The land of Kush is part of the modern day country of Sudan. The phrase Ancient Nubia is commonly used by scholars as an alternative name for Kush. Historically, the land of
Kush stretched roughly from Wadi Halfa in the
north, to Kosti city (along the White Nile) and Sinnar city (along the Blue Nile) in
the south; and from the Red Sea coast in the east, to Kordofan and the Libyan
Desert in the west.
It is important to note that historically there is a geographical distinction between Nubia and Kush. While the land of Kush is geographically restricted to Sudan, Nubia may be considered as encompassing parts of southern Egypt. (The identification of southern Egypt with Nubia is attributed to the presence of a Nubian population which dates back to the expansion of the nomadic Nobatans/Nubians in the third century CE.)
Most of Sudan's topography is consisted of deserts, except for
the narrow strip of the Nile valley which helped provide fertile agriculture
and abundant pastures. Because of the
availability of food and fresh water, the Nile Valley was populated more so than any other region in Sudan. The first civilization in Sudan, and one of the first in the world, developed there, along the Nile Valley.
Unlike the shorter stretch of Egypt's Nile Valley, some portions of Sudan's Nile Valley are not equally supportive of agriculture.
As a result, pastoralism remains the dominant way of life in some of the dry areas of the Valley. Between
Aswan and Wadi Halfa, in Lower Nubia, the Nile river cuts through a barren stretch
of desert that is mostly not supportive for agriculture.
Five cataracts interrupt the flow of the Nile from south of Aswan
to little north of the city of Berber in central Sudan. This makes
sailing along the Nile impossible except for the short distances that separate
between one cataract and the other. Agricultural lands are available
in the Dongola Reach and along the curve of the Nile Valley as far
south as Abu Hamed. This fertile region of the Nile Valley helped produced
more than enough agricultural supply for the ancient civilization of Kush
Villagers crossing the Nile, northern Sudan.
Villagers crossing the Nile, northern Sudan.
Around the Dongola Reach and south in the Bayuda Desert are also
plenty of pastoral lands. From Abu Hamed to the city of Berber in the south,
the Nile valley is less productive. However, south of Berber, the Valley becomes fertile and supportive for extensive
agriculture. There, in these more southerly areas of the Nile,
prominent ancient Sudanese cities grew, such as Dangeil and Meroe.
Immediately south of Khartoum, where the White and the Blue Niles converge, is the so-called land of el-Gezeera, which is Arabic
for the island. This area is more fertile
than any other region in North Sudan. The area of el-Gezeera is liable
for extensive agriculture and has been supportive for human settlements
sine ancient times. Prominent historical cities grew in el-Gazeera,
such as the Funj city of Sinnar along the White Nile and the Kushite
settlement of Kosti along the White Nile.
Elmogran(i.e. Arabic word for convergence), where the
White and Blue Niles converge at Khartoum (Capital of Sudan)
and the historic Omdurman Bridge.
Urban scene from the Nile valley near Khartoum.
East of the Nile Valley is the Nubian Desert where agriculture is not possible. There along the Sudanese Red Sea
coasts, the Beja
formed their own communities depending mainly on pastoralism and subsistent
agriculture in the more southerly regions of el-Butana, in the southeastern
area of North Sudan. An ancient agricultural society known as the Gash-culture flourished there in el-Butana, along the Gash river. Also known as Punt, the people of this culture
developed their own state out of trade in incense and exotic
items. The Punites also traded with neighboring regions, including Kush
The Red Sea Port of Suakin in Eastern Sudan.
The Libyan Desert, west of Nubia, is consisted of flat
arid lands and stretches of sand-dunes that continue,
across the Sahara Desert of north and central Africa, all the way to
the opposite side of the African continent. Extremely little rainfall
occur in the Libyan Desert and only few regions and oasis are supportive
for pastoral activities. South of the Libyan Desert and adjacent
to the White Nile, is the region of Kordofan where the land is little
more fertile and is supportive of subsistent agriculture. Communities
flourished there growing crops every season. The youth of these communities
annually crossed northward to safe areas of the Libyan Desert in search of pastures
for their animals.