Early Friday mornings are the best time to explore central Khartoum free from the manic driving and impatient horn beeping that can test the nerve of even the most carelessly shuffling jaywalker.
My occasional Friday morning stroll usually starts not far from my home in Khartoum North, an industrial and residential area that sadly lacks a public river side walk of its own. I cross the Blue Nile Bridge that vibrates alarmingly as buses, lorries, cars and the occasional train trundle across it. Strangely the oldest bridge in Khartoum still takes the strain while the modern Mak Nimr Bridge is reserved for lighter private cars. But this 1910 steel construction still looks reassuringly solid even if the wooden path for pedestrians (and animals) has wobbly planks. Apparently at one time the middle span lifted for river navigation but it hasn’t done so since at least the 1950s and its hard today to see exactly how it ever unlocked itself.
Once over the bridge, turn right and walk along the pleasant tree-lined Nile Avenue. On my left are the impressive buildings of the University of Khartoum while on the shoreward side are grassed areas where people often sit and relax in the late afternoon. Soon you will arrive at the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St Matthews, a turreted mock gothic building which has an attractive rose window on its front elevation. As a former pupil of the adjacent Sisters’ School I became familiar with the building. Nearly opposite is the Blue Nile Sailing Club that has the Melik Gunboat as its headquarters. Having passed under the Mak Nimr Bridge, you will come to a widened stretch of road which was widened and improved between 2012-2013. The first plot on the left houses the modern Ministry of Foreign Affairs but at one time used to be the site of the Sudan Club. Further along are several colonial era buildings but none seem to be the bungalow where on sultry Khartoum nights Rudolf Slatin used to regale European visitors with tales of his struggle for survival in the Mahdist Sudan. The larger building on the corner used to hold the Public Works Department and now marks the point where pedestrians have to turn south.