The inhabitants of old Nubia formed riverine communities clustered in villages along the banks of the Nile. Prior to relocation, Nubia was located between Aswan in Egypt and 150 kilometers into Sudan. The Kenuz occupied the northern area, the Arabs resided in the middle, and the Nubians were located in the south of Egypt and the north of Sudan. About 50,000 Sudanese Nubians and 70,000 Egyptian Nubians were relocated. There were attempts in the relocation plans to maintain the location of the villages in relation to each other.
The villages are further divided into hamlets. The size of the village, the number of its hamlets, and the density of its population are directly related to the width of the agricultural land. The villages with wider agricultural land were smaller, had higher population density and contained fewer hamlets. The hamlet is both a regional and kinship unit of settlement. The inhabitants are related to each other by marriage and descent. Three types of hamlet existed in old Nubia. In a patrilineal hamlet, all inhabitants were descended from the same patriarch, and the hamlet was named after this common ancestor. A second type of hamlet includes members of various patrilineal clans who are related through matrilineal descent and is usually named after the male founder of the settlement. In some hamlets, inhabitants are not related at all.
The hamlet is further divided into dwelling quarters. In patrilineal hamlets, each family is connected to the dwelling quarter by patrilineal descent. In other types of hamlets, the dwelling quarters reflect patrilineal clan/tribal affiliations. In all types of hamlets, dwelling quarters were separated from each other by natural divisions, including small hills and barren land. Inside the dwelling quarters, closeness of patrilineal relationship determines the spatial location of housing. Each hamlet had a mosque and a modiafah or a mandara, visiting quarters. The relocation of the Nubians presented new experiences to which they had to adapt. In Egypt, Nubian villages were given their old names, but, rather than being located along the banks of the Nile, were 3 to 10 kilometers away. The palm trees that were characteristic of the old Nubian environment did not exist in the new villages. The rocky hills that separated the villages and hamlets from each other also did not exist. The previous widely separated hamlets were brought together, thus increasing the density of the settlements. In old Nubia, a hamlet often represented a clan or kinship unit. In New Nubia, the dwelling patterns were built in four blocks to the size of the living quarters, and during resettlement houses were allocated on the basis of family size. As a result, the dwelling patterns that were based on kinship disappeared. In Sudan, the Nubian villages were no longer located at the banks of the Nile. Instead they were located at the Atbara River, which is narrower than the Nile. Their agricultural land, unlike that in old Nubia, was broad, and they had to cope with rotational crops.