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The Nuer engage in elaborate social and religious ceremonies. Dancing and singing are crucial forms of entertainment, and dances give young people an opportunity to interact and court. The term Nuer has been used for over two hundred years, but its origin is unknown. It is likely that the term came from neighboring groups, especially the Dinka. The name is used in both the singular (a Nuer person) and the plural (the Nuer people), but Nuer people call themselves Nath. Along with the neighboring Dinka, the Nuer form a subdivision of a larger East African cultural group known as the Nilotics that also includes the Luo, Shilluk, and Anyuak. The Nuer live in South Sudan in the swamps and open savanna on both sides of the Nile River south of its junction with the Sobat and Bahr-al-Ghazal and along both banks of those tributaries. Nuer territory lies approximately 500 miles (800 kilometers) south of Khartoum, the capital of Sudan. The Nuer are so similar to the Dinka in physical appearance, language, and customs that there is no doubt about their common origin, though the history of their divergence is unknown. The two peoples, despite intermittent conflicts, live in close proximity, maintain continuous contact, have intermarried, and have borrowed cultural patterns from each other. They have an array of myths and legends that speak of their historical unity. Both groups recognize their common origin.
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