History Files

African Kingdoms

East Africa


Kingdom of Dotawo (Nubia)
c.AD 900 - c.1504

Dotawo was a small African kingdom in the Beja region of southern Nubia with a capital at Dau (modern Djabel-Adda). The name meant 'lower Dau'. Throughout much of its lifetime it was obscure and poorly recorded, and some even doubt it existed at all. Its beginnings and first two centuries of existence are almost completely opaque. 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 main kingdoms, all three of which emerged before Dotawo, were Makuria, Nobatia, and Alodia in the south. The latter was probably Dotawo's main rival, but the discovery of a large collection of documents at Qasr Ibrim in the 1960s not only proved Dotawo's existence, they showed that Dotawo had many dealings with Nobatia.

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


Moses George is the earliest of Dotawo's kings to have been recorded, making its earlier existence as an independent entity somewhat dubious. Another factor influencing the uncertainty about Dotawo's existence is the apparent congruence in names and dates between Makuria and Dotawo. It is possible that Dotawo is merely a colony of Makuria, with the same kings recorded by different sources and with different spellings and pronunciations. Names that do not match could be governors of Dotawo, mixed in accidentally or uncaringly with the names of royalty. Or they could be vassal rulers, as the Baja region is apparently home to thirteen lesser kings under one 'great king', a form of organisation far better attested to in ancient Britain and Ireland.

fl c.1144

Moses George

King Georgios III or Moise Georgios of Makuria?

1171 - 1272

To the north, Makuria enters a sharp decline, due in part to increased Bedouin attacks after these tribes 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. It takes time for the Arabs to reach southern Nubia.

Nubian Mountains
The Nubian mountains in the south were the last bolt-hole for Christian black Nubians and escaped slaves following the Islamic takeover of the rest of the country

fl c.1199


fl c.1250


King David I of Makuria?

fl c.1287

George Simon

King Samamun of Makuria?


The Christian names of the previous sequence of rulers is suddenly replaced by a much more Arabic tone, suggesting that incoming Arabs have now filtered this far south and have had a noticeable impact upon the kingdom. An alternative possibility is that surviving record-keeping in Nubia is now handled by Arabic speakers alone. Increased aggression from Egypt and internal discord soon leads to the fading and collapse of Makuria, so is this the point where its kings, possibly also those of Dotawo, find a final refuge in Dau?

fl c.1327


fl c.1334


fl c.1397


fl c.1410


fl c.1430


fl c.1460



Nubia has already witnessed the gradual penetration of small Arabic groups moving southwards from Egypt with their families. Now they form into a confederation under Abdullah Jamma and capture the Nubian kingdom of Alodia, taking its capital at Soba. There, Abdullah forms the short-lived Abdallab empire. Dotawo is now apparently the last remaining Christian kingdom in Nubia.

fl c.1484



The kingdom, probably already weakened by the Abdallab empire, is conquered by the Funj sultanate of Sinnar at an unknown point after this date, probably not very far after it.

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