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Beja, Bisharin in Sudan

Beja, Bisharin

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Beja, Bisharin in Sudan map
Population [2] Language Religion % Christian % Evangl Online NT Jesus Film Progress
41,000 Bedawiyet Islam 0.00 % 0.00 % No   

Beja, Bisharin in Sudan

People Group Video [7]
Source:  Discover the Beja PeopleWatchDownload
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Introduction / History
What kind of people spend 15-25 percent of their monthly income on coffee, sing songs about camels and have a glorious crown of fuzzy hair atop their head? The Beja, a nomadic people group with a million and a half members who live in the northeastern portion of the African nation of Sudan.

Where are they located?
Eastern Sudan has been the homeland of the Beja since the days of the pharaohs 4,000 years ago. Despite contact with the Egyptians, along with Greeks and Romans, it was the Muslims who finally had a real and lasting impression on the Beja. Although the Beja had partially accepted Christianity in 500 A.D., their conversion was only skin deep and beginning in 640 A.D., when Arabs first invaded Sudan, the Beja began to gradually adopt the Islamic faith. The Arabs did not conquer Sudan, and although many Beja tribes still do not speak Arabic, Islam left a lasting impact on their lifestyle, customs and religious practices.

What are their lives like?
In general, the Beja have always rejected authority and they greatly value their nomadic freedom. For the most part they have not changed their lifestyle or practices in the last 1,500 years. Most Beja are nomadic herders of camels and goats, although some have adopted sedentary lifestyles in the towns and cities of eastern Sudan. They divide into five distinct clans, and from these clans exist smaller groups of one to ten extended families. The sparse distribution of grazing due to little rainfall isolates the families from one another even more. With no settled homes, they live in tents made from woven palm matting and exist mainly on a diet of milk and grain, supplemented occasionally by meat and sugar.

The Beja like to sing and play musical instruments, in particular the rababa, which is similar to a guitar. Since they are renowned camel herders, camels are the most popular subject matter for songs, but many songs also describe the beauty of women or speak about a longing for a special place, such as a village, mountain or good grazing lands.

Coffee, or jabana, is very important to the Beja. Drinking coffee involves relaxing with friends and talking. Said one historian, "A Hadendowa [one of the Beja clans] would rather starve than go without coffee." Their crown of fuzzy hair (tiffa) has characterized the Beja for centuries. Long greased ringlets hang down from the head, which has a fluffed crown of looser hair on top. The Beja often marry cousins. Polygyny is unusual, but sometimes practiced by wealthy men. In this patrilineal society, the birth of a baby boy is greeted with a trill of exaltation or with chanting, while a newborn girl is greeted with silence.

Sharia, or Muslim religious law, is of some importance for settled Beja but matters little to the nomads. Salif, customary Beja law, is more important than either Sharia or modern Sudan code law. Salif emphasizes the mandate of hospitality and provides for rates and modes of compensation for all manner of physical injury, ranging from one blow through murder.

The Beja are a hospitable people, always showing kindness to other clans; however, they are not necessarily friendly to foreigners.

The Beja prefer cross-cousin marriages. After a marriage contract has been made, a large gift of livestock, clothing, and other goods is given to the bride's family. The goal of young couples is to have many male children and to acquire a great number of female camels. Only the wealthiest Beja have more than one wife.

What are their beliefs?
Throughout their history, the Beja have practiced a number of different religions, including idolatry, ancestor and demon worship, devotion to Egyptian gods, Jacobite Christianity and now Islam. Although they are Muslims, Islam is not deep rooted or well understood by the Beja. They do not make the required pilgrimage to Mecca, and many concerned with the traditional belief of do not say the regular required prayers. The Beja continue to be highly afraid of jinn, or bad spirits, which they believe exist everywhere and cause sickness and accidents maintain peace between individuals.

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Prayer Links
Global Prayer Digest: 2010-12-27
Global Prayer Digest: 2012-01-23
Prayer Links
Beja People Video
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Country: Sudan
Continent: Africa
Region: Africa, East and Southern
Persecution Rank:10 (Only top 50 ranked, 1 = highest persecution ranking)
10/40 Window: Yes
Location in Country:Al Bahr al Ahmar state; Kassala, Nahr an Nil, and Al Qadarif states, southeast River Nile.
(Source: Ethnologue 2016)
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Country Map:Political map
Linguistic Map:Ethnologue language map
  Peoples [3]
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People Name in Country: Beja, Bisharin
People Name General: Beja, Bisharin
Alternate People Names:
ROP3 Code: 101491
Joshua Project People ID: 10877
Indigenous: Yes
Population in Country: 41,000
Population all Countries: 41,000
Least-Reached: Yes
Affinity Bloc: Horn of Africa Peoples
People Cluster: Beja
People Name General: Beja, Bisharin
Ethnic Code: CMT33z
Ethnic Relationships: Affinity Bloc -> People Cluster -> Peoples Ethnicity Tree
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Primary Language: Bedawiyet
Language Code (ISO): bej    Ethnologue Listing
Primary Dialect:Bisharin
Dialect Code:7909
Secondary Languages:
Arabic, Sudanese Spoken (Unknown)
Total Languages: 2
Religion [4]
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Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religions:
Buddhism0.00 % 
Christianity0.00 %(Evangelical: 0.00 %)
Ethnic Religions0.00 % 
Hinduism0.00 % 
Islam100.00 % 
Non-Religious0.00 % 
Other / Small0.00 % 
Unknown0.00 % 
Christianity Segments:
Anglican0.00 %
Independent0.00 %
Protestant0.00 %
Orthodox0.00 %
Other Christian0.00 %
Roman Catholic0.00 %
(Evangelicals distributed across Christianity segments)
Progress Indicators [5]
Progress Scale[6]   Few evangelicals and few who claim to be Christians. Little, if any, history of Christianity.
Least-Reached: Yes
Bible Translation Status
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Bible Portions: 2008-2010
New Testament: None Reported
Complete Bible: None Reported
Possible Bible Sources: Forum of Bible Agencies
 World Bible Finder
 World Christian Resource Directory
 Gospel Go
Ministry Resources [7]
Audio RecordingsMegaVoice Audio Bible and Stories
Audio RecordingsAudio Bible teaching
Film / VideoBeja peoples video
Film / VideoJesus Film: view in Bedawiyet
GeneralBible for Children
GeneralGospel resources links
Ministry Activity
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Network:North American Beja Partnership
Contact David at [email protected]
Networking: Visit for networking possibilities.
Description: Register your ministry activity among this people group. Contact the Adopt-A-People Clearinghouse and Unleashed for the Unreached to learn about others that might be focused on this people group.
Data Notes
Data Sources

Beja, Bisharin in Sudan

Global                 Global
  Affinity Bloc             Global  
People Cluster
    Beja     Africa, East and Southern    
      Beja, Bisharin Sudan    
            People-by-Country (Profile)          
            Beja, Bisharin in Sudan          
      Religion Language  
      Islam     Bedawiyet  
    All Religions                              

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