My memories of Khartoum the Capital City of Sudan
By Mahmoud A. Suleiman
I am writing about the City of Khartoum 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. Furthermore, I am not going to write about the deadly decisions taken from within the corridors of the successive governments based in Khartoum to produce the suffering for the people of Sudan, whether in the north, the south, east, center and west of the country. In a nutshell, I will be writing about unforgettable personal memories occurred during my presence in this great historic city!
The origin of the name Khartoum
Opinions varied about the origin of the name Khartoum. three assumptions that people think behind the reasons of naming the capital of Sudan with the term Khartoum.
Perhaps one of the Likely sources of the label attributes to the original Arabic meaning with respect to the location of the city at the confluence of the two Rivers White and Blue Niles likening the piece of the land to the trunk/hose of an elephant- proboscis – like tongue that extends into the water. However, there is another historical novel version told that the Romans after their conquest of Egypt they sent a crusade to Sudan and reached the site of current Khartoum. There they found the sunflower plant and called it safflower – qurtum by Egyptians – and they took its grains and compressed it to get its oil that used for healing the wounds of their soldiers. By the passage of time, the word safflower turned to Khartoum. There is also third view which is contrary to the former views, but it lacks historical support. It says that the origin of the word Khartoum was Khor al-Toum, meaning the Creek of Tom!
Khartoum, which means in Arabic “an elephant proboscis or trunk” in view of its site where the meeting of the two rivers, the White and Blue Niles forming the River Nile Proboscis-like in the form of a triangle and hence was named the ‘Triangular Capital’ made-up of Three Cities of Khartoum, Omdurman and Khartoum North. The capital of Sudan is located at the confluence of three rivers: the White Nile flowing from Ugandan territories of Lake Victoria and the Blue Nile flowing from its main reservoir in the Ethiopian territory of Lake Tan. The two Rivers meet at their Confluence referred to “Mogran” forming the Great River Nile that flows northbound toward Egypt before emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.
People refer to the Capital City of Sudan the ‘Triangular Capital’ made up of the three Towns of Omdurman along the West Bank of the Nile and the White Nile River, and the second town Khartoum, which extends along the south bank of the Blue Nile and the east bank of the White Nile. The third town is Khartoum North along the east bank of the Nile River and the north bank of the Blue Nile River. Each of the three Towns that make the Capital City Khartoum has a specific task and specific function to perform as expected. For example, Khartoum acts as a commercial centre and political den, Omdurman town acting as a Literary and cultural centre whereas Khartoum North is a Centre for various industries.
Since Khartoum is the capital of Sudan, there are offices of the state and its governmental institutions, ministries and foreign embassies and international and regional organizations. There is also the main airport (Khartoum International Airport), and the main railway station in addition to the museums, hotels and higher educational institutions, most notably the University of Khartoum and its prestigious colleges and institutes. The University of Khartoum is a multi-campus, co-educational, public university located in Khartoum. It is the largest and oldest university in Sudan. This beside the other high institutions and health services, such as Khartoum Teaching Hospital and the main markets and commercial premises and banks.
Neighbourhoods of the Three Town Capital Khartoum:
Some important neighborhoods of Khartoum: neighborhoods – Sorted in proportion to the proximity to the centre of the capital:
Airport-neighborhood, Railway neighborhood, Khartoum two, Khartoum three, Burri, Burri-lamab, Nasser-extension, Garden-city, Manshiya, Greif-west, Riyadh, Taif, Amarat, Arkeweet, Hilla-jadeeda, Saggana, al-Shajara, Diyoum-sharg, al-Sahafa, Jabra, Azozab (Wad-Ajeeb, Azozab, Dabbaseen), Imtidad-daraja-talta, al-Ushara, Nuzha = Promenade, Kalakla Neighbourhoods including gala, Gutiya, Gubba, Sangaat, Wahda, Sharg-Wadamara), Andalus former Darussalam, Ingaz, Mayo, al-Salama, al-Lamab, Mujahideen, al-Mamoora, al-Mogran, al-Amal, Azhari, Soba East, Jebel-Awliya, al-Rumaila, al-Gouz, al-Dukhainat, al-Shigailab, Taiba-al-Hassanab, Traiatal- Beja, al- Salamaniya, Abu Adam, Ed-Hussein, Wad-al-Agli and al-Maygoma.
