Learn more about Shagia
The Shagia (Shaikiyeh, Shigia), are a tribe of Africans of Semitic origin living on both banks of the Nile from Korti to the Third Cataract, and in portions of the Bayuda Desert. The Shagia are partly a nomad, partly an agricultural people. They claim descent from one Shayig Ibn Hamaidan of the Beni Abbas, and declare that they came from Arabia at the time of the conquest of Egypt in the 7th century.
They must have dispossessed and largely intermarried with a people of Nuba origin. They appear (from a statement by James Bruce) to have been settled originally south of their present country and to have moved northward since 1772. Formerly subject to the Funj kings of Sennar, they became independent on the decline of that state in the 18th century. They were overcome c. 1811 at Dongola by the Mamelukes, but continued to dominate a considerable part of Nubia. To the Egyptians in 1820 they offered a stout resistance, but finally submitted and served in the Egyptian ranks during the suppression of the Jaalin revolt (1822). For their services they obtained lands of these latter between Shendi and Khartum.
Freedom-loving, brave, enlightened and hospitable, they had schools in which all Moslem science was taught, and were rich in corn and cattle. Their fighting men, mounted on horses of the famous Dongola breed, were feared throughout the eastern Sudan. Their chiefs wore coats of mail and carried shields of hippopotamus or crocodile skin. Their arms were lance, sword or javelin. The Shagia are divided into twelve clans. Their country is the most fertile along the Nile between Egypt and Khartoum. Many of their villages are well built; some of the houses are fortified. They speak Arabic and generally preserve the Semitic type, though they are obviously of very mixed blood. The typical Shagia has a sloping forehead, aquiline nose and receding chin. They have adopted the African custom of gashing the chests of their children.
In the wars of 1884/85, General Gordon's first fight was to rescue a few Shagia besieged in a fort at Halfaya. In April 1884, Saleh Bey (Saleh Wad el Mek), head of the tribe, and 1400 men surrendered to the mahdis forces. Numbers of Shagia continued in the service of General Gordon and this led to the outlawry of the tribe by the mahdi. When Khartoum fell, Salehs sons were sought out and executed by the dervishes. On the reconquest of the Sudan by the Anglo-Egyptian army (1896/98) it was found that the Shagia were reduced to a few hundred families.
- Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, edited by Count Gleichen (London, 1905)
- Ethnology of the Egyptian Sudan, A. H. Keane, (London, 1884)