Beja people

Beja people

ethnic group

image_caption=Beja Bedouins
popplace=Sudan, Egypt, Eritrea
rels=Sunni Islam
langs=Beja, Tigrinya, Arabic
related=Afar, Amhara, Oromo, Saho, Somalis, Tigray

The Beja ( _ar. البيجا) are an ethnic group dwelling in parts of North Africa and the Horn of Africa.


The Beja are found mostly in Sudan, but also in parts of Eritrea, and Egypt. They formerly were classified as belonging to the "Hamitic race" (a classification now generally regarded as politically and scientifically [Hiernaux J (1975) The People of Africa. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, pp. 147] incorrect).

Most of them live in the Sudanese states of Red Sea around Port Sudan, River Nile, Al Qadarif and Kassala, as well as in Northern Red Sea, Gash-Barka, and Anseba Regions in Eritrea, and southeastern Egypt. Other Beja ethnic groups are endemic to Egypt's Western Desert and to Yemen. Some Beja groups are nomadic.


The Beja have also been named "Blemmyes" in Roman times, "Buga"s in Aksumite inscriptions in Ethiopia, "Fuzzy Wuzzy" by Rudyard Kipling.


The Beja speak Beja or "To Bedawie", an Afro-Asiatic language (usually classified as Cushitic, but sometimes seen as an independent branch), but a significant number also speak Tigre, a Semitic language, and Arabic.


The Bejas contain smaller tribes, such as the Ababde (or "Ababda"), Bisharin, Hedareb, Hadendowa (or "Hadendoa"), the Amarar (or "Amar'ar"), Beni-Amer, Shukuria, Hallenga and Hamran, some of them partly mixed with Bedouins.Fact|date=March 2007 The European colonial masters and the explorers became fascinated with the Bejas which they often described in eulogistic terms.

The Bejas attach a high importance to their hair. Their prominent crown of fuzzy hair (called "tiffa" in their language) has characterized the Beja for centuries. Bejas believe that they are the descendants of a Lioness deity and her human consort. Egyptian Beja groups are believed to be the descendants of the Maahes Caste of High Priests of Amen and their Soldiers. Egyptian Priest-Kings Pinudjem, Psusennese and Masaharta are acknowledged as the patriarchal ancestors of Egypt's Western Desert Maahes by Egyptian Bejas.


Beja worshiped Isis at Philae until the 6th century. After the temple was closed down officially in the 6th century A.D. by the Byzantine emperor Justinian, Beja converted to Christianity in the 6th century under the influence of the three Nubian Christian Kingdoms that flourished along the Nile for 600 years: Nobatia, Makuria, and Alodia, as well as the Christian Kingdom of Aksum, under whose rule most lived from the 3rd to 8th centuries. Around the decline of the Aksumite kingdom, the Bejas founded five kingdoms in what is now northern Eritrea and east-northeastern Sudan. In the 13th century, the Beja accepted Islam as the Bedouin tribes spread into Sudan and swamped the Nubian kingdoms. As of 2007, the majority of Beja are believed to be Muslim. Nevertheless, many Coptic Upper Egyptians of Saiddi and Beja stock are still Christians. There are many Sufi Bejas especially in Egypt's Western Desert.

ee also

* Osman Digna

External links

* [ The Beja Congress]
* [ The Beja People of Sudan, Eritrea and Egypt]
* [ Fighting erupts in Eastern Sudan]
* [ The National Movement for Eastern Sudan - NMES]


The National Movement for Eastern Sudan [ NMES]


The Bejas figure prominently in Hans Hass's book "Under the Red Sea" which contains numerous descriptions of this populace as witnessed by the author on the ground in the 1950's"Hans Hass - Under the Red Sea With Spear and Camera" 1953. Published by Rand McNally & Company Translated from the German by James Cleugh.

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