My Memories of the City of Port Sudan the Sudan’s Maritime outlet to the World
By Mahmoud A. Suleiman
I am writing about the City of Port Sudan from a very different perspective than the disastrous events and atrocities continued plaguing the people of Sudan in Darfur who have endured genocide, ethnic cleansing and other atrocities for over a decade and related to the issue/crisis of the region that I wrote about in my previous articles and books.
The history indicates that the City of Port Sudan dates back to 1909 when founded by the British Colonials. It played as a terminus of a railway linking the Red Sea to the Nile. Port Sudan eventually replaced Sawakin as more modern city. The railroad played pivotal role in transporting Sudan’s agricultural cash crops including Cotton, Sesame and Sorghum from the agriculturally productive areas such the Gezira Agricultural Scheme to outside markets. The city of Port Sudan is 675 kilometres from the capital, Khartoum.. Reference Wikipedia the Free Encyclopedia at the link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Sudan.
The people use the word Deim instead of neighborhood in the City of Port Sudan.
A countless number of Duyoums (a plural of Deim) exist in the City. These Duyoums are in three groups according to Geographical location as follows:
They includeDeimSawakin, Deim Jabir, Deim Mousa, Deim Milaha, Deim Water al-Zait, Deim Korea, Airport Neighbourhood, Shati Neighbourhood, Post Office Neighbourhood, Shajara Neighbourhood, al-Mirghania, Dar-Naeem, Dar-Salam, al-Riyadh, Ganayen (Gardens) Area, Filip, Yathrib, Awaj-al-Darib and Garb al-Zalat.
They include Big Market Neighbourhood, Deim Madina, Deim Arab, Tagaddum Neighbourhood, Onguwab, Deim Sigin or Prison Neighbourhood, Greeks Neighbourhood, Khour Ki lab Neighbourhood, Azama Neighbourhood, Dabayo, Deim Mayo, Salalab East and West Neighbourhoods, Deim Wahda, Shagar, Ishlag Silah Jawi, Iskandariya and Al-Laloba.
Eastern mainland Duyoums
They include Deim al-Nur, Deim –Askala, al-Gadisiya, Um-al-Gura, Abu-Hashish, al-Thawrat, Deim Hadal, Deim Salabona and Deim al-Tigani.
The population of the city of Port Sudan
Port Sudan is one of the Sudanese cities, which has diverse demographics, by virtue of its function as a major port and an important commercial centre in the Sudan. Moreover, Port Sudan plays the role of gate for Sudan that receives large numbers of people belonging to different ethnic origins from outside Sudan, besides the indigenous Beja, the Arabs, Hausa and other Sudanese. The City also received, groups of people from West Africa, Eritrea, Ethiopia and some Asians (especially Indians and Chinese) and Europeans.
The Beja tribal groups form various Native Administration Nazarat headed by a Nazir as follows: Nazarat Amarar, Nazarat Hadandawa, al-Bishareen, Beni Amir and al-Hubab. Moreover, they also form Amodiyas as al-Kameelab, al-Arteaga and al-Ashraf and as well as al-Rashaida Tribes. The area of Port Sudan has as well tribes from northern, southern andwestern Sudan. Those different tribes, who came from all over the Sudan coexisted in peace, harmony, security, intermarried with each other, and formed a cohesive social fabric.
The Weather in Port Sudan is hot and dry in summer and warm rainy in winter.
Port Sudan has salty soil along the Red Sea coast and some of the fertile land in the south.
People in Port Sudan area work in various professions such as employment in the port of shipment and unloading ships, or in the fishing industry and as well as in government jobs The rural folks are interested in raising cattle and sheep and camels. Other businesses include agriculture, horticulture and besides maritime activity and tourism.
The business of the population
Memories from the past of Port Sudan
I shall continue to remember Dr. Mohammed Osman Jiritley, the Province Medical Officer of Health (PMOH) of the Eastern Sudan (The Red Sea Province), who generously received our group of 5th Year Medical Students in the 1968 when we went to Port Sudan for Midwifery Course, as part of training in Rural Health in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. The course was an assignment by the Department of Public and Community Health of the Faculty of Medicine for the Fifth Year Students. Dr. Jiritley found an accommodation for our group. Moreover, he helped us to achieve our objectives in spite of the uncooperativeness of the Obstetrician for no obvious reason other than cost implications of our stay. Dr. Jiritley is an artist, poet and a person with a plethora of good qualities among which were generosity and magnanimity. I send him my sincere greetings and appreciation and ask Almighty God to grant him health, wellness and longevity.
