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The Magyarab are a people living along the Nile River in Egyptmarker and Sudanmarker. They are of Hungarian ancestry, probably dating back to the late 16th century.

According to legend, Christian Hungarians who had only recently been brought under the control of the Ottoman Empire formed a part of the Ottoman army that was fighting in southern Egypt. Evidently, a portion or the entirety of the fighting unit remained there and intermarried with the local Nubian women.

They were not discovered by Europeans until 1935, when László Almásy, himself a Magyar, and his co-worker, the German engineer and explorer Hansjoachim von der Esch, happened upon their tribe in the Nubian region. Representatives of the tribes had attempted to make contact with Hungarian officials, but were unable to do so because of the outbreak of World War II.

These people now have a Middle Eastern appearance due to the intermarriage with the local Nubian population and no longer speak the Hungarian language. Around 1934, however, Esch, who spent several weeks with the population of the Magyarab island at Wadi Halfamarker, put together a list of non-Arabic words used only on that island and which, according to him, were recognized by Almasy as similar to Hungarian words. His notes show that all Magarab in Wadi Halfa were convinced that their ancestors came from "Nemsa" (the Arabic word for Austriamarker), which might refer to any region of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was told by the chief of the Magarab island village that the their ancestors arrived in Egypt/Sudan as a group of "Austrian" soldiers led by a man called Shenghal Sendjer, which Esch assumes to be originally General Sendjer or Senger .


The name "Magyarab" is not a concatenation of the words "Magyar" and "Arab" as is commonly assumed. Instead, the name is a mix of "Magyar" (Hungarian) and "Ab" which in Nubian simply means "tribe." So Magyarab combined translates to "Tribe of the Magyars." In fact, to the Magyarab people, their Hungarian identity specifically sets them apart from the surrounding Arabs.

Proverbs about the Magyarab

The people of many different various ethnicities neighbouring the Magyarab have proverbs that tell us more about the historical Magyarab people.

Ál-Mágyárí lá jiszálli fíl-meszgyid. - The Hungarian does not pray in the mosque.

Rá'sz el-mágyár zejj el-hágyár. - The Hungarian's head is as hard as a stone.

El-mágyárí jilbisz burnétá. - The Hungarian wears a hat.

Notes and references

  1. Hansjoachim von der Esch, Weenak - die Karawane ruft (Brockhaus, Leipzig 1941)
  2. Magyarok a Nílus mentén Hungarians by the Nile The transcription is phonetic and based on Hungarian phonology. It is included in this way because the source article only offers them this way, without originals in Arabic alphabet or more common international transliteration.
  3. The surrounding Muslim populations wear turbans, differentiating their headwear from the Magyarab.

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