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Title: Magyarab  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Finno-Ugric languages, Arab diaspora, Karapinar, Bushnak, Hansjoachim von der Esch, Turks in Hungary
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia


Regions with significant populations
 Egypt and  Sudan : 7,000[1]
Egyptian Arabic and Sudanese Arabic
Related ethnic groups
Magyars, Nubians, Egyptians

The Magyarab[1][2] are a people living along the Nile River in Egypt and Sudan. They are of Hungarian ancestry, probably dating back to the late 16th century.


The name "Magyarab" is not a combination of the words "Magyar" and "Arab" as is commonly assumed. Rather, the name is a concatenation 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 Egyptians.


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.

According to local Magyarabs, their ancestor was Ibrahim el-Magyar, a general who came from Buda (present-day Budapest) in 1517, he married with a local Nubian woman, they had a son called Ali, Ali had five sons: Selabi, Mustafa, Djelaleddin, Musa and Iksa, Ali's five sons were the ancestor of all Magyarabs. Magyarabs are the members of the World Federation of Hungarians (Magyarok Világszövetsége) since 1992 and still consider themselves as Hungarians.

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 mixed race 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 Halfa, 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 Magyarab in Wadi Halfa were convinced that their ancestors came from "Nemsa" (the Arabic word for Austria), 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.[3]

Magyarab communities

Magyarabs live along the Nile, in Sudan around Wadi Halfa, in Egypt around Aswan in the villages of Magyarab-irki, Magyararti, Magyariyya, Magyar-nirki, Hillit el-Magyarab and about 400 Magyarabs live in Cairo.

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.

Al-majāri lā jisālli fil-mesjīd. - 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.[4]

References and notes

Detailed report about a Hungarian expedition:

  • (Hungarian) Islands on the Nile - The Csángós of Africa, the Magyarabs (1), Magyar Nemzet, Budapest, 10 03 2007
  • (Hungarian) Islands on the Nile - The Csángós of Africa, the Magyarabs (2), Magyar Nemzet, Budapest, 17 03 2007
  • (Hungarian) Islands on the Nile - The Csángós of Africa, the Magyarabs (3), Magyar Nemzet, Budapest, 24 03 2007

Other references:

  • (Hungarian) Archive)

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