Our journey from Khartoum to Port Sudan was by Train. The train took a tortuous route started from Khartoum Central station to Khartoum North, Halfaya, Drowshab, Kadarow, Faki Hashim, al-Khojalab, Saggaya, then Shendi, City of Atbara, then crossed through number of villages and hamlets to Aariyab (gold mining area) and Durdaib, to Haiya, followed by Sinkat, and Jebait, and Sawakin to end at Port Sudan.
We spent six weeks in Port Sudan attending childbirth at homes (domiciliary midwifery) until each of us managed to attend twenty deliveries and completed our tasks, which endorsed by Dr. Jiritley and the Obstetrician in charge. The course involved accompanying the local community midwives to the homes where expectant mothers were reported to be in Labour. Most of our work, at the time, was around and in the more deprived districts and poor neighborhoods of the city of Port Sudan such as Daim Ramla, Daim-Arab, Daim-Madina, Daim-Abu Hashish, Kuriya, Arbaat, Trab-Hadal, Salabona, Daim-al-Nour, Transit and Al-Thawrat. Other districts of the city included Flamingo and Ramona.
Sawakin سواكن Sawakin
Prior to leaving Port Sudan for Khartoum, our group was invited for trip to the Red Sea port town of Sawakin by friends among them my x-room-mate best friend Dr. Hassan Ahmed Ajabna pharmacist. The Sawakin (Suakin), we visited was the old town in the Red Sea coast, just south of the modern harbour and the City of Port Sudan, where are the remains of the late-Medieval city Suakin. Our journey was by a car. On arrival, we took a tour around to enjoy seeing that historic town. We were shown the Shahine Palace (Arabic Qasr Shaheen) and the alleged family home of Abdel Karim Alkabli, (عبد الكريم الكابلي) a poet, composer, and folklorist who plays the Oud (luteالعود ) with deceptive ease and whose deep melodious voice embraces both classical and ‘Arabic styles and was born in Port Sudan on the Red Sea coast.
The Red Sea Coast, which extends for more than 700 kilometers, including diving and under-water photography, besides boat rowing and water skiing is characterized by many tourist attractions The Red Sea Coast also enjoys many gulfs and coral reefs as the area is free from contamination which plagues many seas and tourist areas in the world. People believed that Sawakin has derived its name from a number of legendary stories dating back to the era of the biblical King Solomon or Prophet Suleiman son of David (Daoud) PBUH and Queen of Sheba, Arabic: ملكة سبأ, her first name was Balgees. History told that King Solomon used to imprison theJinn in Sawakin. However, the name Sawakin for the Beja people means a market, (Usuk) or (Osauk) in their language!
This Old City of Sawakin once was considered the most important emporium on the west coast of the Red Sea and on one of the main routes of the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. The history of Sawakin (Suakin) indicates that it was the main port and trading capital before that was moved to Port Sudan. It had been a trading centre for over 3,000 years. Despite the dilapidated condition of most of the ruined buildings, the former glory of the town is still evident. Most of the rough surfaces of the coral walls were hidden behind decorated plaster and worked wood. The city gate (‘Gordon’s Gate’) and the Hanafy Mosque were waiting for a rescue and restoration. Remarkable are the presence of several cannon within the city limits. An earthen wall and several defensive towers seemed preserved on the main land. It was quite a scene where there were many ruined buildings, apparently due to age and poor building materials. The harbour remained used by three large ferries to Jeddah (and Mecca) as well as by numerous small fishing vessels.
Legendary Stories about Sawakin Cats (قطط وكدايس سواكن)
People believed that the name Sawakin came from the word Sawajinn because King Solomon was reported to imprison the jinn in this place! There had been several stories about the behaviour of the Cats in Sawakin and Port Sudan. A woman named Umm Ahmed says that she used to hear stories since her childhood about Cats, which had the ability to talk, and that such legends inspired her to write creatively. She thinks those large cats with different colour shades are odd and unusual. Umm Ahmed who is a writer said, “I saw large cats of black, white and other colours of the spectrum. These cats tend to frequent the restaurants. and when you begin to eat your meal one of them would reach out one of its front legs as if begging and saying please give me food! If you do not respond, it will forcibly grab the plate and take the food. These cats act strangely and display unfamiliar behaviour. This is coupled with their huge size and peculiar looks give the impression that they are capable of speaking and in reality they are weird and frightening”!
Gone by the good old days; my cherished memories remained through the decades!
Dr. Mahmoud A. Suleiman is an author, columnist and a blogger. His blog is https://thussudan.wordpress.com/