The Birth and Rise of Khartoum

Khartoum is the capital city of Sudan as well as of the Khartoum State. It was born to the country in the year 1821 later to become an Anglo-Egyptian garrison. According to some authentic sources, the word 'Khartoum' is said to have been derived from the Arabic word 'Al-Khurtoom'. In English, this is translated as 'the end of an elephant's trunk'. The name probably came about due to the narrow land running between the Blue Nile and the White Nile. It is at the meeting point of these two rivers that the city of Khartoum is situated. The division of the Niles has taken the Sudanese capital to exist in three parts which are recognized as; Khartoum proper, Khartoum North and Omurdman. Hence the city got its nickname, 'The Triangular City'.

The city of Khartoum is eminent amongst the Arab League as well as the entire African continent. This is what leads it to often become a host to important meetings where governmental leaders reach out through their Khartoum flights. In 1821, the Egyptian ruler, Ibrahim Pasha, better known as the son of Muhammad Ali of Egypt, founded Khartoum as an outlying station for the troops of Egyptian Army. What was originally a military settlement grew into a trading center where the infamous Slave Trade was also carried at large. Some troops of the Egyptian Army, who believed in a Sufi Sheikh, Muhammad Ali's being a Mahdi (Mehdi), started to cordon off the city of Khartoum. It was on 13th March 1884, that the Mahdist part of the Egyptian Army led a full scale battle against the British who were fighting back to regain control over the city. Consequently, the Anglo-Egyptian garrison received heavy destruction and an anomalous massacre. As a result of the battle, the Mahdists emerged victorious to which the city, immediately fell after the battle. This Mahdists' victory of 26th January 1885 lasted nearly 13 years when they were defeated by the British on 2nd September 1898 who successfully gained control over Khartoum. This battle was a highly bloody one which greatly shook Omurdman. In 1899, Khartoum was declared the capital of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan and later of the Republic of the Sudan, on independence in 1956.

A number of theories have been popularized regarding the planning of this city. Some say its design has been inspired from the Union Jack to portray the power of British while others regard it as a rather defensive one. The latter school of thought has it that the grids and diagonal streets have been designed to allow machine guns to easily run through the city without hindrance.

Ever since Sudan has gained independence, a highly negative image of Khartoum has co-existed with its significance in many aspects. Where on one hand, Khartoum is well proving the fact that Sudan has one of the fastest growing economies in the world, the city has seen many terrorist incidents. Those of 1973, 1998, 2005 and 2008 are particularly infamous. However the US cruise missile attacks that destroyed a pharmaceutical factory in retaliation to the bombings on US embassy in 1998, resulted in ruining the factory, now a tourist attraction. Khartoum hosted the 1978 summit of Organization of African Unity which later became African Union. The 2006 summits of African Union and Arab League were also hosted by Khartoum.

Source by Muhammad Amir Islam

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