The region known in modern times as the Sudan (short for the Arabic bilad as-sudan,
'land of the blacks') has for much of its history been linked with or
influenced by Egypt, its immediate neighbour to the north. But it also
has a strong identity as the eastern end of the great trade route
stretching along the open savannah south of the Sahara.
Soon after the uniting of the kingdoms
of Egypt, in about 3100 BC, the pharaohs extend their control as far up
the Nile as a boat can easily travel. This brings them to the first
cataract (or rapid), in the region of modern Aswan.