Khartoum North has many neighbourhoods, some of which are:
Al-Amlak Neighbourhood, Kober neighbourhood, Kafuri, Bahri Industrial Area, al-Haj Yousif, al –Sababi, al-Danagla-north, al-Danagla-south, Hilat Hamad, Hilat Khojali, Hilat Koko, Greif-Sharg, al-Shabiya-north, al-Shabiya- south, al-Mazad, al-Mulazmeen, al-Mirghania, al-Safia, Shambat, Halfaya, Drowshab, Um-al-Gura, al-Kadarow.
Omdurman has two groups of Neighbourhoods, Old and New Neighbourhoods:
Old Neighbourhoods include al-Umara, al-Mawrada, al-Mulazmeen, Wad Nubawi, Abu Roof, al-Umda, Mekki, al-Busta, Al-Arab, Al-Mazahir, al-Masalma, al-Rakabiya, al-Abbasiya, Abu-Kadouk, al-Dubbat, Banat, Abu-Anja, al-Kabajab, Wad-al- Banna, al-Ababda, Al-Mustashfa (Hospital Neighbourhood), al-Arda and the Shanty neighbourhood referred to as al-Gamayir and al-Arda Neighbourhood and Hai al-Yahood (the Jewish quarter – Jewish Ghetto of Omdurman ). It is noteworthy here that the ghetto was no different from the neighborhoods of the other people in the city of Omdurman in terms of peaceful coexistence, mutual respect, and there is no persecution because of the belief. In the City of Omdurman, the Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other Sudanese lived as citizens and neighbors throughout the eras.
New Neighbourhoods include al-Thawra neighbourhoods starting by Number 1 Mahdiya to 106 Districts, Rawda neighbourhood, Madinat al-Neel, al-Shati neighbourhood, Riyadh neighbourhood, Hattana, Waha neighbourhood, al-Manara, al-Garrafa, The three main Umbadda neighbourhoods- Sabeel – Radmiya – Jimaiab but extending to up to Districts 50 , Muhandiseen, Awdah, Fitehab, Shigla, Murabbaat, Dar-al-Salam, al-Salha West and East.
District= حارة Neighbourhood=حى
Origins of the Name Omdurman for the Town of Omdurman
People differed in the source of naming of Omdurman and went several doctrines and novels of tales about the name. Of all the speculations the most likely view is that the name of a woman from the Nuba Mountains. Her son Durman for one reason or another came to this spot and resided. Later on his mother joined him and ever since the pace took the name (Um-Durman) which meant the mother of Durman!
In the city of Omdurman, as a culture and arts centre, we find the Sudanese National Theatre, the famous radio station that says “Huna Omdurman – Here is Omdurman” In addition to the TV station.
My memories in Khartoum begins in 1963 when I was admitted to the Faculty of science as an undergraduate student at the University of Khartoum and then to the Faculty of medicine and as a clinical medical student trainee at Khartoum teaching hospital. I then became a teaching assistant in the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of medicine, which sent me on a scholarship to the United Kingdom for postgraduate studies in psychological medicine to come back to the medical College to be a member of the teaching staff of the University of Khartoum. During my period in Khartoum, I lived in various Khartoum neighbourhoods and districts. Initially I lived in a property rented by the Khartoum University for me at al- Amlak neighbourhood in Khartoum North and I then moved to live in a Khartoum North suburb in the village of Drowshab until my secondment to the Medical College of the Gulf State of Kuwait in 1982. After five years of teaching medical students there, I returned to Khartoum to become the head of the Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of medicine, University of Khartoum. That time I managed to own a house in the neighbourhood of Mamoora. My memories of Khartoum are almost mostly all related revolved around the University of Khartoum, as a student and as a member of its teaching staff. Accordingly, I have documented its details in my book in English about my life story with my own pen, so to speak, in the book titled:The autobiography I wrote begins at a Zaghawa Village in Darfur. The Book was published in 2010 by the Author House in the UK, ISBN -13:9781452025872.
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