Fast Facts

Khartoum; 4,286,000
1,861,484 square kilometers (718,723 square miles)
Arabic, Nubian, Ta Bedawie, many local dialects
Sunni Muslim, indigenous beliefs, Christian
Sudanese pound
Life Expectancy:
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $2,300
Literacy Percent:
Flag: Sudan
Map: Sudan

Africa's largest country in land area, Sudan is dominated by the Nile and its tributaries, with mountains rising along its Red Sea coast and along the western border with Chad. Sudan's name in Arabic means "land of the blacks."

Since independence from Britain in 1956, a north-south war has dominated Sudan's history, pitting Arab Muslims in the northern desert against black Christians and animists in the southern wetlands. Muslim Arabs control the government in Khartoum, but are only about 39 percent of the population. Blacks, or Africans, make up 52 percent of Sudanese, and are most numerous in southern and western Sudan. The country is further divided with hundreds of black, Arab, and non-Arab ethnicities, tribes, and languages.

Sudan's political history has been unstable. Gen. Muhammad Nimeiri, who seized control in the 1970s, was deposed in 1985. In 1989 another military coup, led by then-Col. Omar al-Bashir, toppled the elected government. The military dictatorship, so far, has been incapable of stopping the civil war. Indeed its intensity rose with the discovery and exploitation of oil fields in the south. In 2004 a rebel uprising by blacks in western Sudan's Dafur region brought army reprisals, creating 100,000 refugees. Pro-government Arab militias carried out systematic killings of Darfur's blacks—who are mostly Muslim.

Ongoing peace talks finally resulted in a Comprehensive Peace Agreement, signed in January 2005. As part of this agreement the south was granted a six-year period of autonomy to be followed by a referendum on final status. The result of this referendum, held in January 2011, was a vote of 98 percent in favor of secession. Independence was attained on July 9, 2011.


  • Industry: Oil, cotton ginning, textiles, cement, edible oils, sugar, soap distilling, shoes, petroleum refining
  • Agriculture: Cotton, groundnuts (peanuts), sorghum, millet, wheat; sheep
  • Exports: Oil and petroleum products, cotton, sesame, livestock, groundnuts

Related Features

  • Photo: Connection between a Dinka man and his cow

    Sudan's Shaky Peace

    Take a glimpse at the uncertain world of post civil-war Sudan.

  • Photo: Large rock formation dusk

    Best Tours in Africa

    See our roundup of the best guided expeditions in Africa and the Middle East for 2011.

  • Photo: Sahara Desert at dusk

    Cross the Sahara Desert

    Get inspired with our Ultimate Adventure Bucket List, a collection of 40 trips that range from totally extreme to actually doable.

Take a Nat Geo Trip

Select a destination or trip type to find a trip:

See All Trips »

2016 National Geographic Travel Photographer of the Year Contest

  • Picture of a volcano on Reunion Island

    Who Will Win?

    Browse photos of nature, cities, and people and share your favorite photos.

Take a Nat Geo Trip

Select a destination or trip type to find a trip:

See All Trips »

Get Social With Nat Geo Travel