaving frescoes such as this to be later saved by museums

Nubian-speaking peoples are pushed further north by the creation of the sultanate and its use of the Arabic tongue. Although the name of Nubia is still used to describe North Sudan, the Arabic Bilad es-Sudan or 'Land of the Blacks' slowly gains prominence. The Arab empire, if it ever even exists, is soon threatened by the ingress of the Funj people from the south, and Nubia soon gains another new master.

Funj Sultanate of Sinnar / Blue Sultanate
AD 1504 - 1820

The origins of the Funj people are unclear. Their existence is first recorded in the late fifteenth century when they began to migrate into Nubia across the Sudd, a vast swamp region in South Sudan which was formed by the White Nile. Population pressure from the Shilluk people in South Sudan forced them out of their old homeland.

Once in central and northern Sudan, they conquered and absorbed the short-lived Abdallab empire, adopting the newly-introduced religion of Islam as their religion and Arabic as the language of their administration. It was this change in language that also changed the region's name over time from Nubia to Sudan. The state itself was built on traditional African principles. Their sultanate was based at Sinnar (or Sennar), and was also known as the Blue Sultanate (it encompassed the Blue Nile). It dominated much of the northern Nile Valley for the next three centuries (northern and eastern Sudan), although other minor states existed from time to time elsewhere within modern Sudan's borders. It was effectively the last independent kingdom in a region with a long and noble history before colonialism took over.

At its greatest extent the sultanate extended from the border with Ottoman Egypt at the Third Cataract, south-eastwards to the Ethiopian highlands and the River Sobat, and from the Red Sea to the east over both branches of the Nile, the Nuba Mountains, and Kordofan to the borders of Darfur in the west. The Funj followed a matrilineal order of descent, claiming descent through the female line of a remote legendary ancestress. A royal court of titled high officials elected the king from among the sons of Funj noblewomen by previous rulers. The society was primarily agricultural, without even a fixed capital at first. Reignal numbering appears to vary between sources.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Cambridge History of Africa: From c.1050-c.1600, from The Sudan Handbook, by Derek A Welsby, and from the Encyclopaedia of African History: Volume 1 A-G.)

1503 - 1533

Amara Dunqas

Founded the sultanate.


Egypt and Libya are conquered by the Ottoman empire under Selim I Yavuz. In the Funj sultanate, Amara Dunqas skilfully negotiates his way out of further Ottoman conquest, securing his newly-won borders in the process.

Map of Ethiopia AD 1300-1600
This map shows the locations of the various minor states which would eventually go into making up modern Ethiopia, along with several neighbouring Muslim states such as the Funj sultanate of Sinnar - Dankali holds the origins of modern Djibouti within its borders (click or tap on map to view full sized)

1533 - 1550/1


1550/1 - 1557/8

Abd al-Qadir I

1557/8 - 1568

Abu Sakikin

1568 - 1585/6


Son of Nayil.

1585/6 - 1587/8


1587/8 - 1591

Tabl I / Tayyib I

1591 - 1603/4

Unsa I

Apparently a weak king.

1603/4 - 1606

Abd al-Qadir II

Son. Deposed by Adlan I.


Although he is deposed by his brother, Abd al-Qadir is a friend of the Ethiopian Emperor Susneyos I. At some point after this date, the deposed sultan is appointed governor of Chilga (also known as Ayikel), an important trading town near the Ethiopian border with Sinnar.

1606 - 1611/2

Adlan I

Brother. Deposed by Badi I.

1611/2 - 1616/7

Badi I / Badi el Kawam



Emperor Susenyos conquers and annexes the kingdom of Fazughli into the Ethiopian empire, on Sinnar's borders. The emperor subsequently sends priests to renew the Orthodox Christianity of the province, although the missionaries appear to achieve little, seemingly becoming mired in doctrinal disputes.


The period of the great kings begins with the reign of Rubat I. These three kings open diplomatic and commercial relations with the Islamic heartlands, establishing at Sinnar the first fixed urban capital for their hitherto agrarian realm. They build this new city as part of a large and cosmopolitan metropolis by dispatching royal caravans to attract foreigners with valuable goods and skills.

