Nubia is a region along the Nile river located in what is today northern Sudan and southern Egypt. It was one of the earliest civilizations of ancient Northeastern Africa, with a history that can be traced from at least 2000 B.C. onward (through Nubian monuments and artifacts, as well as written records from Egypt and Rome), and was home to one of the African empires. There were a number of large Nubian kingdoms throughout the Postclassical Era, the last of which collapsed in 1504, when Nubia became divided between Egypt and the Sennar sultanate, resulting in the Arabization of much of the Nubian population. Nubia was again united within Ottoman Egypt in the 19th century, and within the Kingdom of Egypt from 1899 to 1956.
The name Nubia is derived from that of the Nubian people, nomads who settled the area in the 4th century following the collapse of the kingdom of Meroë. The Noba spoke a Nilo-Saharan language, ancestral to Old Nubian. Old Nubian was mostly used in religious texts dating from the 8th and 15th centuries AD. Before the 4th century, and throughout classical antiquity, Nubia was known as Kush, or, in Classical Greek usage, included under the name Ethiopia (Aithiopia).
Historically, the people of Nubia spoke at least two varieties of the Nubian language group, a subfamily that includes Nobiin (the descendant of Old Nubian), Kenuzi-Dongola, Midob and several related varieties in the northern part of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan. Until at least 1970, the Birgid language was spoken north of Nyala in Darfur, but is now extinct.
Early settlements sprouted in both Upper and Lower Nubia. Egyptians referred to Nubia as "Ta-Seti," or "The Land of the Bow," since the Nubians were known to be expert archers. Modern scholars typically refer to the people from this area as the “A-Group” culture. Fertile farmland just south of the Third Cataract is known as the “pre-Kerma” culture in Upper Nubia, as they are the ancestors.The Neolithic people in the Nile Valley likely came from Sudan, as well as the Sahara, and there was shared culture with the two areas and with that of Egypt during this period.
By the 5th millennium BC, the people who inhabited what is now called Nubia participated in the Neolithic revolution. Saharan rock reliefs depict scenes that have been thought to be suggestive of a cattle cult, typical of those seen throughout parts of Eastern Africa and the Nile Valley even to this day. Megaliths discovered at Nabta Playa are early examples of what seems to be one of the world's first astronomical devices, predating Stonehenge by almost 2,000 years.
This complexity as observed at Nabta Playa, and as expressed by different levels of authority within the society there, likely formed the basis for the structure of both the Neolithic society at Nabta and the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Around 3500 BC, the second "Nubian" culture, termed the A-Group, arose. It was a contemporary of, and ethnically and culturally very similar to, the polities in predynastic Naqada of Upper Egypt. The A-Group people were engaged in trade with the Egyptians. This trade is testified archaeologically by large amounts of Egyptian commodities deposited in the graves of the A-Group people. The imports consisted of gold objects, copper tools, faience amulets and beads, seals, slate palettes, stone vessels, and a variety of pots. Around 3300 BC, there is evidence of a unified kingdom, as shown by the finds at Qustul, that maintained substantial interactions (both cultural and genetic) with the culture of Naqadan Upper Egypt. The Nubian culture has even contributed to the unification of the Nile Valley.
Nubia was home to some of Africa’s earliest kingdoms. Known for rich deposits of gold, Nubia was also the gateway through which luxury products like incense, ivory, and ebony traveled from their source in sub-Saharan Africa to the civilizations of Egypt and the Mediterranean. Archers of exceptional skill provided the military strength for Nubian rulers. Kings of Nubia ultimately conquered and ruled Egypt for about a century. Monuments still stand—in modern Egypt and Sudan—at the sites where Nubian rulers built cities, temples, and royal pyramids.
Omdurman (standard Arabic Umm Durmān أم درمان) is the largest city in Sudan and Khartoum State, lying on the western banks of the River Nile, opposite the capital, Khartoum. Omdurman has a population of 2,395,159 (2008) and is the national centre of commerce. With Khartoum and Khartoum North or Bahri, it forms the cultural and industrial heart of the nation. The name Omdurman (ʾUmm Durmān) literally translates as "Mother of Durman", but who she was or who Durmān might have been is not known. There are unattested legends of a woman known as ʾUmm Durmān who lived in an area at the confluence of the White and Blue Niles, but her importance remains obscure.
Muhammad Ahmad Al Mahdi was born on 12 August 1845 at Labab Island - Dongola in Northern Sudan to a humble family of boat-builders and were direct descents from the Islamic Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) through the line of his grandson Hassan son of Sayyid Imam Ali (R.A). When Muhammad Ahmad Al Mahdi was still a child, his family moved to the town of Karari, north of Omdurman, where Muhammad Ahmad's father, Abdullah, could find a supply of timber for his boat-building business.
While his siblings joined his father's trade, Muhammad Ahmad Al Mahdi showed a proclivity for religious study. He studied first under Shaykh al-Amin al-Suwaylih in the Gezira region around Khartoum, and subsequently under Shaykh Muhammad al-Dikayr 'Abdallah Khujali near the town of Berber in North Sudan. Determined to live a life of asceticism, mysticism and worship, in 1861 he sought out Shaykh Muhammad Sharif Nur al-Dai'm, the grandson of the founder of the Samaniyya Sufi order in Sudan. Muhammad Ahmad stayed with Shaykh Muhammad Sharif for seven years, during which time he was recognized for his piety and asceticism.
Near the end of this period, he was awarded the title of Shaykh himself, and began to travel around the country on religious missions. He was permitted to give tariqa (order) and Uhūd to new followers in 1870, his family moved again in search for timber, this time to Aba Island on the White Nile south of Khartoum. On Aba Island, Muhammad Ahmad Al Mahdi built a mosque and started to teach the Qur'an. He soon gained a notable reputation among the local population as an excellent speaker and mystic. The broad thrust of his teaching followed that of other reformers, his Islam was one devoted to the words of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) and based on a return to the virtues of strict devotion, prayer, and simplicity as laid down in the Qur'an. Any deviation from the Qur'an was therefore heresy.