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Khartoum and the Blue and White Niles,, v2, 1852,|
by George Melly, p. 82-115:
The next morning we went on board a crazy boat, and, impelled by a strong north wind, soon crossed to the confluence of the two rivers. The White Nile is not whiter than the Blue Nile is blue, yet there is a difference of colour, and the former has the strongest current and twice the breadth of the other. For three-quarters of a mile, the two rivers can be distinctly traced running side by side. We sailed up, or rather down, the Blue Nile, as near Khartoum it takes a considerable bend. About three miles from the point of junction is the town; in the intermediate space are two villages—in one the people are employed in ship-building.
Khartoum, seen from the river, is a long mud wall, with several houses just peering above it, among which, most conspicuous, is the residence of the Governor, with its offices, the old Government House, and the Catholic Chapel and Mission. We proceeded to the Governor's offices, through a large open ground, in which two companies of troops, the best dressed and accoutred of any I have seen since I left Europe, were changing guard, each company led by a soldier with a bedstead on his bayonet. He being the officer, and the only one allowed such a luxury, the rest always sleeping on the ground. We next arrived at a court, in which were several brass pieces, then entered a large room fitted up with Turkish divans and European chairs. This was "the Divan."
At one end sat Latiffe Pacha [Abd al-Latif Pasha, c1805—1883], General in the Army, Admiral of the Fleet, and Governor of the Soudan, from Philse to the furthest possessions of the Pacha of Egypt. He looks like a man capable of being all this and more, as he possesses a fine figure, a good face, set off with a remarkably fair complexion, and a beautifully trimmed moustache and beard as black as jet. These advantages were assisted by the handsomest Asiatic dress I have seen—a suit of dark blue cloth, richly embroidered, red and gold tunic waistcoat, and full sleeves of pink silk and gold, silk stockings, a magnificent scarf round his waist, tarboosh, diamond star, and several gold chains.
On his right hand sat Ali Bey Hassib [Ali Ben Hasib], the Governor of Berber, and a few other grandees sat near him, in full costume.
His reception of us was very courteous: for a few minutes he spoke to the Governor of Berber; he then gave his entire attention to us, reading our firman [royal mandate], passport, and letters of introduction. The conversation was in Italian, of which he possesses a limited knowledge; we had, however, been told that he was also familiar with English and French. We inquired where it would be agreeable to him that we should pitch our tents; he answered by presenting us with a capital house. On asking where we could find a boat, he replied that his own would be ready for us in three days. On mentioning camels, he promised to have thirty ready to meet us at Berber. At a hint respecting the forwarding of our letters, he volunteered to send them by a special messenger from station to station on swift dromedaries [Arabian camels] to Assouan [Aswan], whence men would run with them on foot to Cairo, and then they would proceed in the usual course. In short, he promised everything we wanted; gave us coffee, and pipes, and then we took our leave.
There was a considerable crowd of janissaries [household troops], slaves, officers and cavasses [armed and uniformed attendants], below the step, and the usual mob of officials in the hall; but like the birds, their costume is much brighter in these more southern latitudes; blue and yellow, with white coats and trousers, looked much more gay, I thought, than the sober brown and mulberry colour, I had been used to at Cairo. His Excellency's confidential pipe-bearer, a Frenchman, who had been in England with Ibrahim Pacha [Ibrahim Pasha of Egypt, 1789–1848], showed us over the town. He first accompanied us to the house that had been provided for our accommodation: we found it most pleasantly situated among oranges, bananas, and pomegranates, in a garden, on a high bank of the river, next door to the Pacha's hareem [harem]. Then we inspected the diabeheeh—a large three-masted boat, with a small cabin—but, as it was the only vessel here that could boast of a cabin, we were very glad to get it.
