Soodan, Or Soudan (Arab. Biled es-Sudan, the country of the blacks).

I. A Vast Continental Belt Of Territory (Also Called Nigritia)

A Vast Continental Belt Of Territory (Also Called Nigritia), stretching nearly across Africa, mainly between the 6th and 15th parallels of N. latitude, from, the Nile provinces of Egypt on the east to the Mandingo country and Senegambia on the west. In Waday and near Timbuctoo its northerly boundary is not far from lat. 17° N. This region is occupied by a large number of native states, of which the most important are Adamawa, Baghirmi, Bambarra, Bornoo, Dar-foor, Gando, Houssa, Sackatoo, and Waday, each described under its own title. The altitude of Soodan and the aspect of the surface vary greatly in the different districts. The portion W. of the Niger is bounded S. by the Kong mountains, which curve northward into the highlands of Senegambia, forming the W. boundary. The region enclosed within the great bend of the Niger is of moderate elevation, and consists of a series of well watered and fertile plains, in some places densely populated. The central portion of the country extends E. from the river as far as Lake Tchad, in which centres the hydrographic system of this part of Soodan. The surface is hilly except in the vicinity of the lake, but the altitude is believed not to exceed 2,000 ft., and probably does not average more than half as much. Among the hills are numerous torrent beds filled only in the rainy season.

There are swamps in the lower districts, and an abundant forest growth, but the cleared area is sufficient to render central Soodan both populous and productive. Lake Tchad, which is intersected by the 14th parallel of N. latitude and the 15th meridian of E. longitude, is bordered N. E. by the native state of Kanem, beyond which lies the Sahara, S. E. by Baghirmi, and on all other sides by Bornoo. It is about 840 ft. above the sea level, and its numerous affluents drain the vast alluvial plain surrounding it, which slopes gently toward its shores. (See Tchad, Lake.) The principal tributary is the Shary, flowing into the lake from the south. The plain is subject to frequent inundation in the vicinity of the streams, but is fertile and thickly inhabited. In Waday, which borders it on the east, the country becomes hilly again, and so continues some distance beyond the confines of Darfoor. The Nyam-Nyam country, lying principally S. of lat. 5° 30' N. and E. of the 25th meridian, is drained by the westward-moving river Welle, discovered by Schweinfurth, and belongs geographically to Soodan, if that stream is connected with the system of Lake Tchad. - The geology of Soodan is but little understood, and the mineral wealth seems limited to iron, which appears to be widely diffused, and gold, which is found in the rivers.

The climate is everywhere characterized by extreme heat and moisture. The maximum temperature is attained in the level region of central Soodan, where the annual mean is over 83° F., while the more western hilly country is remarkable for its excessive moisture and a greater range of the thermometer. The rainy season, which abounds in thunder storms and tornadoes, lasts from the middle of May or June, varying with the region, to November, when the northerly winds set in, and the weather becomes fair and dry. The natural products comprise palm oil, cocoa-nuts, dates, figs, and many other tropical fruits. The chief cultivated crops are maize, millet, yams, rice, wheat, beans, tobacco, cotton, indigo, and various vegetables. The fauna of Soodan embraces the larger mammalia, such as the elephant, hippopotamus, and rhinoceros; the lion, leopard, and spotted hyaena, among the carnivorous animals; numerous species of antelopes; and the ostrich, on the borders of the desert. Domestic animals are extensively raised, including several breeds of horses and innumerable cattle, as well as goats, sheep, asses, and poultry. The honey made by wild bees is gathered in large quantities, and forms an important article of native traffic.

The external trade of Soodan is carried on principally by means of caravans, which journey to and from Algeria and Morocco. The exports comprise attar of roses, gold dust, gum arabic, indigo, ivory, and ostrich feathers and skins, of which about £1,500,000 worth annually reaches Algeria; the imports from that country average about the same amount, mainly in cotton goods, cutlery, and weapons. Inferior iron utensils and coarse cotton cloth are the only noteworthy articles of native manufacture. The population consists chiefly of negroes, but in the west the Mandingoes predominate, and the Foolahs are the ruling people in Gando, Sackatoo, and Adamawa. In many parts of the country the Arabs are extremely influential. - Soodan has yet to be thoroughly and exhaustively explored throughout. Among the more prominent European travellers who have visited or traversed some portion of the country are Mungo Park, Denham and Clap-perton, Caillie, Lander, Barth, Vogel, Rohlfs, and Nachtigal (1869-74). The last named entered Bornoo from the Sahara N. of Lake Tchad, and made his way thence eastward through Waday and Darfoor to the Nile, an undertaking never before accomplished.

The explorations of Petherick and Schweinfurth relate to regions S. of the limits usually assigned to Soodan.

II. A Province Of Egypt

A Province Of Egypt, distinguished from the preceding, of which it is but a continuation eastward, by prefixing the definite article (the Soodan). It comprises Kordofan, Nubia proper, Sennaar, Taka on the east, and some Nile districts further south; pop. estimated by Sir Samuel Baker at over 1,000,000. The soil is fertile, and would be productive under just rule, but the exactions of the government have been so excessive as greatly to retard the development of the province. The khedive has undertaken the construction of a railway from Shendy, N. of Khartoom, the capital, down the Nile a distance of about 220 m., to a point below the second cataract. The products of the Soodan have hitherto found their way to Cairo mainly by means of caravans occupying four months on the journey. According to an official statement of such products sold in that city in 1873-'4, they were valued at £1,550,600, and comprised ostrich feathers (worth £824,013), gums, ivory, calf skins, coffee, senna, wax, tamarinds, and many other articles. This statement did not include exports from the Soodan through the Red sea ports.

The province has been gradually annexed by Egypt since 1821.