Al-Abwab, (The Gates)

AL-ABWAB,  (the gates)

A place or district in the medieval Nubian kingdom of ALWA. Several Arab authors agree in identifying it as the most northerly place within the territory Alwa, although its exact location has not been established. L. P. Kirwan (1935, p. 61) places it somewhere in the vicinity of the old Kushite city of Meroë, while A. J. Arkell (1961, p. 194) favors a location much farther to the north, near the Fourth Cataract of the Nile.

Al-Abwab is mentioned primarily in manuscripts dealing with the Mamluk military campaigns in Nubia in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The Christian kings of MAKOURIA, when driven out of their kingdom by the Mamluks, apparently often fled to al-Abwab for refuge. However, on two occasions the fugitive rulers were captured by the “kings of al-Abwab” and were sent as prisoners to Cairo. It is possible that in these documents al-Abwab is merely a synonym for the kingdom of ‘Alwa, so that the kings of al-Abwab should be identified as the rulers of ‘Alwa. However, it is also possible that there was a petty principality of al-Abwab with its own ruler.

There are no further references to al-Abwab in any document after the fourteenth century, and no knowledge of its whereabouts survives today.


  • Adams, W. Y. Nubia, Corridor to Africa, pp. 526-29; 536-37. Princeton, N.J., 1977.
  • Arkell, A. J. A History of the Sudan, from the Earliest Times to 1821, rev. ed., pp. 194-99. London, 1961.
  • Kirwan, L. P. “Notes on the Topography of the Christian Nubian Kingdoms.” Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 21 (1935):57-62.


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