Omdurman street traders

Travel to Omdurman – Sudans’ largest city

Omdurman is the largest city in Sudan, lying on the banks of the River Nile across the river to the countries capital city Khartoum. With a population of over 3 million the city is also the countries main centre of commerce. Together with Khartoum it forms the cultural and industrial heart of the nation.

In 1884, Muḥammad Aḥmad, “the Mahdi”, made his military headquarters in the village of Omdurman. The conflicts that followed over the next fifteen years have become known as the Mahdist War. Following the defeat of the besieged British defenders of Khartoum in 1885, the Mahdi’s successor, Khalifa ˤAbdullahi ibn Muḥammad, made Omdurman his capital.

The city, now the location of the tomb of the Mahdi, grew rapidly. However, in the Battle of Omdurman in 1898 (which actually took place in the nearby village of Kerreri), Lord Kitchener decisively defeated the Mahdist forces, ensuring British control over the Sudan, and killed Khalifa.

Kitchener restored Khartoum as the capital and, from 1899 until 1956 Sudan was jointly governed by Great Britain and Egypt, at least in theory. In practice, it was Great Britain who ruled Sudan, relegating Egyptians to second positions in the government, despite the Condominium Agreement fixing a shared rule. Although most of the city was destroyed in the battle, the Mahdi’s tomb was restored and refurbished.

Omdurmans’ souk is the largest in Sudan, and has an interesting variety of goods for sale including ebony handicrafts and locally made jewellery. The atmosphere is lively and bustling. The best time to visit is on a Friday morning.

Other attractions around Omdurman include the Camel Market that takes place about 2km north of the souk. Visit the Tomb of the Mahdi, The tomb and mosque were rebuilt in 1947 after the original silver-domed one was destroyed in 1898. The mosque is closed to foreigners.

Beit al-Khalifa was once the home of the Mahdi’s successor, the house is now a museum containing relics from Mahdiyya battles.


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