Decay and the city – Khartoum

Last weekend I went to an exhibit at Hanoi’s Goethe Institute – ‘The city – Becoming and Decaying’ – with 176 photographs displayed from cities around the world from the German photographer agency – OSTKREUZ. It showed scenes of decline, abandonment, damage from war but also the growth of new cities. It was a striking exhibit with some great photographs, but it made me think about Khartoum, a city not featured in the exhibit, where I lived for three years.

Khartoum, the capital of Sudan, located at the confluence of the Blue and While Niles still has a sleepy and dusty air to it with many of the buildings having changed little since Independence in 1956.  While there are a smattering of new buildings which seem to look to Dubai for their inspiration, unfortunately, there seems to be very little desire to restore old buildings, so many remain crumbling away. Due to the climate, incredibly hot and dry, it is more a process of desiccation rather than decay. Despite appearances many of the buildings are still in use whether it be the racecourse, the sailing club, old cinemas, or Khartoum University. Photography is frustratingly very difficult as one needs a permit and even then one is liable to be stopped by police (as happened to me as an overzealous new arrival in my first week). As a result, I never managed to photograph, many of the beautiful Condominium era municipal buildings, particularly in downtown Khartoum near the presidential palace. Below are some snapshots from around Khartoum and also, further along the Nile, the ancient Nubian sites which collapsed more than 1,000 years ago.

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Southern youths at the racecourse which is still in use, but which hasn’t been upgraded since Queen Elizabeth II’s visit 1965.

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An art deco cinema, one of several, in Kafouri

New buildings within old over in Omdurman

New buildings rising up within the old over the river in Omdurman.

A submerged in the sand VW Beetle

A submerged in the sand VW Beetle

A downtown early 20th century villa where the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie stayed in about 1944

A downtown early 20th century villa where the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie stayed in about 1944 – now being slowly pulled down.

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Inside the villa

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Kitchener’s gunboat from 1898 is now moored in the Blue Nile Sailing Club’s car park. The hound, as a puppy, and me.

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Desiccation – A grim reminder of the shear heat – horses discarded by the side of the racecourse which have become mummified.

Bulbul's cluttered desk, one of the few remaining guildsmen in Omdurman. I particularly like that he still has a 1956 edition of the Sudan Almanac.

Bulbul’s cluttered desk, one of the few remaining guildsmen in Omdurman. I particularly like that he still has a 1956 edition of the Sudan Almanac. Photo courtesy of Helen Mayhew.

The Pyramids at Meroe

The Pyramids at Meroe. Once part of the ancient Kingdom of Kush which persisted until the 4th century AD. Now 100s of pyramids crumble and are slowly buried by the shifting sands.

The Nubian Hound at the Pyramids

The Nubian Hound at the Meroe Pyramids

The temples at Naga - now miles from the Nile which suggest it may have changed its course in the past.

The temples at Naga – now miles from the Nile which suggest it may have changed its course in the past.

Only the pillars remain from the 7th century Cathedral at Old Dongola on the Nile

Only the pillars remain from the 7th century Cathedral at Old Dongola on the Nile

Do you have any photos more photos of Khartoum or other cities which had their heyday in the past?

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