Ethnic Groups Of Sudan

A woman walks during a sandstorm in Sudan.
A woman walks during a sandstorm in Sudan.

The Sudanese population consists of a large cultural diversity which is made up of a combination of original inhabitants of the Nile Valley and migrants from the Arab peninsula. There are 19 major ethnic groups and over 597 ethnic subgroups speaking more than 100 languages and dialects. These multifaceted ethnic divisions make Sudan a very diverse country, with each ethnic group having a unique culture of its own and lifestyle. Arab speaking Muslims are considered the largest single ethnic group at about 70% of the total population, while other ethnicities such as Nubians, Copts and Beja and others make up the remainder. These are the major ethnic groups in Sudan.

Sudanese Arabs

The Sudanese Arabs are the largest ethnic group in Sudan and are predominantly Muslim. They speak the Sudanese-Arab dialect which is a variant of the Arabic language influenced by a process known as Arabization. This process is the gradual acculturation into Arab culture, customs, language, and identity. Several non-Arabic groups such as Nubians, Copts and Beja have been partly Arabized but still maintain their non-Arabic identity. The estimated population of Sudanese Arabs is about 22 million people who constitute about two-thirds of the total population.


The Nubians are an ethnic group that originated in the Nubia region which is located by the Nile river in the northern parts of Sudan and southern Egypt. In 1899, the Condominium Agreement led to the introduction of a boundary between Egypt and Sudan and the lower Nubians were separated from their kin in the south and subjected to Egyptian rule. The close ties of the Egyptian Nubians and the Sudanese Nubians continued to exist due to cultural, language and family ties. Today, the majority of the Nubian people live in Sudan in the regions between Wadi Halfa and Al Dabbah. They speak Arabic and a variety of Nilo-Saharan languages to which they belong. They practice Islam.


The Zaghawa, also known as Beri, are an ethnic group found in central African countries such as Chad, Niger, and western Sudan. The Zaghawa speak a language called Zaghawa. They are a semi-nomadic community and depend on herding cattle, sheep and camels for livelihood. The Zaghawa of Sudan are mainly found in the Darfur region, which is consistently caught up in wars and crisis. As a result, they are adversely affected by this crisis and are among the people living in the refugee camps. Today, the traditional clan system of the Zaghawa people has been weakened by the respective governments, and also through Islam. As a result, they are mainly concerned with their economic welfare, national heritage, and political independence.


The Copts are an ethno-religious community found in North Africa, Middle East, Egypt, Libya and Sudan. They are the largest ethnic group of Christian denomination in Sudan and originally spoke the Coptic language which has now almost become extinct and replaced with the Arabic language. They constitute about 1% of the Sudan population. In modern day Sudan, they occupy the northern towns of Atbara, Dongola, Khartoum, Omdurman, Wad Medani and Port Sudan.

Other ethnic groups in Sudan include Masalit, Fulani, and Beja.


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