Afterwards we strolled into the bazaar, where we heard the Pacha had gone, and found him sitting inside the raised and railed-in floor of the principal shop, which was filled with Manchester goods. A species of court or "tail" attended his Excellency, entirely blocking up the bazaar; but they readily made way for us, partly from some fearful misgivings about our origin, and partly because a somewhat awful-looking personage, clothed in red jacket and boots, and bearing many pistols, made way for us, in a manner not to be resisted.
Having assured the Governor that all he had done for us was taib kateer (very good), we proceeded to the head apothecary here, who entertained us most hospitably; one by one came dropping in all the Europeans of Khartoum, which now comprised a very respectable circle of Frenchmen and Italians, who were extremely civil. By the time we returned to the river, the Pacha's boat, manned by ten sailors, was waiting to row us home, where we speedily arrived in great style, making comparisons between the Governor and some great people in England, when a stranger appears amongst them,—very much to the advantage of his Excellency. We had some conversation about hippopotami, which may be met with in the neighbourhood. That very popular specimen, which created such a sensation among the fair sex, last season, in the Regent's Park [in London], was brought up here by hand for six months before it commenced its voyage to England. These animals are at a premium just now, for Mr. Walne, Her Majesty's Consul, has offered £1,000 for two, and many hundred natives are on the look-out. The hippopotamus is extremely wild, is rarely seen except during the night, and is not to be found in great numbers here.
We were promised prodigious sport, and full of the great thoughts these excited, the next morning we went in the Pacha's boat up the White Nile. We saw crowds of ducks, geese, ibis, pelicans, and plovers, and four white crocodiles basking in the sun.
On our return we found our things being removed into the house, as the Governor would not hear of our making a residence of the boat, and with the assistance he sent us the place was soon made extremely comfortable. Our house was a good-sized edifice, though constructed of no more durable material than mud. It had been placed in a delightful orange-grove; but the position would have been more admired had it been further off a groaning sakeia [sakia, sakieh, water wheel], which was too close to it to be agreeable. It consists of a hall, entered by an ascent in the shape of a short staircase; this opens into three large chambers having mud divans and unsheltered windows, opening on a refreshing prospect of orange-flowers, pomegranates, and sugarcanes. It was an agreeable contrast to our close tent dwelling in the desert.
We made acquaintance with all the Europeans, as they came to see us. Among them were the apothecary and the head medical officer, an agreeable and handsome man from the neighbourhood of Geneva. Scarcely had they departed when we received a large basket of figs, bananas, pomegranates, and cream-fruit—the last most delicious to the taste, as might be expected from its name. With it came the following letter:
My Lord, I hope you will accept a little fruits from the garden of your servants, minister of the Catholic Church, or rather from your garden in this cyty.|
Your servants, Emmanuel Pedemonte.
Khartoum, December 28th.
A few minutes afterwards, came Monsieur R—, a particularly quiet, gentlemanlike Frenchman, the friend and partner of the gentleman whom we met in the desert of Dongola. He has been a great traveller, having twice been up as far as 4° N.L. His description of that part of the country was not very inviting; for, after passing twenty days through unwholesome marshes, he seems to have beheld nothing more interesting than a scorbutic [having scurvy] and scrofulous population. At 10° N.L. the scene improves. The people are six feet high, beautifully formed, and intensely black. Tigers, lions, cameleopards [giraffes], wolves, and hippopotami, besides innumerable smaller animals, are to be met with, with very little difficulty; the difficulty, I am inclined to believe, being sometimes to get out of their way. Tuns of elephants' teeth lie about the desert, where these huge animals die, or are killed by the natives for their flesh.
Monsieur R— thinks that a most advantageous trade could be established by a society of Europeans, by which the price of gum-arabic, ivory, &c, might be considerably diminished in Europe, and Egypt very much benefited. But Latiffe Pacha is narrow-minded, and being himself the most extensive merchant here, he discourages speculation by putting every obstacle in the way of European adventurers.
