Nubian in Kenya

Main Language
Largest Religion
Progress Gauge

Expanded PDF Profile

Introduction / History

The Nubians consist of seven non-Arab Muslim tribes which originated in the Nubian region, an area between Aswan in southern Egypt and Dongola in northern Sudan. For centuries, this territory was a crossroads between Egypt and the African tribal kingdoms.
From the 1500s until the 1800s, the Ottoman Empire encroached upon the Nubian region in Kenya. As a result, many Nubians migrated to remote areas along the Nile. Distinct groups evolved and were named according to their locations. For example, those who settled near the Wadi Kenuz became known as the Kenuzi while those who settled in Dongola became known as the Dongolawi.
In the 1960s, many of the Nubian villages were flooded because of the construction of the Aswan High Dam. About 100,000 Nubians were forced to resettle in "New Nubia," 20 miles north of Aswan. Others relocated in Uganda and Kenya. Most Nubian groups speak their own dialect of the Nubian language such as Nubi, the language of the Nubians in Kenya. However, many also speak Arabic which is the common language of business and trade. Although their languages are different, each group is identical in social, economic and cultural organization.
Kenya's decision to acknowledge the land rights of the country's Nubian minority in 2017 marked a historic victory for community-based efforts to end patterns of entrenched discrimination against the Nubian peoples.

What Are Their Lives Like?

Nubian economy is based on agriculture. During the winter months, they grow wheat, barley, millet, beans, peas, and watermelons. Mangoes, citrus fruits and palm dates are also part of the Nubian diet. A thin, coarse bread called dura is one of their basic staple foods. Pieces of the bread are usually piled on top of each other and eaten with vegetables and sauces, or date jelly.
In old Nubia, men migrated to the big cities to find work, while the women farmed the land, cared for the animals, and did household chores. Today, since the land is located far from their dwellings, men do most of the field work while the women work at the home. Some women have also found employment as schoolteachers, public service workers and seamstresses. Some of the men now own grocery stores or drive cabs.
The typical Nubian house is very spacious, with several large rooms to accommodate extended family members and guests. An open courtyard graces the center of the home. The front of the house is colorfully painted with geometric patterns. Most of the paintings and decorations on the homes have religious connotations. The colorful designs are a distinctive and admired feature of Nubian culture in Kenya.
The literacy rate among Nubians is high in comparison with their rural Egyptian neighbors. Primary and secondary schools have been set up in New Nubia, and there are also teacher-training facilities in the area. In addition to education, radio and television are other channels for socialization among Nubian peoples.
For centuries, the Nubians often held lengthy religious and agricultural ceremonies. However, since relocation, the ceremonies have been shortened and are now limited to the villages. During these ceremonies, Nubians express themselves through singing, dancing and beating drums.

What Are Their Beliefs?

Nubian people in Kenya were converted to Christianity during the sixth century. They remained so until the gradual process of Islamization began taking place from the fourteenth until the seventeenth centuries. Today, the Nubians are almost all Muslims. However, their traditional animistic beliefs (belief that non-living objects and animals have spirits) are still mingled with their Islamic practices.
The traditional beliefs of the Nubians were centered on the spirit of the Nile River. They believe that the Nile has life-sustaining power and it holds the power of life and death within it. The people believe that the river is endowed with angels, sheiks (religious leaders), and other powerful beings. The sheiks are sought daily for their advice in the areas of health, fertility and marriage.
As Muslims, Nubian people in Kenya depend upon good works to pay the penalty for their sins. They depend upon the spirit world for their daily needs because they regard Allah as too distant. They believe that Allah may determine their eternal salvation, but the spirits determine how well they live in their daily lives. Consequently, they must appease the spirits. They often use charms and amulets to help them with spiritual forces.

What Are Their Needs?

Nubian people in Kenya and Uganda have few Christian resources or mission agencies working among them. Most of these tribes have not heard a clear presentation of the gospel. Only some audio Bible resources exist in Nubi, the spoken language of these needy people.
Intense prayer, increased evangelism efforts, and additional Christian resources are necessary to reach these tribes for Jesus.

Prayer Points

Pray that the Lord will raise up laborers who are willing to invest long term service as missionaries to the Nubians of Kenya.
Pray that loving African believers will gain a vision to see the Nubian leaders and families in Kenya reached with the gospel.
Pray that God will raise up linguists to translate the Word of God into Nubi.
Ask God to send medical teams and humanitarian aid workers to minister to the Nubian people in Kenya.
Pray that a strong church planting movement will begin among each of the Nubian tribes.

Scripture Prayers for the Nubian in Kenya.

Profile Source:   Joshua Project  
Expanded PDF Profile

People Name General Nubian
People Name in Country Nubian
Pronunciation NOO-bee-un
Population this Country 23,000
Population all Countries 62,000
Total Countries 2
Indigenous No
Progress Scale 1
Unreached Yes
Frontier People Group Yes
GSEC 1  (per
Pioneer Workers Needed 1
Alternate Names Sudanese; Sudanese Refugees
People ID 12629
ROP3 Code 104847
Country Kenya
Region Africa, East and Southern
Continent Africa
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Nairobi.   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Country Kenya
Region Africa, East and Southern
Continent Africa
10/40 Window No
National Bible Society Website
Persecution Rank Not ranked
Location in Country Nairobi..   Source:  Ethnologue 2016
Map of Nubian in Kenya Ethnolinguistic map or other map

Primary Language Nubi (23,000 speakers)
Language Code kcn   Ethnologue Listing
Language Written Unknown
Total Languages 1
Primary Language Nubi (23,000 speakers)
Language Code kcn   Ethnologue Listing
Total Languages 1
People Groups Speaking Nubi

Primary Language:  Nubi

Bible Translation Status:  Translation Needed

Resource Type Resource Name
Audio Recordings Audio Bible teaching
Primary Religion: Islam
Major Religion Percent
0.00 %
Christianity  (Evangelical 0.00 %)
0.00 %
Ethnic Religions
10.00 %
0.00 %
90.00 %
0.00 %
Other / Small
0.00 %
0.00 %
Christian Segments Percent
Other Christian
Roman Catholic
Photo Source Anonymous 
Map Source People Group location: IMB. Map geography: ESRI / GMI. Map design: Joshua Project.  
Profile Source Joshua Project  
Data Sources Data is compiled from various sources. Read more