A Friday morning stroll in Khartoum (part one)

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

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Queen Vic and the Grand Holiday Villa

The Grand Holiday Villa is a lovely hotel built on the banks of the Nile. It has plenty of old world charm and has been sympathetically restored and extended. I stayed there once with my husband and found the service and food all 5 stars+.

But…

The hotel for some reason makes a couple of fantastic historical claims that are well surely just fantasy. Continue reading

Khartoum Streets (part two)

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. Continue reading

Victoria Avenue, Khartoum

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This picture postcard shows Gordon’s statue in front of the Governor’s Palace at the end of Victoria Avenue. Much of course has changed. Gordon’s statue has been replaced by the monument to national unity that Nimeiri erected in the wake of the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972.

The public gardens on either side of the road are still there but have been fenced off and can sometimes look rather overgrown and forlorn. The palm trees have long gone. Continue reading

Streets of Khartoum

Taking a stroll around central Khartoum is best done early on Friday mornings when the streets are largely deserted of traffic. This is the best time to appreciate a city that is beautiful despite some awful architecture.

Khartoum was the creation of the Anglo-Egyptian Administration who found it in ruins when they arrived with their conquering army in 1898. It has been said by some that Kitchener chose the original road layout so that it resembled the Union Jack of the British flag. Another possible reason is that the design allowed maxim guns to be placed at junctions that covered several streets simultaneously. This would suggest that new rulers didn’t feel entirely at ease, but it seems doubtful that Kitchener had such concerns following the final routing of Mahdist forces in Kordofan in 1899. It is more likely that the pattern simply aided quick movement around the new city, and its effectiveness is one reason why this gridiron pattern has partly survived until now.   Continue reading