Another visitor followed Monsieur R—; then came a basket of parsley, lettuce, radishes, pomegranates, lemons, and sugarcanes from the apothecary; and finally, the Pacha's head man, with a small quantity of milk, and many apologies for the cows not being more productive.
The next morning was passed in paying visits to our obliging friends. We first walked through a garden of vines, oranges, pomegranates, and jessamine [jasmine] trees to the house of the apothecary; in an ante-room we met the doctor and one of the ministers of the Catholic Church. We then entered a large divanned room hung with Napoleon pictures, with its curtained windows looking particularly cool and comfortable. We sat round in solemn conclave, our friends in full Turkish costume, while lemonade gazeuse, coffee, and pipes were handed round, conversing of the climate, the rate of mortality, diseases, and other lively matters too numerous to mention. I ascertained that there is a great mortality in children from three to seventeen years. If they survive that age they live to their appointed time; but at thirty-five they look shrivelled and old; notwithstanding which, however, they manage to exist till eighty or ninety, and further south to a hundred.
We next called on Monsieur R—, in whose yard we saw a young giraffe about nine or ten feet high, and quite tame; and an antelope as large as a donkey, with two horns at least a yard long. Our friend had the best garden in Khartoum, with trellis-covered walks, made of vines, which bear throughout the year. We were received in a large room, with the usual devoirs, and found Monsieur R— transacting business with several native merchants in their white robes, turbans, and scarves. Afterwards came in a very intelligent Turk, handsomely dressed, and wearing a diamond star round his neck, who spoke French fluently. Like Latiffe Pacha, and many others here, he is in honourable banishment, deprived of the society of his wives and family.
Refreshments having been handed round, our host exhibited his curiosities, such as rhinoceros' horns, hippopotamus' teeth, and the various implements of the natives. I admired a pair of tongs and a javelin, made of iron, with such primitive tools as a stone for a hammer, and a piece of rock for an anvil. Drums, musical horns, bows, spears, arrows, quivers, clubs, and curious iron truncheons, were amongst the collection, with pipes that would hold three pounds of tobacco, and tea-spoons like soup-ladles. He offered us the entire collection, and had already sent one to the Muse"e de Vienne.
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Sudan was embroiled in two prolonged civil wars during most of the remainder of the 20th century. These conflicts were rooted in northern economic, political, and social domination of largely non-Muslim, non-Arab southern Sudanese. The first civil war ended in 1972 but another broke out in 1983. Peace talks gained momentum in 2002-04 with the signing of several accords.
The final North/South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA), signed in January 2005, granted the southern rebels autonomy for six years followed by a referendum on independence for Southern Sudan. The referendum was held in January 2011 and indicated overwhelming support for independence.
South Sudan became independent on 9 July 2011. Sudan and South Sudan have yet to fully implement security and economic agreements signed on September 27, 2012 relating to the normalization of relations between the two countries. The final disposition of the contested Abyei region has also to be decided. Since South Sudan's independence, conflict has broken out between the government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N) in Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states, which has resulted in 1.2 million internally displaced persons or severely affected persons in need of humanitarian assistance.
A separate conflict, which broke out in the western region of Darfur in 2003, has displaced nearly two million people and caused an estimated 200,000 to 400,000 deaths. Violence in Darfur in 2013 resulted in an additional estimated 6,000 civilians killed and 500,000 displaced. The UN and the African Union have jointly commanded a Darfur peacekeeping operation known as the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) since 2007. Peacekeeping troops have struggled to stabilize the situation and have increasingly become targets for attacks by armed groups.
In 2013, 16 peacekeepers were killed, UNAMID's deadliest year so far. Sudan also has faced refugee influxes from neighboring countries, primarily Ethiopia, Eritrea, Chad, Central African Republic, and South Sudan. Armed conflict, poor transport infrastructure, and government denial of access have impeded the provision of humanitarian assistance to affected populations.
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Travels of an Arab merchant in Soudan al-Tūnisī 1854
Khartoum and the Blue and White Niles Melly 1852
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