Wadi Halfa

Wadi Halfa (Arabic: وادي حلفا, Sudanese Arabic [ˈwaːdi ˈħalfa], “Espart Valley”) is a city in the Northern State of Sudan on the shores of Lake Nubia near the border with Egypt. This is the terminus of the railway from Khartoum and the point where goods are transferred from the railway to the ferries down the lake. As of 2007, the city had a population of 15,725. The city is surrounded by numerous ancient Nubian artifacts and has been the focus of much archaeological research by teams trying to save the artifacts from the floods caused by the completion of the Aswan Dam.

Wadi Halfa
Wadi Halfa


Archaeological evidence indicates that there has been settlement in the area since ancient times, and during the Middle Kingdom, the Egyptian colony of Buen, across the river, existed until Roman times. The modern town of Wadi Halfa was founded in his 19th century and became a port on the Nile for steamers such as Aswan to Nubia. During the Turkish and Egyptian conquests of 1820, Wadi Halfa was used as a transit point for troops heading south. Communications developed in the late 19th century, with the connection of a telegraph line to Egypt in 1866 and the ill-fated attempts to build a railway to Kerma in 1873 and 1877. Wadi Halfa was eventually established as the starting point of the Sudan Railways. Steamers connected to the Egyptian network via a port just south of Assiut, so its location obscured the former caravan sites of Korosko. In 1885 Wadi Halfa fell under the Mahdist war regime and entered a period of turmoil. Disputes on the border were frequent, and in 1889 Abd al-Rahman Al-Mahdi’s forces entered the town en route to the Battle of Tushiki. Wadi Halfa was, from 1881 to 1885, home to British-led Egyptian and British forces under the command of Kitchener, who sought to defeat the forces of Muhammad Ahmad, whom his disciples proclaimed Mahdi. The Nile railway line was originally built in 1897 and is still in use today. Support this military buildup. It reaches El Obeid via Atbara and extends further into southern and western Sudan. The River Watch Station operated in Wadi Halfa from 1911 to 1931, monitoring changes associated with the Aswan Reservoir, but was relocated to Kainarthi, 47 kilometers north of the town, from 1931 to 1962. A railway hotel was built in the town in the 20th century, and Wadi Halfa was a communications base for the African Union forces during World War II. By 1956, the town’s population had grown to 11,000. On November 8, 1959, the signing of the Nile Water Agreement between Sudan and the UAR took into account that the agreement to flood the area during the construction of the Aswan Dam would directly affect some 52,000 people in the area. , has sparked much debate in the region. The hardest hit were the Nubians who demonstrated against resettlement in Wadi Halfa on 23-24 October 1960, and on 26 October in Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. was forced to disband. Police used tear gas. The government quickly quelled the agitation, placing Wadi Halfa under martial law and cutting communications with the rest of the country. Khartoum saw mostly student protests, including the temporary closure of Cairo University’s Khartoum campus and the arrest of about 50 people. The old town was completely destroyed by the 1964 flood after the construction of the Aswan High Dam. Most of the town had been relocated and by 1965 New Halfa had a population of just 3,200. In the 1970s, the area was under intense scrutiny by archaeologists working to protect Nubian antiquities. Wadi Halfa was featured in Part 4 of an eight-part Michael Palin TV documentary series released by the BBC in 2016, entitled Shifting Sands. 1992. A museum and an interactive Nubian village were planned for Wadi Halfa in 2005, but by 2014 nothing had happened.


In 2012, an agreement was reached between Sudan and Egypt to complete a standard gauge link between Aswan and Wadi Halfa. However, civil war broke out in Sudan in 2023 and progress stalled.


Wadi Halfa has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh) typical of the Nubian desert. Wadi Halfa has a high average of the brightest sunshine each year, with an extreme of 4,300 hours, which corresponds to 97-98% of the possible sunshine. In addition, the town receives an average of 0.5 mm of rainfall per year, and years without rain on the ground are common. Wadi Halfa has long, hot summers and short, warm winters. The average annual temperature is about 27°C. The average maximum temperature from May to September exceeds 40 °C. The average annual rate of potential evaporation also reaches 5,930 mm, one of the highest in the world.


Agriculture plays an important role in the local economy. The Chinese invested in a fish processing plant in the town.

Further reading

De Simone, Costanza. “Wadi Halfa Development and Museum”, “Incontro Mediterraneo” 13, 2008. De Simone, Costanza. Nubia and the Nubians: The “Museumization” of Culture. Saarbrucken: Lambert Academic Press, 2015. Green, David Lee. Almeragos, George J. (1972). Mesolithic population of Wadi Halfa. Department of Anthropology, University of Massachusetts. Socio-economic survey of Wadi Halfa and Lake Nuba. ESRC. 1978.