Kush (also known as Nubia) was the empire to the south of Egypt. Kush was built in at the base of the mountains, at the start of the Nile River. They didn't have to worry, as the Egyptians did, about the annual flooding of the Nile to bring good soil. They had good soil. They enjoyed plenty of rainfall all year long to keep things fresh and growing.
Kush had tremendous natural wealth. They had gold mines and ivory and iron ore. Other kingdoms wanted to conquer Kush and keep the wealth for themselves. Kush did not allow this to happen. They were known as the Land of the Bow because of their many expert archers.
The nobles lived along the Nile River. They thought of themselves as Egyptians, although the Egyptians would not have agreed. They lived in similar houses and worshiped the same gods as the ancient Egyptians, with a couple of additional gods tossed in, like the three-headed lion god. Unlike the Egyptians, their rulers were queens, rather than kings or pharaohs. They mummified their dead. They built tombs with flat roofs.
Like the Kush nobles, the common people mummified their dead, and worshiped the same gods. But they did not think of themselves as Egyptians. The common people lived in villages. They were farmers. They were proud of their village. Each village had a leader, but the leader was not a king or queen or chief. The leader did not rule. Rather, the leader suggested and led discussions. The villagers decided.
There was a place in Kush where two or more villages might meet. You had to be invited, but if invited, you knew where to go, as the meeting place was always the same. Festivals were held in the meeting place.
One of Kush's natural resources was iron ore. This was the Iron Age. Everyone wanted iron weapons and iron tools. Kush was the center of the iron trade in the ancient African world. To produce iron from ore, Kush needed to burn wood. Wood was running out. Kush had to turn their attention to other trade goods to survive.
They had heard stories of the wonderful gold mines on the other side of Africa. It was a very long trip. The Sahara Desert was in the way. Around 750 CE, Kush tried using camels and camel trains to cross the sea of sand. It was dangerous. It was miserable. But as Kush traders discovered, it could be done. Kush turned their attention to the trade with West Africa. This was the beginning of the Trans-Sahara Trade Route.