J. C. Oates, “Imaginary Cities: America”, in M. C. Jaye and A. C. Watts (eds), Literature and the American Experience: Essays on the City and Literature, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1981, p. 11-33.
The precise phonetic spelling translates to “Ummdurman”. However the commonly used spelling is “Omdurman”. Being a linguist I choose to use the former.
Muhammad Ahmad Al Mahdi was a Sudanese religious and political leader who raised an army after declaring himself the Mahdi (The Guided and Expected One in Islamic tradition) in 1881 and led a successful war of liberation from the Ottoman-Egyptian military occupation. He died soon after the liberation of Khartoum and the State he founded fell victim to colonial maneuverings that doomed it to re-conquest in 1899.
With the victory of Al Mahdi over the British in 1885, Al Mahdi and his successor, the Khalifa Abdullahi, made Ummdurman their capital. Ummdurman was also the scene of one of the largest battles in African history in 1898, the “Battle of Omdurman”, in which the Anglo-Egyptian Forces under Lord Kitchener fought and defeated the Mahdist forces (see footnote 5, below).
In January 1899, an Anglo-Egyptian agreement restored Egyptian rule in Sudan as part of a condominium, or joint authority, exercised by Britain and Egypt. The agreement designated territory south of the twenty-second parallel as the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.
Between 1881 and 1885, the Mahdist State in Sudan defeated four British led armies. The siege of the walled cities of Khartoum and Ummdurman by Mahdist soldiers (defended by 7 000 British troops) lasted from October 21, 1884 to January 21, 1885. Mahdist troops then stormed the city and the British leader General Gordon was killed. Despite great public outcry in England the British did not return to Khartoum for another 14 years. When they did, however, it was with extreme violence. The Khalifa Abdullahi was slain and the corpses of 20,000Mahdists transformed the bank of the Nile into a putrid bloody mass grave. The British took control over Sudan. The story of the spirit of massive resistance of theMahdists is recounted in detail inWinston S. Churchill’s book The River War : An Historical Account of the Reconquest of the Soudan, vol. II, Col. F. Rhodes. D.S.O. (ed.), London, Longmans, Green and Co., 1899 [1st ed.], p. 107-164.
From A. Al-Mak (ed.), Diwan Khaleel Farah, Khartoum, Khartoum University Press, 1977, p. 185. Translations from Arabic, in this instance as hereafter, are mine.
See M. Saeed Al-Gaddal, Tareekh Al Sudan Al Hadeeth (History of Modern Sudan : 1820-1955), Khartoum, Al-Amal Press, 1992, p. 331-339.
M. Ibrahim Al-Shoosh, Some Background Notes on Modern Sudanese Poetry, Khartoum, Institute of Extramural Studies, University of Khartoum, 1966, p. 6-7.
See M. Saeed Al-Gaddal, Tareekh Al Sudan Al Hadeeth …, op. cit., p. 322-324.
M. Abd Al-Hai, Conflict and Identity: The Cultural Poetics of Contemporary Sudanese Poetry, Khartoum, Khartoum University Press, 1976, p. 13.
Al Fajr, vol. 1, n° 22, 16 June 1935, p. 1040-1045.
A second poem by this author, one of the most prominent figures of the Forest and Desert School, appears at the end of the present essay.
M. Al-Makki Ibraheem, Poetic Works, Ummdurman, Abd Al-Kareem Merghani Cultural Centre, 2000, p. 216-224.
M. Al-Faytoori, PoeticWorks, Cairo, Egyptian General Corporation for Books, vol. I., 1998 [4th ed.], p. 65.
Modern conceptions of “creativity” are so diverse and extensive that there is no universally agreed upon definition of it. In this article, my view of creative activity is that of a multi-faceted phenomenon that manifests itself in the form of a set of processes that are greatly influenced by “socio-cultural” dynamics. Consequently, it is necessary, in my opinion, to depart from the mere physical manifestations of “city space” in order to be able to “read” Khartoum as a discursive, cultural and social entity.
A porous earthenware container used in Sudanese houses to keep water cool.