Pictures of the Kushite ruins of northern Sudan always remind me of Shelley’s poem Ozymandias:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains.
Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
In this poem the art of the sculptor has survived long after the dynasty and empire of Ozymandias has crumbled. History is indeed littered with fallen empires. Looking through old maps of Khartoum reminds me of the decline and fall of the British Empire and the Egyptian Khedive.
Horatio Herbert Kitchener, the archetypal imperial servant, had an avenue and school named after him in Khartoum. The street has been renamed ‘Ali ‘Abd al-Latif, after a Sudanese nationalist of Dinka origins who became a hero when he was imprisoned for submitting a critical newspaper article in 1922. He then went on to form the White Flag League which sought political union with Egypt. Kitchener’s statue, which used to stand next to the War Department’s HQ on the Nile Embankment, was evacuated to northern Kent.
The following streets were also renamed following independence:
Abbas Avenue (an Egyptian Governor of Sudan and grandson of Muhammad ‘Ali) became Al Baladiya Street (named after the municipal council)
Abbas Square became the United Nations Square
Sirdar Avenue (commander in chief of the British controlled Egyptian Army -Kitchener again!) became Al Gamhuriya Street (after the republic)
Khedive Avenue (name given to the ruler of Egypt and Sudan acting as the Turkish viceroy) is now Al Gam’a Street (named after the University of Khartoum)
Othman Digna, that brave old firebrand of the Mahdiya, is no doubt smiling from his grave in the Red Sea Hills to have a street in Khartoum named after him long after his jailors have departed. Other choices seem stranger today: Zubayr Pasha, a ruthless nineteenth century slave trader who became governor of Bahr al-Ghazal and Darfur!
(co-written and researched with Edmund Wyatt)