Warrior from Sinnar
A painting of a warrior from the sultanate of Sinnar, purportedly completed in the nineteenth century, within living memory of the sultanate's existence

Unfortunately, these more intimate contacts with the outside world begin to expose features of Funj society, notably the matrilineal descent of its nobles and the royal dominance over foreign commerce. These features inevitably appear controversial from the cultural perspective of Sudan's northern neighbours.

1616/7 - 1644/5

Rubat I / Rabat I

Son. First of the great kings.

During the reign of Rubat I, the kingdom of Taqali to the west of Sinnar is conquered and made a Funj vassal state.

1644/5 - 1681

Badi II 'the Bearded'

Second of the great kings.

1618 - 1619

Relations with Ethiopia have been deteriorating since the reign of Badi I as the Funj press southwards up the Blue Nile to annexe the gold-producing land of Fazughli. In this period major Ethiopian invasions designed to reclaim the valuable territory and kick out the Funj are repulsed.

1681 - 1692

Unsa II

Third of the great kings.

1692 - 1716

Badi III al-Ahmar


1716 - 1720

Unsa III



Cultural dissidence expresses itself in the rise of towns, whose numbers increased from one in 1700 to about thirty by 1821, and in accelerating political chaos. The royal practice of matrilineal descent is abandoned in this year.

1720 - 1724


1724 - 1762

Badi IV Abu Shulukh



Another Ethiopian invasion takes place. This is part of continuing problems between the two states now that Ethiopian territories border those of Sinnar.


An increasingly bitter struggle has been developing between Sinnar and its Fur-speaking western neighbours of the Keira dynasty of Dar Fur over the vast gold-producing region of Kordofan that lies between the respective heartlands of the two kingdoms. In the middle of the century, the Musabba'at, a defeated and exiled faction of the royal family of Dar Fur, settles in Kordofan and uses it as a base for an attempted re-conquest of their homeland.


A military strongman named Muhammad Abu Likaylik of the Hamaj launches a coup which overthrows Badi IV. Under the control of this military 'regent', the monarchy is reduced to little more than a puppet. From this point forwards, the Hamaj 'regents' and the military are in control of the sultanate despite attempts by the rightful rulers to dispose of them. To emphasise the lack of control experienced by the sultans, they are shown with a shaded background.

1762 - 1769

Nasir ibn Badi IV

Son. Reason for overlap in rule with next sultan is unclear.

1768 - 1776

Isma'il ibn Badi IV


1775 - 1776

During his lifetime, the Hamaj 'regent', Muhammad Abu Likayik, had administered the sultanate very well, but following his death there is factional in-fighting amongst his successors and rebellions by the Funj sultans, which hastens the sultanate's decline.

1776 - 1787

Adlan II ibn Isma'il



From this point onwards, the Dar Fur sultans strike eastwards into Sinnar's territory in order to impose their rule at the expense of both Funj and Musabba'at.


The Hamaj military 'regent', Rajab wad Muhammad, is defeated at the Battle of Taras by Sultan Adlan II, although it appears not to change the situation whereby the sultanate is governed from behind the throne.

1787 - 1788


1788 - 1789

Tabl II / Tayyib II

1789 - 1790

Badi V ibn Tabl


1790 - 1791

Hassab Rabihi

1791 - 1792


1792 - 1798

Badi VI ibn Tabl

Son of Tabl II. Deposed - by Hamaj Idris wad Abu Likayik?

1798 - 1804

Ranfa / Ranfi


Sinnar is already exhibiting the signs of internal weakness that begin to attract attention from Egypt in the north. The urbanised fragments of the old agrarian realm have lapsed into a state of interminable civil war. Such is the state of Funj, many dissidents welcome the invasion from Egypt when it comes.

Napoleon's invasion of Egypt
Napoleon's invasion of Egypt may have spelled the end of the dominance of Ottoman walis, but it served to reinvigorate local rule in the country, so that it was soon expanding its borders

1804 - 1805


Name suspiciously similar to the Hamaj 'regent', Adlan.

