The elegant building shown in these pictures lies in the centre of Khartoum and was once the residence of Sayyid ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi, the son of al-Mahdi. As the founder of the modern Ansar movement and a prominent nationalist figure in the formation of an independent Sudan, he is perhaps the most important political figure in the country’s twentieth century’s history. He died in 1959 and for some years the building was used as the National Record Office (national archives).
My photographs were taken in the early 2000’s. Unfortunately, a few years ago the building was half demolished and then left in a ruined state. Land prices in the centre of Khartoum are very high and exert pressure on development, but town planning should surely be balanced with keeping representative examples of buildings from the past. It was a great shame that this palatial building dating from 1918, with its beautiful garden and historical connections, should have been damaged in this way.
Many congratulations to Edmund Wyatt for finally publishing his biography of William George Browne, the first European to travel along the Forty Days Road and reach Darfur.
From the balcony of my apartment in Khartoum North I enjoy a great panoramic view of central Khartoum. On the opposite bank in startling whiteness is the presidential palace built on the ruins of General Charles Gordon’s last stand. Encircling and dwarfing the palace are the glassed high-rise towers of a modern city that is rapidly shedding the faded appearance of its colonial past. Continue reading
I knew straight away that I wasn’t going to see the lions eat. They lay drowsily within their cage at the zoo in Khartoum North as the zookeeper carefully placed his hand inside the cage and rubbed the neck of the lioness. A sure way to lose your fingers or hand I thought. But no it wasn’t dangerous he explained because this lioness had been tamed through her years of human contact.
Rather you than me I thought…
Keeping lions in the Sudan goes back a long way. ‘Abd al-Rahman al Rashid (Sultan of Darfur, 1787-1803) kept a pair of lions that were apparently so tame that they could be led into the market at El Fasher to feed on the offal from the butchers’ stalls.
Before leaving the grounds of the Republican Palace Museum, I cast my eyes for a moment on the immense structure of the new Presidential Palace with its imposing arched entrance and domed roof. A little further up the road is Nimeiri’s monument to national unity and the Shuhuda gardens – a square with some sad memories. Continue reading
At first glance the newly widened Nile Avenue Road looks like a pleasant place to continue a Friday morning stroll but look again and there is no escaping the signs forbidding pedestrians, rickshaws and horn blowing. A short detour can be made easily enough by turning left at the old Public Works Department, a building whose roof tiles seem ironically to be in a constant state of sliding off.
At the end of this short road, I turn right into one of the most beautiful tree-lined roads in Khartoum, Gami’a Avenue. The first building on the right hand side used to house the NCO’s mess while a little further on there is a barracks that still houses the Republican Guards. Opposite them is an orange cubic building that used to be the Khartoum Club.
More aesthetically pleasing though is the fine sandstone building of the former Anglican Cathedral of All Saints that now serves as the Republican Palace Museum. Continue reading
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. Continue reading