BERBER, a town and mudiria (province) of the AngloEgyptian Sudan. The town is on the right bank of the Nile, 1140 ft. above sea-level, in 18° 1' N., 33° 59' E., and 214 M. by rail N.W. of Khartum. Pop. about 6000. Berber derived its importance from being the starting-point of the caravan route, 242 m. long, across the Nubian desert to the Red Sea at Suakin, a distance covered in seven to twelve days. It was also one of the principal stopping-places between Cairo and Khartum. The caravan route to the Red Sea was superseded in 1906 by a railway, which leaves the Wadi Halfa-Khartum line at the mouth of the Atbara. Berber thus lost the Red Sea trade. It remains the centre and market-place for the produce of the Nile valley for a considerable distance. East of the town is an immense plain, which, if irrigated, would yield abundant crops.
Berber, or El Mekerif, is a town of considerable antiquity. Before its conquest by the Egyptians in 1820 its ruler owed allegiance to the kings of Sennar. It was captured by the Mandists on the 26th of May 1884, and was re-occupied by the Anglo-Egyptian army on the 6th of September 1897. It was the capital of the mudiria until 1905, in which year the headquarters of the province were transferred to Ed Darner, a town near the confluence of the Nile and Atbara. At the northern end of the mudiria is Abu Hamed, important as a railway junction for Dongola mudiria. The best-known of the tribes inhabiting the province are the Hassania, Jaalin, Bisharin and Kimilab. During the Mandia most of these tribes suffered severely at the hands of the dervishes. In 1904 the total population of the province was estimated at 83,000. It has since considerably increased. The riverain population is largely engaged in agriculture, the chief crops cultivated being durra, barley, wheat and cotton.
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