KABBABISH (“goatherds”: James Bruce derives the name from Hebsh, sheep), a tribe of African nomads of Semitic origin. It is perhaps the largest “Arab” tribe in the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, and its many clans are scattered over the country extending S.W. from the province of Dongola to the confines of Darfur. The Kabbabish speak Arabic, but their pronunciation differs much from that of the true Arabs. The Kabbabish have a tradition that they came from Tunisia and are of Mogrebin or western descent; but while the chiefs look like Arabs, the tribesmen resemble the Beja family. They themselves declare that one of their clans, Kawahla, is not of Kabbabish blood, but was affiliated to them long ago. Kawahla is a name of Arab formation, and J. L. Burckhardt spoke of the clan as a distinct one living about Abu Haraz and on the Atbara. The Kabbabish probably received Arab rulers, as did the Abābda. They are chiefly employed in cattle, camel and sheep breeding, and before the Sudan wars of 1883–99 they had a monopoly of all transport from the Nile, north of Abu Gussi, to Kordofan. They also cultivate the lowlands which border the Nile, where they have permanent villages. They are of fine physique, dark with black wiry hair, carefully arranged in tightly rolled curls which cling to the head, with regular features and rather thick aquiline noses. Some of the tribes wear large hats like those of the Kabyles of Algeria and Tunisia.
See James Bruce, Travels to Discover the Source of the Nile (1790); A. H. Keane, Ethnology of Egyptian Sudan (1884); Anglo-Egyptian Sudan (edited by Count Gleichen, 1905).
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