Humboldt-University Nubian Expedition

Dar al-Manasir at the Fourth Nile Cataract

The Manasir Cultural Research Project

The research presented on this page has been conducted during the first half year of 2005 as a subproject of the Humboldt-University Nubian Expedition (H.U.N.E.) of the Seminar of Archaeology and Cultural Studies in North-Eastern Africa. The aim of the Manasir Cultural Research Project has been to document the cultural landscape and local material and non-material traditions of the Manasir tribe (المناصير) in Northern Sudan. Their homeland Dar al-Manasir (دار المناصير) is located at the Fourth Nile Cataract and will be submerged by the reservoir lake of the Hamdab High Dam (Merowe Multi-Purpose Hydro Project) in the near future. The construction of the dam causes the flooding of a 170 km long stretch of riverbanks along the Nile, including many islands and most Manasir villages and agricultural land. About 60.000 residents, mostly of the Manasir tribe, will be relocated to distant areas.

The traditional ways of cultivation, cultural life and many traditions of the Manasir are inseparably connected to the riverine landscape of the Fourth Cataract with its arid climate and the remoteness of its many small islands. All these factors will change drastically once the Manasir people have to leave their homeland towards an uncertain future. It is to be expected that their unique way of life and culture will transform and adapt to the new realities and surroundings and that during this process traditional skills and knowledge are going to be lost.
In order to document the present culture of the Manasir and preserve some knowledge and memories from the unique cultural landscape of Dar al-Manasir there is an urgent need of anthropological research and programs of cultural preservation. H.U.N.E., otherwise responsible for salvage archaeology in the region, responded to this task by carrying out a social geographical subproject dealing with aspects described in detail in the following linked articles.

The research has been conducted by the geographer David Haberlah and Jutta von dem Bussche, joining the salvage archaeologists' team headed by Prof. Dr. phil. Claudia Näser during their field work in February and March 2005. The project was financed by the "Programm Kulturerhalt" of the German Department of Foreign Affairs as a contribution to the preservation of the culture of the Manasir. The research concentrated on the concession area of H.U.N.E. which is situated in the heart of the Manasir Country including the left bank of the Nile between the village of Salamat and Gebel Musa, and the four major islands of Us, Sur, Sherari and Shiri.

The author and photographer David Haberlah decided to publish the majority of his research on Wikipedia and Wikisource. His idea behind this unconventional form of academic publication is to make the research results freely available and accessible to the Sudanese public and the affected Manasir. In addition, he hopes to attract both researchers and Manasir to expand available information and knowledge about the Manasir tribe and their homeland past the limitations of the six months duration of this project.

Academic Articles

Date Cultivation in Dar al-Manasir – is an illustrated Wikipedia article on the occurrence, distribution, land classification, propagation, pollination, the different stages of growth and harvest of date fruits, the cultural relevance of palm trees, their monetary value, the issue of compensation and a description of the different date varieties.
(for an original text only version click here)

Material Culture of the Manasir – is an illustrated Wikipedia article that describes locally produced household items and tools sorted by main raw materials from palm trees; Garidah (جريدة‎), Sa'fah (سعفة‎), Lif (ليف), Sabitah (سبيطة‎) and non-palm tree by-products.
(for an original text only version click here)

The Genius Diwan of the Manasir  (‎ديوان عبقرية المناصير) – is an illustrated Wikisource article on the most important work of contemporary poetry from Dar al-Manasir. The discovery of the only remaining hardcopy of this exceptional poetry in the Manasir Arabic dialect resulted in the translations of some poems on the subjects of Manasir self perception, their homeland, the introduction of the diesel water pump, annual inundations of the Nile, community life and solidarity, labour migration, the Hamdab High Dam and related relocation schemes.
(for an original text only version click here)
Thanks to the good cooperation with the Manasir editor Al-Nadhir Tag al-Sirr al-Bashir (‎النذير تاج السر البشير‎), a former student of his currently working as a teacher in the elementary school on Sherari Island, the original book (‎ديوان عبقرية المناصير‎) could be digitalized and published online here: Diwan 'Abqariah al-Manasir. Li-Ustadh Ibrahim 'Ali al-Sha'ir.
Further source material on the Manasir from the Seventies has been rediscovered at the Sudanese National Library and could be digitalized and published online, too: Al-Turath al-Sha'ibi li-Qabilah al-Manasir.

Manasir – is a short illustrated Wikipedia article on the Manasir tribe, their origin, population, tribal marks, economy and culture.
(for an original text only version click here)

Dar al-Manasir – is a short illustrated Wikipedia article on the Manasir Country, the location, extent, climate, economic and administrative situation.
(for an original text only version click here)

HABERLAH, D. & J. V.D. BUSSCHE (2005): Wandel der Siedlungsstruktur im Dar al Manasir. Das Dorf Atoyah auf der Insel Sherari. In: Der Antike Sudan. Mitteilungen der Sudanarchäologischen Gesellschaft zu Berlin, Heft 16, (article in press for 2005, ca. 20 illustrated pages)

HABERLAH, D. (2005): Social Geographical Survey of Dar al-Manasir. In: NÄSER, C & M. LANGE (eds.), (2006) Proceedings of the Second International Conference on the Archaeology of the Fourth Nile Cataract. Berlin, 4-6 August 2005 - (download PowerPoint presentation here, article in press for 2006, ca. 30 illustrated pages)


Photo Gallery of Dar al-Manasir

Apart from conducting ethnographical research by interviewing the Manasir people on a variety of subjects, an equally important part of the documentation of the cultural landscape of Dar al-Manasir has been achieved by taking digital photographs.
All pictures were taken during February, March and April 2005 and are published online in order to be more easily accessible by the Sudanese public and the affected Manasir. The photographs can be freely used for research purposes such as lectures and academic publications by written notice . The original 'Canon D20 RAW-format' (3054 x 2336 pixels) for any picture can be requested from the photographer David Haberlah.

The enormous amount of photographs has been allotted to the following topics:


Images of Manasir People

Landscape of Dar al-Manasir

Scenes from the Daily Life of the Manasir

Material Culture and Household Items

Palm Tree Cultivation, Dates and Handicrafts

Architecture in Dar al-Manasir

Local Believes and Burial Places of Holy Men

Scenes from the weekly market 'Suq Salamat'

Hamdab (Merowe) High Dam

Proposed Relocation Area at Makabrab


Text and Photos by David Haberlah