In Sudan’s 2008 census, the population of Northern, Western and Eastern Sudan was recorded to be over 30 million. This puts present estimates of the population of Sudan after the secession of South Sudan at a little over 30 million people. This is a significant increase over the past two decades as the 1983 census put the total population of Sudan, including present-day South Sudan, at 21.6 million. The population of Greater Khartoum (including Khartoum, Omdurman, and Khartoum North) is growing rapidly and was recorded to be 5.2 million.
Despite being a refugee-generating country, Sudan also hosts a refugee population. According to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, 310,500 refugees and asylum seekers lived in Sudan in 2007. The majority of this population came from Eritrea (240,400 people), Chad (45,000), Ethiopia (49,300) and the Central African Republic (2,500). The Sudanese government UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 2007 forcibly deported at least 1,500 refugees and asylum seekers during the year. Sudan is a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.
Sudan has 597 groups that speak over 400 different languages and dialects. Sudanese Arabs are by far the largest ethnic group in Sudan. They are almost entirely Muslims; while the majority speak Sudanese Arabic, some other Arab tribes speak different Arabic dialects like Awadia and Fadnia tribes and Bani Arak tribes who speak Najdi Arabic; and Rufa’a, Bani Hassan, Al-Ashraf, Kinanah and Rashaida who speak Hejazi Arabic. In addition, the Western province comprises various ethnic groups, while a few Arab Bedouin of the northern Rizeigat and others who speak Sudanese Arabic share the same culture and backgrounds of the Sudanese Arabs.
The majority of Arabized and indigenous tribes like the Fur, Zaghawa, Borgo, Masalit and some Baggara ethnic groups, who speak Chadian Arabic, show less cultural integration because of cultural, linguistic and genealogical variations with other Arab and Arabized tribes.
Sudanese Arabs of Northern and Eastern parts descend primarily from migrants from the Arabian Peninsula and intermarriages with the pre-existing indigenous populations of Sudan, especially the Nubian people, who also share a common history with Egypt. Additionally, a few pre-Islamic Arabian tribes existed in Sudan from earlier migrations into the region from Western Arabia, although most Arabs in Sudan are dated from migrations after the 12th century.
The vast majority of Arab tribes in Sudan migrated into the Sudan in the 12th century, intermarried with the indigenous Nubian and other African populations and introduced Islam.
Sudan consists of numerous other non-Arabic groups, such as the Masalit, Zaghawa, Fulani, Northern Nubians, Nuba, and the Beja people.
The Arabic-speaking Rashaida came to Sudan from Arabia about 170 years ago.
Approximately 70 languages are native to Sudan.
Sudanese Arabic is the most widely spoken language in the country. It is the variety of Arabic, an Afroasiatic language of the Semitic branch spoken throughout Sudan. The dialect has borrowed much vocabulary from local Nilo-Saharan languages (Nobiin, Fur, Zaghawa, Mabang). This has resulted in a variety of Arabic that is unique to Sudan, reflecting the way in which the country has been influenced by Nilotic, Arab, and western cultures. Few nomads in Sudan still have similar accents to the ones in Saudi Arabia. Other important languages include Beja (aka Bedawi) along the Red Sea, with perhaps 2 million speakers. It is the only language from the Afroasiatic family’s Cushitic branch that is today spoken in the territory.
As with South Sudan, a number of Nilo-Saharan languages are also spoken in Sudan. Fur speakers inhabit the west (Darfur), with perhaps a million speakers. There are likewise various Nubian languages, with over 6 million speakers along the Nile in the north. The most linguistically diverse region in the country is the Nuba Hills area in Kordofan, inhabited by speakers of multiple language families, with Darfur and other border regions being second.
The Niger-Congo family is represented by many of the Kordofanian languages, and Indo-European by Domari (Gypsy) and English. Historically, Old Nubian, Greek, and Coptic were the languages of Christian Nubia, while Meroitic was the language of the Kingdom of Kush, which conquered Egypt.
Sudan also has multiple regional sign languages, which are not mutually intelligible. A 2009 proposal for a unified Sudanese Sign Language had been worked out, but was not widely known.
Prior to 2005, Arabic was the nation’s sole official language. In the 2005 constitution, Sudan’s official languages became Arabic and English.