Sunday, 12 April 2020

Sudan Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time I cast my net a little wider. As English place names share some links to other tongues it would be interesting to see if any of the elements contributing to our place names could be found elsewhere. Continuing an alphabetical tour of the world and a look at the largest Sudan cities.

Omdurman is from the Arabic Umm Durman and translates as 'mother of Durman', however we have no idea who she may have been and what role she played.

Khartoum's origins are uncertain, although most often given as from Arabic khutum meaning 'trunk' or 'hose' and thus referring to the strip of land between the Blue Nile and White Nile before they meet. Others cite the Dinka tongue, where khar-toum would refer to 'where the rivers meet' and thus the same geographical feature, albeit looked at from a different angle. Captain J. A. Grant thought the name came from the Arabic qurtum 'the safflower', known to science as Carthamus tinctorius, grown extensively here as it was used as a fuel. Some point to the Nubian word Agartum 'the abode of Atum', while others look to the Beja language and see hartoom 'meeting'.

Nyala comes from the Daju tongue and means 'the place of chatting'.

Port Sudan takes the name of the nation, itself coming from Arabic bilad as-sudan and meaning 'the land of the blacks'.

El-Obeid comes from the Arabic al-Abyad meaning 'white'.

El-Gadarif is derived from the Arabic Alli qada-Ye-rif meaning 'he who has finished selling or buying should leave'. This comes from the announcement at the end of market day, when Arab noamdic tribes would return to the plains.

Al-Fashir took its name from the word fashir, an itinerant court.

Ar-Rahad is from the Arabic and means 'the water shrine'.

Kosti was founded shortly after 1899 by the Greek merchant Konstantinos 'Kostas' Mourikis and named in his honour.

Suakin was known as U Suk which may be from the Arabic suq or 'market'.

Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

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