1902 Encyclopedia > Senaar

(also spelt as: Sinnar, Sennar)
Central Africa

SENAAR (SENNAAR, properly SENNAR), a country of east Central Africa, commonly identified with the "Island of Meroe" of the ancients, and included in the central division of Egyptian (Eastern) Sudan, as reorganized in the year 1882. By European writers the term is often applied to the whole region lying between the Atbara (Takazze) and the White Nile, but by native usage is restricted to the district confined between the latter river and the Bahr-el-Azrak (Blue Nile), and its eastern tributaries, the Rahad and the Dender. It is bordered north and north-east by Upper Nubia, east by Abyssinia, west by the White Nile (Bahr-el-Abiad), separating it from Kordofan, and stretches from the confluence of the two Niles at Khartum southwards, in the direction of the Berta highlands in the east and the Buriin and Dinka plains in the west. As thus defined, Sennar extends across five degrees of latitude (16° to 11° N.), with a total length of about 350 miles, a mean breadth of 120 miles, an area of 40,000 square miles, and an approximate population, of 300,000. It comprises two physically distinct tracts, the densely wooded and well-watered Jezirat el-Jesirat ("Isle of Isles") between the Rahad and the Blue Nile, and the "island" of Sennar proper, a nearly level steppe land confined between the two main streams. This western and much larger division, wdiich has a mean elevation of under 2000 feet above sea-level, consists mainly of alluvial and sandy matter, resting on a bed of granite and porphyritic granite, which first crops out some ten days' journey south of Khartum, in the Jebel es-Segati and the Jebel el-Moye, near the town of Sennar on the Bahr-el-Azrak. Between these two groups the plain is dotted over with isolated slate hills containing iron and silver ores. But beyond Sennar the boundless steppe, either under a tall coarse grass, or overgrown with mimosa scrub, or else absolutely waste, again stretches uninterruptedly for another ten or eleven days' journey to the Roseres (Rosaires) district, where the isolated Okelmi and Keduss Hills, con-taining quartz with copper ore, rise 1000 feet above the right bank of the Blue Nile and 3000 above the sea. Here the plain is furrowed by deep gullies flushed during the rainy season; and farther south the land, hitherto gently sloping towards the north-west, begins to rise rapidly, breaking into hills and ridges 4000 feet high in the Fazogl district, and farther on merging in the Berta high-lands with an extreme altitude of 9000 to 10,000 feet. In these metalliferous uplands, recently explored by Marno and Schuver, rises the Tumat, which is washed for gold, and which after a northerly course of nearly 100 miles joins the left bank of the Blue Nile near Fazogl and Famaka. South of and parallel with the Tumat flows the still unexplored Jabus (Yabus), on which stands Fadasi, southernmost of the now abandoned Egyptian stations in the Bahr-el-Azrak basin. This point also marks the present limit of geographical exploration in the direction of the conterminous Galla country, Schuver being the only European traveller who has hitherto succeeded in pene-trating to any distance south of the Jabus.

Sennar lies within the northern limits of the tropical rains, which reach to Khartiim, and fall between June and September. In this part of its course the Blue Kile rises from May to August, when the northern and western winds prevail, nearly coinciding with the cool and healthy season. But they are followed by the hot khamusm from the south or the samtim (simoom) from the north-west charged with fine sand from the Libyan Desert. Still more dreaded are the miasmatic exhalations caused by the glowing sun playing on stag-nant waters after the floods and giving rise to the "Senuar fever," which drives the natives themselves from the plains to the southern uplands. The temperature, which rises at times to over 120° Fahr., is also very changeable, often sinking from 100° Fahr. during the day to under 60° Fahr. at night.

The soil, mainly alluvial, is naturally fertile, and wherever water and hands are available yields bounteous crops of maize, pulse, cotton, tobacco, sesame, and especially durra, of which as many as twenty varieties are said to be cultivated. The forest vegetation, mainly confined to the "Isle of Isles" and the southern uplands, includes the Adansonia (baobab), which in the Fazogl district attains gigantic proportions, the tamarind, of which bread is made, the deleb palm, several valuable gum trees (whence the term Sennari often applied in Egypt to gum arabic), some dyewoods, ebony, iron-wood, and many varieties of acacia. These forests are haunted by the two-horned rhinoceros, the elephant, lion, panther, numerous apes and antelopes, while the crocodile and hippopotamus frequent all the rivers. The chief domestic animals are the camel, horse, ass, ox, buffalo (used both as a beast of burden and for riding), sheep with a short silky fleece, the goat, cat, dog, and pig, which last here reaches its southernmost limit. The tsetse fly appears to be absent, but is replaced in some districts by a species of wasp, whose sting is said to be fatal to the camel in the rainy season.

The "African Mesopotamia" is occupied by a partly settled partly still nomad population of an extremely mixed character, including representatives of nearly all the chief ethnical divisions of the continent. But the great plain of Sennar is mainly occupied by Hassanieh Arabs in the north, by Abu-Rof (Rufaya) Hamites of Beja stock (Robert Hartmanu) in the east as far as Fazogl, and elsewhere by the Funj (Fung, Fungheh), traditionally from beyond the White Nile, and affiliated by some to the Kordofan Nubas, by others more probably to the Nilotic Negro Shilhiks. These Funj, who have been the dominant race since the loth century, have become almost everywhere assimilated in speech, religion, and habits to the Arabs. Nevertheless on their sacred Mount Gulch the traveller Pruyssenaere found them still performing pagan rites, while according to Marno the Biiruns, the southernmost branch of the race between the Berta highlanders and the Nilotic Denkas, are addicted to cannibalism. The Berta highlanders themselves (Jebalain, as the Arabs collectively call them) are of more or less pure Negro stock and number about 80,000, grouped in several semi-independent principalities. The "no-man's-land" stretching north of Dar-Berta and east of the Tumat valley is also occupied by distinct nationalities, such as the Kadalos in the extreme north, the Sienetjos and Gumus in the east, here bordering on the Abyssinian Agaws, the Jabus and Ganti in the south. Most of these appear to be of Negro or Negroid stock ; but the Sienetjos, said to be a surviving remnant of the primitive population of the whole country, are doubtless akin to the Sienetjos of Damot and Gojam in Abyssinia. They are certainly not blacks, and have a yellow or fair complexion, lighter than that of southern Europeans.

The Sennari people cultivate a few industries, such as cotton- weaving, pottery, gold, silver, and iron work, matting, and leather work (camel saddles, sandals, &c.), noted throughout Sudan. But their chief pursuits are stock-breeding, agriculture, and trade,— exporting to Egypt and Abyssinia gold, hides, durra, sesame, gums, ivory, horses, and slaves. The chief centres of population, all on the Bahr-el-Azrak, are Fazogl (Fazoklo), now replaced by Famaka, at the Tumat confluence ; Roseres, formerly capital of an inde- pendent state ; Sennar, also an old capital, which gives its name to the whole region ; Wod-Medineh at the Rahad confluence ; and Khartum, just above the junction of the two Niles. A few miles above Khartum are the extensive ruins of Soba, former capital of the Funj empire, which at one time stretched from Wady Haifa to Dar-Berta ancl from Suakin to beyond Kordofan, but which was overthrown by Ismail Pasha in the year 1822. (A. H. K.)

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