Ababda (the Gebadei of Pliny, probably the Troglodytes of classical writers), were a nomad tribe of African Arabs, of Hamitic origin.
They extend from the Nile at Aswan to the Red Sea, and reach northward to the Kena-Kosseir road, thus occupying the southern border of Egypt east of the Nile. They call themselves "sons of the Jinns." With some of the clans of the Bisharin and possibly the Hadendoa they represent the Blemmyes of classic geographers, and their location today is almost identical with that assigned them in Roman times.
They were constantly at war with the Romans, who at last subsidized them. In the middle ages they were known as Beja, and convoyed pilgrims from the Nile valley to Aidhab, the port of embarkation for Jedda. From time immemorial they have acted as guides to caravans through the Nubian desert and up the Nile valley as far as Sennar.
They intermarried with the Nuba, and settled in small colonies at Shendi and elsewhere long before the Egyptian invasion (AD 1820-1822). They are still great trade carriers, and visit very distant districts.
The Ababda of Egypt, numbering some 30,000 (in 1911), are governed by an hereditary "chief." Although nominally a vassal of the Khedive he pays no tribute. Indeed he is paid a subsidy, a portion of the road-dues, in return for his safeguarding travellers from Bedouin robbers. The sub-sheikhs are directly responsible to him.
The Ababda of Nubia, reported by Joseph von Russegger, who visited the country in 1836, to number some 40,000, have since diminished, having probably amalgamated with the Bisharin, their hereditary enemies when they were themselves a powerful nation. The Ababda generally speak Arabic (mingled with Barabra [Nubian] words), the result of their long-continued contact with Egypt; but the southern and south-eastern portion of the tribe in many cases still retain their Beja dialect, ToBedawiet. Those of Kosseir will not speak this before strangers, as they believe that to reveal the mysterious dialect would bring ruin on them.
From the 1911 Encyclopaedia Britannica