1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Khartum

KHARTUM, the capital of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, on the left bank of the Blue Nile immediately above its junction with the White Nile in 15° 36′ N., 32° 32′ E., and 1252 ft. above the sea. It is 432 m. by rail S.W. of Port Sudan, on the Red Sea, and 1345 m. S. of Cairo by rail and steamer. Pop. (1907) with suburbs, but excluding Omdurman, 69,349.

The city, laid out on a plan drawn up by Lord Kitchener in 1898, has a picturesque aspect with its numerous handsome stone and brick buildings surrounded by gardens and its groves of palms and other trees. The river esplanade, 2 m. long, contains the chief buildings. Parallel with it is Khedive Avenue, of equal length. The rest of the city is in squares, the streets forming the design of the union jack. In the centre of the esplanade is the governor-general’s palace, occupying the site of the palace destroyed by the Mahdists in 1885. It is a three-storeyed building with arcaded verandas and a fine staircase leading to a loggia on the first floor. Here a tablet indicates the spot in the old palace where General Gordon fell. In the gardens, which cover six acres, is a colossal stone “lamb” brought from the ruins of Soba, an ancient Christian city on the Blue Nile. The “lamb” is in reality a ram of Ammon, and has an inscription in Ethiopian hieroglyphs. In front of the southern façade, which looks on to Khedive Avenue, is a bronze statue of General Gordon seated on a camel, a copy of the statue by Onslow Ford at Chatham, England. Government offices and private villas are on either side of the palace, and beyond, on the east, are the Sudan Club, the military hospital, and the Gordon Memorial College. The college, the chief educational centre in the Sudan, is a large, many-windowed building with accommodation for several hundred scholars and research laboratories and an economic museum. At the western end of the esplanade are the zoological gardens, the chief hotel, the Coptic church and the Mudiria House (residence of the governor of Khartum). Running south from Khedive Avenue at the spot where the Gordon statue stands, is Victoria Avenue, leading to Abbas Square, in the centre of which is the great mosque with two minarets. On the north-east side of the square are the public markets. The Anglican church, dedicated to All Saints, the principal banks and business houses, are in Khedive Avenue. There are Maronite and Greek churches, an Austrian Roman Catholic mission, a large and well-equipped civil hospital and a museum for Sudan archaeology. Outside the city are a number of model villages (each of the principal tribes of the Sudan having its own settlement) in which the dwellings are built after the tribal fashion. Adjacent are the parade ground and racecourse and the golf-links. A line of fortifications extends south of the city from the Blue to the White Nile. The buildings are used as barracks. Barracks for British troops occupy the end of the line facing the Blue Nile.

On the right (northern) bank of the Blue Nile is the suburb of Khartum North, formerly called Halfaya,[1] where is the principal railway station. It is joined to the city by a bridge (completed 1910) containing a roadway and the railway, Khartum itself being served by steam trams and rickshaws. The steamers for the White and the Blue Nile start from the quay along the esplanade. West of the zoological gardens is the point of junction of the Blue and White Niles and here is a ferry across to Omdurman (q.v.) on the west bank of the White Nile a mile or two below Khartum. In the river immediately below Khartum is Tuti Island, on which is an old fort and an Arab village.

From its geographical position Khartum is admirably adapted as a commercial and political centre. It is the great entrepôt for the trade of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. By the Nile waterways there is easy transport from the southern and western equatorial provinces and from Sennar and other eastern districts. Through Omdurman come the exports of Kordofan and Darfur, while by the Red Sea railway there is ready access to the markets of the world. The only important manufacture is the making of bricks.

The population is heterogeneous. The official class is composed chiefly of British and Egyptians; the traders are mostly Greeks, Syrians and Copts, while nearly all the tribes of the Sudan are represented in the negro and Arab inhabitants.

At the time of the occupation of the Sudan by the Egyptians a small fishing village existed on the site of the present city. In 1822 the Egyptians established a permanent camp here and out of this grew the city, which in 1830 was chosen as the capital of the Sudanese possessions of Egypt. It got its name from the resemblance of the promontory at the confluence of the two Niles to an elephant’s trunk, the meaning of khartum in the dialect of Arabic spoken in the locality. The city rapidly acquired importance as the Sudan was opened up by travellers and traders, becoming, besides the seat of much legitimate commerce, a great slave mart. It was chosen as the headquarters of Protestant and Roman Catholic missions, and had a population of 50,000 or more. Despite its size it contained few buildings of any architectural merit; the most important were the palace of the governor-general and the church of the Austrian mission. The history of the city is intimately bound up with that of the Sudan generally, but it may be recalled here that in 1884, at the time of the Mahdist rising, General Gordon was sent to Khartum to arrange for the evacuation by the Egyptians of the Sudan. At Khartum he was besieged by the Mahdists, whose headquarters were at Omdurman. Khartum was captured and Gordon killed on the 26th of January 1885, two days before the arrival off the town of a small British relief force, which withdrew on seeing the city in the hands of the enemy. Nearly every building in Khartum was destroyed by the Mahdists and the city abandoned in favour of Omdurman, which place remained the headquarters of the mahdi’s successor, the khalifa Abdullah, till September 1898, when it was taken by the Anglo-Egyptian forces under General (afterwards Lord) Kitchener, and the seat of government again transferred to Khartum. It speedily arose from its ruins, being rebuilt on a much finer scale than the original city. In 1899 the railway from Wadi Haifa was completed to Khartum, and in 1906 through communication by rail was established with the Red Sea.

  1. The village of Halfaya, a place of some importance before the foundation of Khartum, is 4 m. to the N., on the eastern bank of the Nile. From the 15th century up to 1821 it was the capital of a small state, tributary to Sennar, regarded as a continuation of the Christian kingdom of Aloa (see Dongola).