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The Mahas is a tribe located in Northern Sudan along the banks of the Nile.

The regional identity of the Mahas inhabitants appears to be long-established and the Mahas toponym can be traced back to at least the 1580s (CE) when a 'Sanjak of the Mahas' was created by the Ottoman conquerors of Egypt, advancing south along the Nile -- a local distinction between the Mahas and Sikoot Nubians also appears to have already existed at that time. The Third Cataract may also have marked a much older frontier, the medieval writer al-Aswani recorded that the Cataract marked the border between the heartlands of the Nubian Kingdom of Makuria, and its northern province of el-Maris (comprising Middle and Lower Nubia). This was reported to have been both linguistically and administratively distinct.

Qubba tomb in Koka cemetery - burial place of the Mahas 'kings' (photo: May 1999)

In turn, this distinction between Nubian areas north and south of the Cataract seems likely to reflect the early frontiers of the embryo Nubian kingdoms of Nobatia and Makuria which were emerging in the fifth century CE, following the disintegration of the Meroitic state which had controlled this region for many centuries. On current evidence, it also seems likely that during this early period we may see the first development of the 'typical' northern Nubian way of life. Based on irrigated agriculture using the waterwheel (Arabic ' saqia ' / Nobiin ' eskalee '- waterwheel), a ribbon of small farming villages along the palm-fringed Nile, lie at the heart of the traditional Nubian world.

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