The History of Khartoum
أبو سليم، محمد ابراهيم. تاريخ الخرطوم. بيروت: دار الجيل، ١٩۷٩، ٢١٤ص. 

Abu Salim, Muhammad Ibrahim. Tarikh al-Khurtum. Beirut: Dar al-Jil, 1979, 214pp.


The History of Khartoum

تاريخ الخرطوم

The book deals with the urban history of Khartoum. The introduction discusses the history of urbanisation in the Khartoum region since the era of the ancient Christian Kingdoms, as well as during the Sennar Kingdom (1504-1821). It then discusses the Sheikhs of the Mahas tribe who founded the villages which went on to form the nucleus of Khartoum, North Khartoum and Omdurman. It goes on to detail the Turkish 1821 conquest of Khartoum which became the seat of governance in 1830. 

The book then addresses urbanisation during the Turkish era, including the provision of building material and the import of skilled workers from Egypt. It discusses the appointment of a responsible agent for the governmental buildings and examines the efforts aimed at encouraging officials and citizens to build their own houses. It proceeds with a description of the town, its various neighbourhoods, the administrative systems, education and life in Khartoum, including the demographic make-up which included Sudanese as well as Europeans and Arabs. It then describes the buildings and streets, the role of government, urban services and currencies in circulation at that time. This is followed by a description of the fall of Khartoum in January 1885 to the Mahdi, leading to the end of urban life there in its entirety and the transfer of rule to Omdurman.

Thereafter the author deals with the establishment of the Mahdist State and describes the emergence of Omdurman, depicting the evolution of this area and detailing the town’s quarters, important buildings found within its walls, government departments, river transport, the manufacture of weapons and the minting of money. After this, it explains the fall of the Mahdist State in September 1898 and describes the mausoleum of the Mahdi along with other important buildings, and the caliph’s interest in building wide and symmetrical streets. The author dedicates the seventh section to the planning of Khartoum during the era of Kitchener who sought to establish a European-style town for the English rulers while reserving Omdurman for subjects. It then describes the main features of the town’s planning. The author then examines government departments and the date of their establishment, as well as the residential district and its division into three tiers.

It is worth noting that on page 135 the author remarks that the planning of the town was of great interest during the era of Kitchener, which was not the case under Turkish rule. This observation is, however, contradicted in section two of page 31 by the author’s discussion of the contents of the Khedive’s order relating to the town. The author’s statement that the era of Kitchener was the first time in which Sudanese towns were pre-planned is also contradicted in section seven on pages 144-145, where he implies that the new town was established according to the same planning used during the Turkish era.

The last three sections chronicle the successive modifications made to Khartoum’s layout after its conquest, including their dates as well as the reasons and motivations behind these. The sections also discuss the arrival of the railways, the erection of two bridges over the Blue and White Niles and their impact on the movement of residents, and the expansion of the three towns until after independence. 

Fathi Bashir
Translated by Hugh Lovatt
Bashir, Fathi. “English abstract of 'The History of Khartoum'". Translated by Hugh Lovatt. In Cities as Built and Lived Environments: Scholarship from Muslim Contexts, 1875 to 2011, by Aptin Khanbaghi, 131. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Muslim Civilisations Abstracts - The Aga Khan University
Related Documents