Nubia, a country of Africa and dependency of Egypt, comprehending in its widest sense all that territory which is bounded N. by Upper Egypt, E. by the Red sea, S. E. and S. by Abyssinia and the Dinka country, and W. by the Sahara and a narrow slip of the desert which separates it from Darfoor. It thus extends between lat. 10° and 24° N., and lon. 28° and 39° E., about 950 m. in length, and rather more than 600 in breadth; and includes Lower Nubia, or Nubia proper, from the limits of Egypt to the S. boundary of the province of Don-gola; the ancient kingdom of Meroe, on the E. bank of the Nile between the Atbara and the Bahr el-Azrek or Blue river; and Sennaar, in the extreme south. The territory of Kor-dofan on the left bank of the Nile, W. of Sennaar, is usually regarded by geographers as a part of Nubia. The application of the name Nubia is very indefinite, however, being restricted by some authorities to the territory E. of the Nile, while the small tract between Derr and Dongola, called Nooba or Wady Nooba, is the only locality to which the natives now apply the word.
Lower Nubia consists chiefly of deserts, extending on the east to the Red sea, the coast of which is here bordered by a range of hills, and on the west nearly to the Sahara. Of these, the largest is the great Nubian desert, which is crossed by caravans from Korosko, near Derr, to Abu Hammed, a route of 230 m., which has been described as the chord of the arc made by the great western bend of the Nile. The monotonous scenery of this burning and waterless waste of sand is varied by mounds of volcanic slag and hills of black basalt. The Nile itself is here enclosed by mountain ranges of sandstone and granite, which approach close to the banks of the river, leaving only a narrow strip of land along the water's edge. The northern portion of Upper Nubia, W. of the Nile, is occupied by the Ba-Liuda desert; further E. in the river valley is Berber; and above the mouth of the Atbara, the Meroe of antiquity is represented by the town and district of Shendy. Beyond Khartoom, the Nubian territory embraces Kordofan on the west and Sennaar on the east, the latter extending to the 10th parallel of N. latitude.
Upper Nubia is a well watered table land of moderate elevation, diversified by low mountain ranges, but largely consisting of vast and fertile though neglected plains, some portions of which are artificially irrigated by means of the oriental water wheel. The chief geological formations are granite, quartz, and mica slate. - The climate of Nubia is dry in the north, comparatively moist in the south, and very hot throughout the whole country, but not unhealthy. In Lower Nubia the annual rainfall is exceedingly light, but further up the Nile there are plentiful showers during the spring months. In May the temperature of the air on the Nubian desert frequently ranges from 108° to 114° F. in the shade, and at night the mercury not uncommonly falls more than 30 degrees. The cool season extends from November to February. The doum palm is one of the most important vegetable products of the country, forming as it does a source of food for the desert tribes of Arabs, who seek its fruit in the vicinity of the rivers during seasons of drought and scarcity. The grain most commonly cultivated in Nubia is durra (sorghum andropogon), of which there are many varieties.
It is planted in July and harvested in February or March. The stalk attains a height of 7 and even 10 ft., and the kernels are about as large as hemp seed. The durra flour is made into unleavened bread. Barley, beans, lentils, melons, pumpkins, and tobacco are also grown. The soil in many districts is peculiarly adapted to the cultivation of cotton, but the prevalence of official extortion exerts a depressing effect upon the agricultural development of the country. The domestic animals of the Nubians are cattle, sheep, goats, dogs, and the common fowl. They possess a few camels, and in Dongola there is a fine breed of horses. Hippopotami and crocodiles frequent the rivers, in the neighborhood of which are also found hyaemas and herds of giraffes. Gazelles are met with in the desert and among the eastern mountains, and baboons descend from Abyssinia into Nubian territory. Fish and turtles are obtained from the Nile tributaries by the natives. The manufactures of Nubia are limited to the weaving of coarse cotton and woollen cloths, and the construction of various articles of household use from the leaves of the date tree. The exports comprise grain, honey, musk, ebony, leeches, and ivory.
The inhabitants of Nubia are a handsome mulatto race of dark brown complexion, bold, frank, cheerful, and morally much superior to the Egyptians. They live in low huts built of mud or loose stones, roofed with durra straw; in the larger towns and villages, however, many of the houses are better built. The largest Arab tribe of the country, the Bishareen Arabs, dwell in Lower Nubia, in the region of the Atbara. The extensive monumental ruins that stand along the banks of the Nile constitute one of the most remarkable features of Nubian scenery. (See Nile.) - The name Nubia is supposed to have originated in Egypt, where the word nob or nub, signifying gold, was applied to those countries whence the precious metal was brought. In the early Greek and Roman writers there is occasional mention of Nubia, but no particular information concerning it. In the reign of Diocletian, however, a tribe known as the Nubai or Nubatae inhabited the region adjoining Egypt on the south, and were granted a considerable area of territory near the first cataract of the Nile, upon their engagement to protect that country, then a Roman province, from invasion by the Ethiopians. These people reappear in history under the name of Noo-bas, at the time of the Moslem invasion of Egypt in the 7th century, when they consti-tuted a powerful Christian nation whose capital was at Dongola. They remained tributary to the Mohammedan conquerors of Egypt, though frequently revolting and as often subdued, until the 14th century, when the power of the king of Dongola, who with all his ostensible allegiance to Egypt had been virtually independent, seems to have been overthrown.
Christianity was extinguished by repeated Arab invasions, and the country became divided into a number of small Mohammedan states governed by independent chiefs. Among these were Dongola, Berber, and Shendy. In 1821 Mehemet Ali, the pasha of Egypt, sent an expedition against Nubia, overcame the principal states, and finally extended his conquests as far as the frontiers of Abyssinia. Ever since that period the country has remained in subjection to the Egyptian rulers. Sir Samuel Baker and the German traveller Schweinfurth represent the present conditions of Nubia as unfavorable to prosperity. Of late years taxation has increased while production has diminished, and the consequent scarcity and distress have led to the emigration of large numbers of the inhabitants.