1805 - 1821

Badi VI ibn Tabl

Restored, as true king, without a 'regent'.


After arranging a coup on 1 March in which most of the leading Mameluke beys of Egypt are murdered, Pasha Muhammad Ali takes full control of the country. Surviving Mamelukes flee southwards, entering Sudan, where they set up a slaving centre at Dongola.

1820 - 1821

The sultan of Sinnar informs Egypt that he is unable to obey an order to expel the Mamelukes, and this serves as a pretext for the Egyptian invasion of the country. The greatly weakened and virtually defenceless sultanate is destroyed in the process, being formally terminated in 15 July 1821. In return for his meek surrender and handing over the kingdom, Badi is allowed to remain governor of Sinnar itself under Egyptian rule.

Colonial Sudan (Egyptian & British)
AD 1820 - 1956

Bordered to the north by Muhammad Ali's Egypt, Sudan's history had long been tied to its northern neighbour, from the very beginnings of the Nubian kingdom onwards. For much of the nineteenth century, Egypt exercised control over Sudan, either in its own right or as part of a colonial possession. The intention of the khedive at Cairo was to unite the two countries as a single, enlarged Egyptian state, and the Egyptians continued to claim sovereignty over Sudan until the mid-twentieth century, but full union never happened due, in part, to British blocking efforts before the Second World War.

In 1820, Muhammad Ali sent his son, Ismail, to conquer Sudan, which he did in relatively short order, destroying the Funj sultanate of Sinnar in the process. Ismail retained initial supreme command of the conquered land before making way for subsequent military commanders. A governor-generalship was eventually established to control the country in Egypt's name. This Sudan should not be confused with the French Sudan of colonial western Africa.

(Information by Peter Kessler, with additional information from The Cambridge History of Africa: From c.1050-c.1600, from The Sudan Handbook, by Derek A Welsby, and from the Encyclopaedia of African History: Volume 1 A-G.)

1820 - 1821


Egyptian military commander.

1820 - 1822

Ismail, son of Muhammad Ali had conquered Sudan, destroying the Funj sultanate of Sinnar in short order. Now he retains initial supreme command of the conquered Sudan before making way for subsequent military commanders. A governor-generalship is eventually established in order to control the country in Egypt's name.

Muhammad Ali Pasha
The Ottoman wali, Muhammad Ali Pasha, saw the opportunity provided to him by the weakened Mamelukes and seized control, founding his own royal dynasty which ruled Egypt until 1953 (oil on canvas by Auguste Couder, 1840)

1821 - 1824

Muhammad Bey

Egyptian military commander.

1824 - 1825

Osman Bey

Egyptian military commander.

1825 - 1826

Mahu Bey Orfali

Egyptian military commander.

1826 - 1838

Ali Khurshid Pasha

First Egyptian governor-general (hakimadar).

1838 - 1843

Ahmad Pasha abu Wadan

1843 - 1844


Name unknown.

1844 - 1845

Ahmad Pasha al-Manikli

Egyptian military commander.

1845 - 1849

Khalid Pasha / Husru Abu Amud

1849 - 1850


Name unknown.

1850 - 1851

Abd al-Latif Pasha

1851 - 1852

Rustum Pasha Cerkes

1852 - 1853

Ismail Pasha Abu Jabal

1853 - 1854

Salim Pasha Sayib


Ali Pasha Sirri Arnavut

1854 - 1855


Name unknown.

1855 - 1857

Ali Pasha Jarkis

1857 - 1858

Arakil Bey al-Armani Mudir'umum

Acting governor-general.

1859 - 1861

Hasan Bey Salamah

1861 - 1862

Muhammad Bey Rasileh

1862 - 1865

Musa Pasha Hamdi


Omar Bey Fahri

Acting governor-general.

1865 - 1866

Jaafar Pasha Sadiq

1866 - 1871

Jaafar Pasha Mazhar


The Suez Canal is opened, greatly increasing the economic and strategic importance of both Egypt and Sudan. Britain buys the khedive's share in the canal in 1875 (official recognition of the elevation from wali to khedive of Egypt had been recognised by the Ottoman sultan in 1867).

