HOME I. Introduction

Sudan (country), republic in northeastern Africa, the largest country of the African continent. It is bounded on the north by Egypt; on the east by the Red Sea, Eritrea, and Ethiopia; on the south by Kenya, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC, formerly Zaire); and on the west by the Central African Republic, Chad, and Libya. Sudan has a total area of 2,505,800 sq km (967,490 sq mi). Khartoum is the capital and largest city.

II. Land and Resources

Sudan has a maximum length from north to south of more than 2,250 km (1,400 mi); the extreme width of the country is about 1,730 km (about 1,075 mi). It is divided into three separate natural regions, ranging from desert in the north, covering about 30 percent of all Sudan, through a vast semiarid region of steppes and low mountains in central Sudan, to a region of vast swamps (the As Sudd region) and rain forest in the south. Major topographical features of Sudan are the Nile River, its headstreams the White Nile and Blue Nile, and the tributaries of these rivers. The White Nile traverses the country from the Uganda border to a point near Khartoum, where it joins the Blue Nile to form the Nile proper. The Blue Nile rises in the Ethiopian Plateau and flows across east central Sudan. Of the Nile tributaries the most important is the 'Atbarah, which also rises in the Ethiopian Plateau. The Libyan Desert, a barren waste broken by rugged uplands, covers most of Sudan west of the Nile proper. The Nubian Desert lies in the region east of the Nile proper and the 'Atbarah. The Red Sea Hills are located along the coast. The highest point in Sudan, Kinyeti (3,187 m/10,456 ft), is in the southeast.

A. Climate

Sudan has a tropical climate. Seasonal variations are most sharply defined in the desert zones, where winter temperatures as low as 4°C (40°F) are common, particularly after sunset. Summer temperatures often exceed 40°C (110°F) in the desert zones, and rainfall is negligible. Dust storms, called haboobs, frequently occur. High temperatures also prevail to the south throughout the central plains region, but the humidity is generally low. In the vicinity of Khartoum the average annual temperature is about 27°C (about 80°F); and annual rainfall, most of which occurs between mid-June and September, is about 250 mm (about 10 in). Equatorial climatic conditions prevail in southern Sudan. In this region the average annual temperature is about 29°C (about 85°F), annual rainfall is more than 1,000 mm (40 in), and the humidity is excessive.

B. Natural Resources

The primary natural resources of Sudan are water, supplied by the Nile River system, and fertile soil. Large areas of cultivable land are situated in the region between the Blue Nile and the 'Atbarah and between the Blue Nile and the White Nile. Other cultivable land is in the narrow Nile Valley and in the valleys of the plains region. Irrigation is extensively employed in these areas. The country also has vast areas of grasslands and forests, including acacia forests, the source of gum arabic. Small deposits of many different minerals occur, the most important of which are chromium, copper, and iron ore. Petroleum was discovered in western Sudan in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

C. Plants and Animals

Vegetation is sparse in the desert zones of Sudan. Various species of acacia occur in the regions contiguous to the Nile Valley. Large forested areas are found in central Sudan, especially in the river valleys. Among the most common trees are the hashab, talh, heglig, and several species of acacia, notably sunt, laot, and kittr. Trees such as ebony, silag, and baobab are common in the Blue Nile Valley. Ebony, mahogany, and other varieties of timber trees are found in the White Nile Basin. Other species of indigenous vegetation include cotton, papyrus, castor-oil plants, and rubber plants.

Animal life is abundant in the plains and equatorial regions of Sudan. Elephants are numerous in the southern forests, and crocodiles and hippopotamuses abound in the rivers. Other large animals include giraffes, leopards, and lions. Monkeys, various species of tropical birds, and poisonous reptiles are also found, and insects—especially mosquitoes, seroot flies, and tsetse flies—infest the equatorial belt.