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Volume :7 Issue : 25 1981      Add To Cart                                                                    Download


Auther : Dr. Attiya Al Koussy


         The Beja are a hamitic people who crossed the Red Sea from Arabia at a very early date, and settled on the eastern fringes of Africa between the Nile and the Red Sea.

        The arrival of Arabs prior to the Hegira to the lands of the Beja is well established.  In 641 A.D. Arab armies under Amre Ibs Eel-Aass overran Egypt and pushed south into Dongola.  Since the early years of their presence, it seems probable that the Arabs have begun exploiting the golf and emerald mines of the eastern desert.  They succeeded eventually in making themselves masters of the mining country by adopting shrewd policy of alliance and intermarriage with the Beja thus, converting them to Islam.  This was followed in the third and fourth centuries of Hegira (ninth and tenth C.A.D.) by the settlement of gold-hunting Arabs, mainly of the Guhayna and Rabi’a, who also intermarried with the Beja.  In addition, some Kawahla elements have also followed suit in the seventh century (13th A.D.).

         During this time also, such small tribes as the Halenga, Arteiga, Ashraf and Hassnab had been settling in different parts of the Beja country (entering usually by Suakin) and intermarried so extensively with the local inhabitants that they came to adopt their language and customs.

         The immigrants from Hadramaut who settled on the lands of the Beja since the first century of Hegira, were known by Arab writers and travelers as “Hadareb” or “Hadareba”; a Beja corruption of Hadarma, inhabitants of Hadramaut.

         There are repeated references in Arab tribal legends in the Sudan about an invasion from Yemen, which took place in the first century of Hegira, or even earlier.  Apparently, such an invasion may refer only to the pre-Islamic influx of those people who were known later as the Hadareb, of Bellou into Arabia, Gwineb, and Maadam.

         To the Beja, however, they were as commonly known as the Bellou by reason of the fact that on arrival spoke a strange tongue, to that of the Beja which was the Bellaweit as it still is.  It was not until they had been driven south from the Arabia in the ninth century of Hegira (15th C.A.D.) that the later name replaced the former in common usage.

         Most writers have been content to classify them as Beja, which in some sense, after centuries of intermarriage with genuine Beja tribes, they indeed became, with the Himyarite strain in their blood gradually disappearing.  Described variably as Belo, Bellow and Balau, many sections of them have been traced as far south as Harar.

         As far as the history of what is now Eritrea is concerned, such assumption seems to be correct, since it was about the beginning of the seventeenth century that the Hadareb were driven south from the Arabia then from the Sinkat area.

         The Hadareb, Bellou, still controlled the hinterland behind Suakin until they were driven out by the Abdullab.

         The discomfiture of the Bellou at the hands of the Abdullah, took place approximately about 1580, when they were defeated decisively in a three-day battle at Asaramaderheib in the hills behind Agig.  Their King Mohammed Idris Adara was killed, and their broken remnants were driven out, to take refuge in the environs of Massawa’, where they still remain.

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Dec 26, 2021

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