1871 - 1872

Ahmad Mumtaz Pasha


Edhem Pasha al-Arifi at-Atqalawi

Acting governor-general.

1872 - 1877

Ismail Pasha Aiyub

1872 - 1876

Egypt under Isma'il Pasha conquers South Sudan between 1872-1874. The eventual intent is to fully unite Egypt and Sudan as one single state under Egyptian rule. However, a further annexation of 1875 leads to a state of (largely inactive) war with Ethiopia. The Egyptians are defeated and driven back in the first two battles, Gundet in 1875 and Gura in 1876, after which actual hostilities cease.

1877 - 1879

Charles George Gordon

British Governor-General Gordon Pasha.

1879 - 1882

Mahummad Ra'uf Pasha

1881 - 1883

The Sudanese revolt is led by Muhammad Ahmad ibn Abd Allah, the Mahdi (the Guided One), against Turco-Egyptian administration. It quickly gains popularity amongst the disaffected and fractured Sudanese people.


Muhammad Nadi Pasha

Acting governor-general.

1882 - 1883

Abd al-Qadir Pasha Hailmi


Ala ad-Din

1883 - 1884

William Hicks

British Governor-General Hicks Pasha.


The Anglo-Egyptian army under William Hicks is destroyed by the Mahdi's forces at the Battle of El Obeid, commanded by Abdallahi ibn Muhammad.

1884 - 1885

Charles George Gordon

British Governor-General Gordon Pasha, second term. Killed.


The death of British Governor-General Charles George Gordon (better known as Gordon of Khartoum) and the massacre of the garrison during the siege of Khartoum causes Britain and Egypt to withdraw their forces from Sudan. The Mahdi is left governing the country as a theocracy. He does not impose Islamic law but does impose a strict rule that authorises the destruction of mosques and the burning of books and lists containing pedigrees. He maintains that his rule must be obeyed completely.

General Gordon Pasha
The siege of Khartoum began in 1884 when the Mahdist forces surrounded the city, shortly after the arrival of General Gordon as shown here - but the Mahdi's victory would be short-lived


Muhammad Ahmad ibn Abd Allah

'The Mahdi'. Religious dictator. Died of typhus.


The Mahdi dies of typhus just six months after gaining control of Sudan. There is a short struggle amongst his deputies to see which one will succeed him. The winner enforces a brutal rule, appointing 'ansars' (helpers) to rule as emirs (princes) over the regions.

1885 - 1899

Abdallahi ibn Muhammad

Khalifa (successor). Captured and killed.

1887 - 1889

A 60,000-strong army under the ansars enters neighbouring Ethiopia. It gets as far as Gondar, the former imperial capital of the Begemder province. The city is sacked, and at the start of 1888 the Sudanese set fire to almost all of its churches, devastating the whole city. In 1889, King Yohannes IV of Ethiopia marches on Metemma in Sudan, but is killed in battle. Ethiopia withdraws.

1889 - 1893

The Khalifa's general, Abd ar Rahman an Nujumi, attempts an invasion of Egypt, but Egyptian troops under British command defeat him in battle at Tushkah in 1889. The failure of the invasion destroys the myth of the general's invincibility and several subsequent defeats are inflicted on Sudanese forces. Belgian forces successfully defend Equatoria from a Sudanese invasion and, in 1893, Italian forces push back an attack on Akordat in Eritrea. The Sudanese are forced out of Ethiopia entirely.


A Sudanese warlord and slave trader named Rabih az-Zubayr invades the Bornu empire from eastern Sudan and quickly conquers the ruling dynasty. As Rabah 'the Conqueror', he rules the empire himself as head of the Zobeir dynasty.

1896 - 1898

The British appoint Major-General Sir Horatio Herbert Kitchener to lead an expedition from Egypt into Sudan in order to quell the Mahdi's uprising once and for all, secure the Nile, and prevent other European forces from making their own claims on the war-torn country. His campaign culminates in the Battle of Omdurman on 2 September 1898 in which the Mahdi army is destroyed by European firepower and organisation.

1898 - 1899

Herbert Kitchener

British military commander.


