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SENNAR

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Originally appearing in Volume V24, Page 647 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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SENNAR, a country of north-east Africa, part of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. Its boundaries have varied considerably, but Sennar proper is the triangular-shaped territory between the White and Blue Niles north of lo° N. This region is called by the Arabs " The Island of Sennar " and by the negro inhabitants " Hui." The northern part, where the two Niles approach nearer one another, is also known as El Gezira, i.e. " the Island." Whilst Sennar has never been held to extend westward of the White Nile, the term has often been used to embrace " the Island of Meroe," i.e. the country between the Blue Nile and the Atbara, and the land between the Blue Nile and its most eastern tributary the Rahad, this latter district being known as the " Isle of Isles." South-east Sennar stretches to the Abyssinian hills. By the Sudan administration this region has been divided into mudirias (provinces), one, including the central portion, retaining the name of Sennar. The present article deals with the country as a whole. In general Sennar is a vast plain, lying for the most part much higher than the river-levels and about zoo() ft. above the sea, its western part, towards the White Nile, being largely wilderness. From the plain rise isolated granitic hills, attaining heights of woo to 2000 ft. above the general level. Jebel Segadi is red granite of the finest quality. The plain, sandy in its northern part, is in the south a deep bed of argillaceous marl, scattered over with great granite boulders and fragments of greenstone. Sennar lies in the region of light rain, increasing in the S.E. districts to as much as 20 in. in the year. The rainy season is from July to September. The climate is generally unhealthy during that period and the months following. The miasmatic exhalations caused by the sun playing on stagnant waters after the floods give rise to the Sennar fever," which drives even the natives from the plains to the southern uplands. The temperature, which rises at times to over 12o° Fahr., is also very changeable, often sinking from too° during the day to under 6o° at night. The soil, mainly alluvial, is w turally very fertile, and wherever cultivated yields abundant crops, durra being the principal grain grown. Many kinds of vegetables, and cotton, wheat and barley are also grown. The forest vegetation, largely confined to the " Isle of Isles " and the southern uplands, includes the Adansonia (baobab), which in the Fazogli district attains gigantic proportions, the tamarind, of which bread is made, the deleb palm, several valuablegum trees (whence the term Sennari often applied in Egypt to gumarabic), some dyewoods, ebony, ironwood and many varieties of acacia. In these forests are found the two-horned rhinoceros, the elephant, lion, panther, numerous apes and antelopes, while the crocodile and hippopotamus frequent 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 and the pig, which last here reaches its southernmost limit. The country is occupied by a partly settled, partly nomad population of an extremely mixed negroid character. There is evidence of the existence of a once dominant fair race, of which the still surviving Sienetjo, a people of a yellow or fair complexion, are regarded as descendants. The great plain of Sennar is mainly occupied by Hassania Arabs in the north, by Abu-Rof (Rufaya) Hamites of Beja stock in the east as far as Fazogli, and elsewhere by the negroid Funj (q.v.) and the group of tribes collectively known as Shangalla (the Bertat, Legas, Sienetjo, Gumus, Kadalos, &c.; see SHANGALLA). The chief towns are on the banks of the Blue Nile. They are : Wad Medani (q.v.), 148 m. above Khartum, one of the most thriving towns in the eastern Sudan; Sennar, 241 m above Khartum, the capital of the Funj empire and chief town of the mudiria of Sennarof the ancient city little remains except a mosque with a high minaret; and Roseires, 426 M. from Khartum and the limit of navigation up stream from that city. Near the Abyssinian frontier are Fazogli (left bank) and Famaka (right bank) on a navigable stretch of the Blue Nile above the rapids at Roseires and close to the Tumat confluence and the, gold district of Beni Shangul. On-the river Dinder is the town of Singa. A railway, built in 1909–1910, connects Khartum, Wad Medani and Sennar with Kordofan, the White Nile being bridged near Goz Abu Guma. History.—Sennar, lying between Nubia and Abyssinia, was in ancient times under Egyptian or Ethiopian influence and its inhabitants appear to have embraced Christianity at an early period. The capital of Aloa, which appears to have been at one time a powerful Christian state, was at Soba on the Blue Nile. In the 7th or 8th centuries A.D. there was a considerable emigration of Arabs into the country. Christianity very gradually died out (see DONGALA, mudiria). The Funj who had meantime settled in Sennar became the dominant race by the 15th century. They adopted the Mahommedan religion and founded an empire which in the 17th and 18th centuries ruled over a large part of the eastern Sudan. This empire was finally overthrown by the Egyptians in 1821. Since that period Sennar has had no history distinct from that of the rest of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (see SUDAN, § ANGLO-EGYPTIAN, History). The chief ambition of the people under Anglo-Egyptian rule was to own cattle rather than to improve their houses, food or clothing (vide Egypt, No. 1, 1910, P. 79)• The country was visited by few Europeans before the time of the Egyptian conquest. In 1699 a French surgeon, J. C. Poncet, passed through Sennar on his way from Egypt to Abyssinia, and an account of his experiences has been published (Lettres . . . des missions etrangeres, Paris, ed. of 1870, tome iii.). He was followed by Janus de Noir, le sieur du Roule, who was sent by Louis XIV. to open diplomatic relations with Abyssinia, but was murdered (1703) in Sennar. The most noteworthy, however, of the earlier travellers was James Bruce, the explorer of the Blue Nile. He spent some time in Sennar in 1772, and in his Travels has left an interesting account of the kingdom in its decadence. Various Egyptian expeditions added considerably to the knowledge of the district, which between 1854 and 1864 was explored by the Belgian scientist E. Pruyssenaere. Later explorers included the Viennese Ernst Marno (187o) and the Dutchman J. M. Schuver, who in 1881–1882 visited the sources of the Tumat. To this list should be added the names of those who, like Sir Samuel Baker, explored the Blue Nile. Since the establishment of the Anglo-Egyptian condominium (1899) the country has been thoroughly surveyed. Lists of the kings of Sennar, and of the tributary rulers of Halfaya, Shendi, and Fazokl are given in vol. i. pp. 437-438 of A. M. N. J. Stokvis' Manuel d'histoire (Leiden, 1888).
End of Article: SENNAR
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