By: Alsir Sidahmed
Some 700 meters south of the Republican Palace in Khartoum and at the intersection of streets Al-Qasr and Al-Baladiya (used to be called Abbas) lies the Turkish Qubbas, or tombs. The large beehive-shaped structures contain the tombs of two notable governors that ruled the Sudan in the nineteenth century on behalf of Egypt’s Viceroy Mohamed Ali Pasha, who himself had been administering the country on behalf of the Ottoman Turks.
The first tomb was for Ahmed Pasha Abu Adhan who had been Governor-General of the country (1839-1843) and the western Qubba was for Musa Pasha Hamdi, Sudan’s Governor-General (1862-1865).
These monuments, generally known as Turkish Qubbas, managed to survive all this time even during the Mahdiya’s successful conquest of Khartoum in1885 and its demolition of major buildings so as to get some material for its new capital in Omdurman across the White Nile.
This fact attracted the attention of some scholars like the Canadian Andrew McGregor, who wrote a piece titled, “The CircassianQubbas of Abbas Avenue, Khartoum: Governors and Soldiers in the 19th Century Sudan”.
Though the author went at length trying to provide some explanation for why these Qubbas managed to survive the destruction over a long period of time, but one thing is clear and that is the resemblance of the Mahdi tomb and Qubba built in Omdurman to the Qubbas in Khartoum; in other words as if they were used as a model for building the symbol of the new regime.
However, regardless of the academic debate on the issue, the Turkish monuments in Sudan in general are well spread over the country extending from Khartoum in the center to Al-Fasher in the west and Kassala in the east, occupying the second position in the country’s monuments after the rich Nubian one.
The Turkish rule as it is called lasted in Sudan for 64 years and as Sudan is preparing to celebrate its 62nd anniversary as an independent state, it welcomes the Turkish President RecepTayyib Erdogan, the first Turkish president to visit Sudan ever, though Erdogan visited the country before as prime minister back in 2006 and to be the first Muslim leader to visit the troubled region of Darfur. One of the concrete outcomes of that visit is a $50 million research and training hospital that has been built in Niyala, Southern Darfur.
In addition to the historical bond, Erdogan was pushing for more trade exchanges between the two countries, which managed to be increased from some $150 million a decade ago to little less than the $500 million Erdogan asked for as the first step target. Turkish investments in various fields are estimated to be in the range of $2 billion covering 288 projects.
Erdogan’s visit to Sudan this week will come to build on a long history and improved business relations. During the economic forum expected to be held during the visit, some 150 Turkish companies are slated to participate and a lot to be discussed. The visit is part of an African tour that came on the heel of an earlier one that took Erdogan to four countries in the continent six months ago.
Both Sudan and Turkey enjoy a unique strategic geographical position. The first linking both the Arab and African worlds, not only in geography, but culturally as well. Turkey on its part represents an important link between Europe and Asia, in addition both have a rich history behind them.
However, Sudan could help further Turkish push towards Sub-Saharan Africa, which has been growing for the past few years in an effort to open new markets and engage more with Muslim communities in the continent. Turkish Airlines currently fly to more than 50 African destinations, the Turkish construction firm YapiMerkezi is actively involved into the multi- billion railway line across Ethiopia and Tanzania. Sudan, being a member of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) can provide Turkey with a good gateway to the rest of Africa.
More significance is the Turkish presence in Somalia that built on historical ties and became visible six years ago when a new military base was built just south of the Somali capital, Turkey will train thousands of Somali soldiers ahead of a planned withdrawal of the international peacekeeping force. That is an area of direct concern to Sudan, which adds to a growing list of issues that the two countries can join hands to handle.
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