Following the 1898 defeat, an agreement is reached which establishes Anglo-Egyptian rule. Sudan is run by a governor-general who is appointed by Egypt with British consent.


Herbert Kitchener

First British governor-general following restoration of power.

1899 - 1916

Sir Francis Reginald Wingate

1917 - 1924

Sir Lee Oliver Fitzmaurice Stack

Assassinated in Cairo.

1924 - 1925

Wasey Sterry

Acting governor-general.

1925 - 1926

Sir Geoffrey Francis Archer

1926 - 1934

Sir John Loader Maffey

1934 - 1940

Sir George Stewart Symes

1940 - 1947

Sir Hubert Jervoise Huddleston

1947 - 1954

Sir Robert George Howe

1954 - 1955

Sir Alexander Knox Helm

Last British governor-general prior to independence.


The country gains independence from the republic of Egypt and from its colonial overlords in Britain.

Modern Sudan & South Sudan
AD 1956 - Present Day

Sudan is a vast, mainly desert region in north-eastern Africa, with most of its habitation lying along the course of the Nile. It is bordered to the east by Ethiopia and Eritrea, to the north by Egypt, to the west by Libya and Chad, to the south-west by the Central African Republic, and, until 2011, to the south by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, and Kenya. The Republic of Sudan was established on 1 January 1956, with its capital at Khartoum, a name which is famous in the annals of British history, as is the name of the country's largest city, Omdurman.

One of the largest and most diverse countries in Africa, modern Sudan has large areas of cultivatable land, as well as gold and cotton, and extensive oil reserves. Sudan's name comes from the Arabic 'bilad al-sudan', or land of the blacks. Arabic is the official language and Islam is the religion of the state, but the country has a large non-Arabic-speaking and non-Muslim population which has rejected attempts by the government in Khartoum to impose Islamic Sharia law on the country as a whole. This and other problems have led to widespread unrest in the country in the years since independence was achieved. In 2011, much of this conflict was apparently resolved when the southernmost third of the country split away to form the new, largely Christian country of South Sudan.

The revolution in neighbouring Egypt in 1952 overthrew the king (its initial aim) and eventually abolished the monarchy, replacing it with a republic. The monarchy had been seen to be corrupt (a common complaint in the region at this time) and pro-British, but the replacement was a series of military generals ruling the country. With the formation of the republic in 1954, the last ruler of the house of Muhammad Ali, the infant Fuad II, was no longer required and was brought to Switzerland to live with his similarly-exiled father. He retained his claim to the joint throne of Egypt and Sudan, and successive claimants to the throne are shown on the Egypt page with a shaded background.

(Information by Peter Kessler and John De Cleene, with additional information from The Cambridge History of Africa: From c.1050-c.1600, from The Sudan Handbook, by Derek A Welsby, from the Encyclopaedia of African History: Volume 1 A-G, from Diplomats evacuated from Sudan (Washington Post, 23 April 2023), and from External Links: Sudan coup leader Awad Ibn Auf steps down (BBC News), and Yes, it was a coup (The Guardian).)

1956 - 1958

It takes just two years of independence under a sovereignty committee before General Abbud leads a military coup against the civilian government that is elected that year. However, the country is already divided, having been so from 1955 when the First Sudanese Civil War had been triggered by concerns in the south that the north would attempt to dominate the newly independent country.

1958 - 1964

Ibrahim Abbud / Abboud

Military dictator.

1962 - 1964

The Anya Nya movement that had been formed from southern army officers continues to fight a guerrilla action against troops of the north. In 1964, the 'October Revolution' overthrows Abbud and a national government is established under a sovereignty committee.


Jafar Numayri leads the 'May Revolution' military coup which overthrows the presidency of Ismail al-Azhari. In 1971 the Sudanese Communist Party leaders are executed after a short-lived coup against Numayri.

1969 - 1985

Jafar Numayri / Gaafar Nimeiry

Dictator and, from 1971, president. Died 2009.


The First Sudanese Civil War, which started in 1955, finally ends with the Addis Ababa peace agreement between the government and the Anya Nya. Under its terms, the south becomes a self-governing region. There follows a decade of peace in Sudan.

