Sudan lies on the east coast of Africa, bordering Egypt to the north and Eritrea, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Chad to the south and west. By the 8th millennium BC, the country's Nile Valley had been settled by a Neolithic culture whose people survived by fishing, hunting, gathering grain and keeping cattle, and today Sudan is known to be one of the oldest settled countries in the world.
Sudan's name is derived from the termbilād as-sūdānin Arabic, which means 'the lands of the Blacks'. Many historians believe that this name was coined by Arabs coming into the area, referring to the indigenous Nubian and Zaghawa people. Today's Sudanese population is made up of descendants of Arabs, Copts, Nubians and Zaghawa as well as several other groups. There are 70 recognised languages and it is estimated that there are around 400 languages spoken within the country. Though Sudan has been Christian and Muslim at various stages of history, today it has a large Muslim majority and a Christian minority largely confined to the south.
The landscape is dominated by the flat plains and mountains of the Sahara - separated into the Nubian Desert in the northeast of the country and the Bayuda Desert to the east. The Blue and White Rivers meet in the capital, Khartoum, to form the River Nile, which divides the country into east and west and flows north all the way through Egypt and into the Mediterranean Sea. Agriculture is most successful in the Nile Valley; small areas of the desert are also farmed - though their output is poor. The country is rich in minerals such as gold, copper and iron.
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