About Al Qadarif

Find out more about Al Qadarif and discover one of the great wonders of Sudan.

Al Qadarifalso spelt Gedaref, Gedarif or El Gadarif, is the capital of the state of Al Qadarif in Sudan. It lies on the road that connects Khartoum with Gallabat on the Ethiopian border, about 410 kilometers from the capital.
Al Qadarif is surrounded by a group of mountains from three sides. The city represents an excellent example for the intermingled ethnicities through the middle of Sudan. Recently, a university has been established in it. The main feature of the city from old times is the grain silo built by the Russians to store sorghum. The town is famous for its daily sesame seed auctions.
The word Gedaref is derived from the Arabic phrase (Alli qada-Ye-rif) (Arabic القضا يرف), meaning: He who had finished selling or buying should leave. The word was latter converted to Al-Gadarif. The story of the name begins when Arab nomad tribes roaming the area of Butana plains in the Mid-east of the Sudan chose the place where the city is built as a market place called Suq Abu Sinn (the Market of Abu Sin) where the nomads exchange their commercial commodities with indigenous people. When the sun sets, a herald used to call at the people (AIli qada-ye-rif ... Alli qada-ye-rif!); asking every one who has finished his deal in the market to leave so that the market could be closed in time.
Another theory is that the town was named for the hills range surrounding the area which looks like cartilage. Yet there is confusion in the spelling of the word in Arabic, because "cartilage" in Arabic is written as Ghadarif (Arabic غضارف) not Qadarif (Arabic قضارف), the spelling of the town name.
Al-Gada-ye-rif market place developed into a village; then into a town with dwellers cultivating its fertile soil with sorghum, sesame, peanuts and vegetables. Its green plains during the rainy seasons attracted many nomad herds and peasants from neighbouring areas.
According to Holt and Daly, the Shukriya, who were camel-owning nomads and the leading tribe of the southern Butana, were living and ruling the grain-producing rain lands of Gadarif or Qadarif, where a tribal market developed. This place, originally called Suq Abu Sinn (Abu Sinn's Market) has taken over the name Qadarif, anglicized as Gedaref.

The Scottish explorer James Bruce (who calls the town Teawa) passed through al Qadarif in 1772. He records that its sheikh, Fidele, was a vassal of the Kingdom of Sennar. Teawa or Twawa today is a name of a hill in the western part of the city. The British explorer Samuel Baker stopped in this town in November 1862. He mentions in his book The Nile Tributaries Of Abyssinia that it lay on the trade route between Khartoum and Kassala, and describes at length its twice-weekly market.

During the Turkiyah Egyptian rule, Gedaref became an administrative unit with a strong military garrison. The Mahdist forces preserved this statute when they occupied it in 1884 during the Mahdist Revolt, using it as a base to conquer other places in the area and neighbouring Ethiopia.
Sir Gawain Bell, who worked in the Sudan in 1931 to 1945 as Assistant Inspector for Gedaref, referred to Gedaref in his book (Shadows on the sand), as a town with more African appearance than Arab, because of its hut houses (locally called quttiyya) made of wood, reeds and grass. Its population was more than fifteen thousand, a mixture of Arab tribes and peoples from Nigeria, Eritrea and Abyssinia.[3]
In September 1898 a British battalion led by Lieutenant-Colonel Parsons moved from Kassala toward Gedaref and clashed with a Mahdist Dervishes army composed of 3,500 men under the command of the Mahdist Emir Sa'ad-Allah in a jungle located between the River Atbara and Gedaref town. The fighting was fierce, but the forces of Parsons managed finally to defeat the Mahdist Dervishes.[4] In the town a small garrison was left consisting of 200 soldiers led by the Mahdi Emir Nur Angara. The Mahdist Dervishes who fought bravely realized their defeat and retreated to the west of the city. Most of the defeated army was composed of soldiers from the Darfur and Kordofan regions of western Sudan. They had no choice except to settle their status with the British to stay and live with their families in the western part of Gedaref, which later became the basis of the Mayoral Bakr, whose influence extends to the frontier town of Gallabat om the Sudanese-Ethiopian border.[5]

During the Second World War, Gedaref became very important for the Condominium of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, by providing food (mainly grain and oil seeds) to the armies of the Allies in East Africa. After the war the town became also more attractive for agricultural investment to many segments of Sudanese tribes, especially after the establishment of the Mechanized Farming Corporation in 1968.

The geographical feature of the city is marked by a group of hills surrounding it and small khors (tiny dry valley creeks). The largest is called Khor Maqadim, which runs from the southeast part of the city between Deim El Nur and Deim Suakin districts to the northwestern part of the city in Deim Bakr District. Its course overflows during the fall season, when heavy rain falls in the highland areas along the Ethiopian border.

The climate of Gedaref is hot and rainy in the summer. The rainy season extends four months, with an average of annual rainfall of 700 to 900 mm. In the autumn during the rainy seasons, or Kharief (Arabic الخريف) as it is locally called, large pools of water and green meadows with trees of various kinds of acacia cover the area. You smell the lovely smell of wet earth mixed with aroma of the spring flowers. Birds sing and enjoy the greenery of Gedaref. They come from distances as far as Siberia in Russia or the Punjab of India. The early advent of the flamingo flock, or the Simber (Arabic السمبر) as it is locally called, gives the sign of the beginning of the Kharif.