Sudanese Janjaweed fighters
These fighters from the Justice and Equality Movement fought the Second Sudanese Civil War along with the Sudan Liberation Movement, with the result that a coalition government was formed in 1985 and the country was returned to a level of democracy

1983 - 1985

President Numayri attempts to create a federated Sudan as a way of working around (ignoring) the Addis Ababa agreement and restoring control over the south. The Second Sudanese Civil War breaks out in the south involving government forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM), led by John Garang. The situation is made worse when Numayri imposes Sharia Islamic law in the same year. After widespread popular unrest, in 1985 Numayri is deposed by a group of officers and a Transitional Military Council is set up to rule the country. A coalition government is formed the following year after general elections, with Sadiq al-Mahdi as prime minister.

1985 - 1986

Abdel Rahman Swar al-Dahab

Commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

1989 - 1993

The National Salvation Revolution takes over in a bloodless military coup. By 1993, the Revolution Command Council is dissolved after Omar al-Bashir is appointed president. He rules what is effectively an authoritarian dictatorship.

1989 - 2019

Omar al-Bashir

Military dictator and, from 1993, self-appointed president.

2003 - 2005

In February 2003, rebels in the western region of Darfur rise up against the government, claiming the region is being neglected by Khartoum. In January the following year, the army moves to quell the rebel uprising and hundreds of thousands of refugees flee to neighbouring Chad. In 2005 a peace deal is agreed which ends the Second Sudanese Civil War, but Chad and Sudan accuse one another of backing and harbouring rebels, and the dispute leads to a four-year break in relations between 2006-2010.


At midnight on the start of 9 July 2011, South Sudan officially becomes a new country, divided thanks to a popular vote from what remains of Sudan proper (which still possesses roughly two-thirds of the original state's territory). It is the climax of a process that has been made possible by the 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir is the first to recognise the new country. Its largely Christian capital is Juba, and it is bordered to the north by Sudan, to the east by Ethiopia, to the south by Kenya, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and to the west by the Central African Republic.

General Awad ibn Auf of Sudan
Leader of the coup against Omar al-Bashir in 2019 was former defence minister and army general, Awad ibn Auf, who stepped down just a day later in favour of a lieutenant general who was seen as being more of a moderate


Protests about rising prices become violent, with at least thirty-eight people dying. On Thursday 11 April 2019, Omar al-Bashir is removed from office during a military coup. A three month state of emergency is declared and the constitution is suspended but, despite a curfew being imposed, protestors remain on the capital's streets, camping outside the army headquarters in Khartoum.


Awad ibn Auf

Military general & defence minister. Led coup. Stepped down.


One day after leading the coup, General Awad ibn Auf, the former defence minister names his replacement as Lieutenant-General Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan following claims that the general is too close to al-Bashir.

2019 - Present

Abdel Fattah Abdelrahman Burhan

Military general.


Burhan removes and details the country's prime minister in October, citing what is in effect another coup as a form of correction for the transition between 2019's removal of Omar al-Bashir and a return to free elections. Burhan is supported by General Mohamed Hamdan Dagal (commonly known as 'Hemedti') and his paramilitary militia, the 'Rapid Support Forces' (RSF), an outgrowth of the former Janjaweed militias.

Those elections are tentatively scheduled for 2023, but the coup results in mass public protests. Heavy-handed policing of the protests does nothing to aid Burhan's cause, and he is forced to reinstate the prime minister.


In December, with Burhan and Hemedti now rivals, they reluctantly agree to return Sudan to civilian rule following intense diplomatic pressure. They do not, however, agree over the timeline to accomplish the transition, or how to share power, or how to integrate Hemedti's forces into Sudan's armed forces.


The simmering political tension between Burhan and Hemedti erupts into violence on 15 April 2023. Fighting between the two sides springs up all over the country. The concentration of violence in Khartoum forces various foreign embassies to begin evacuating staff. The USA does this militarily, while others such as France offer to take all western visitors, and the United Kingdom offers its non-embassy citizens a do-it-yourself policy.

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