Khartoum and Omdurman
Khartoum has a relatively short history. It was first established as a military outpost in 1821, and is said to derive its name from the thin spit of land at the convergence of the rivers, which resembles an elephant's trunk (khurtum). Khartoum grew rapidly in prosperity during the boom years of the slave trade, between 1825 and 1880. In 1834 it became the capital of the Sudan, and many explorers from Europe used it as a base for their African expeditions.
Today's Khartoum is a quiet, unremarkable city. It has peaceful, tree-lined streets, and in some ways still bears the unmistakable mark of an outpost of the British Empire. Its expansion to accommodate a rapidly-growing population, however, has added very little in terms of charm or atmosphere.
Places to visit in Khartoum
Ethnographical Museum. This is a small museum which contains an interesting collection of items relating to Sudanese village life. These include musical instruments, clothing, cooking and hunting implements.
Places to visit in Omdurman
Camel Market. This is situated about 2km north of Omdurman's main souq. Animals are mostly brought from eastern or western areas of the Sudan.
Tomb of the Mahdi. On the death of the Mahdi in 1885, his body was entombed in a silver-domed mosque in Omdurman. This was completely destroyed by Kitchener in 1898, when the Mahdi's body was burned and his ashes thrown into the river. In 1947 the Mahdi's son had the mosque and tomb rebuilt. Not surprisingly, it is closed to foreigners, but can be viewed from the outside.
Beit al-Khalifa. This is situated opposite the Mahdi's tomb. Once the home of the Mahdi's successor, the house was built of mud and brick in 1887, and is now a museum. It contains relics from Mahdiyya battles, including guns, war banners and suits of mail. An interesting collection of photographs depicts the city of Khartoum at the time of the Mahdi's revolt and its subsequent occupation by the British.
The harbor is in
the mouth of a gulf continuing seaward through a coral-free channel
60–85 feet (18–26 m) deep. Imports include machinery, vehicles, fuel
oil, and building materials. Cotton, gum Arabic, oilseeds, hides and
skins, and senna are the chief exports. An oil pipeline about 528
miles (850 km) in length, between the port and Khartoum city, was
completed in 1977. Port Sudan has a near-desert climate,
necessitating the acquisition of fresh water from Wadi Arba'at in
the Red Sea Hills and from salt-evaporating pans. The population,
mainly Arab or Nubian Sudanese, includes the indigenous Beja, West
Africans, and small minorities of Asians and Europeans.