I watched with deep sadness a report broadcast by the Emirati Al Hadath Channel on January 25, 2024 about the destruction that befell the Presidential Palace, whose founding dates back to the year 1826, that is, nearly two centuries ago. I remembered the story of the Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent (1520-1566) with the engineer Mimar Sinan, when he commissioned him to demolish one of his old palaces and build a new palace in its place.
After completing the demolition and construction process, the Ottoman Sultan noticed that the architect had used two groups of agents (workers), one for demolition and the other for construction, so he asked him about the wisdom behind that choice, and the engineer replied to him, “He who is fit to destroy is not fit to build!”
Those who destroyed the Republican Palace and the government and historical facilities in the capital, Khartoum, and the states are not fit to rebuild them, because they are part of the problem and the cause of the devastation.
But talking about how to reconstruct and build the state requires another chapter, so it is advisable to provide readers with a short overview of the history of the Republican Palace, which Professor Muhammad Ibrahim Abu Salim described as “the beautiful white palace, overlooking the Blue Nile,” and it symbolizes the history of the Turkish-Ottoman era. (1821-1885) in Sudan, whose episodes ended on the palace stairs with General Charles Gordon killing the then ruler of Sudan, and making way for a new national era under the banner of the Mahdist state (1885-1898); But after the defeat of the Ansar in the Battle of Karari (Omdurman), the Anglo-Egyptian rule (1898-1956) in Sudan began with Christian prayers of thanks in front of the ruins of the old palace, which the Mahdists had unwillingly destroyed in its “Turkish” symbolism and exploiting its furniture to establish their new capital in Omdurman.
After the colonialists were removed, and the two dual governments (Britain and Egypt) recognized the independence of Sudan on January 1, 1956, Sudanese parliamentarians and members of the Senate walked in a terrible historical procession from the buildings of the two chambers (Parliament and Senate) in the heart of Khartoum to the Palace of the Governor-General, amid roaring waves of masses.
Immediately upon their arrival at the Governor-General’s headquarters in the White Palace, Prime Minister Ismail Al-Azhari and opposition leader Mohamed Ahmed Mahjoub lowered the British and Egyptian flags, and raised the three-colored Sudanese flag (blue, green, and yellow) on the flagpole of the “Republican” Palace in a moment of overwhelming national euphoria and aspiring optimism for achieving independence. And looking forward to a bright future for the Sudanese.
Thus, the White Palace formed a historical and sovereign symbol in the imagination of the Sudanese people. Because it embodied decisive and contradictory moments in their modern and contemporary political history. So the question arises: When was this historic white palace built? Why did they destroy it?
Al-Hakamdariya Palace (Saraya)… origins and development
Historians attribute the founding of the palace to Al-Hakimdar Maho Bey Orfali (1926), who succeeded Al-Hakimdar Othman Bey Jarkas Al-Barinji (1824-1825), who moved the capital of the Ottoman Turkish rule (1821-1885) from Wad Madani to Khartoum at the Muqrin of the Blue and White Nile.
Muha Bey laid the first brick for the palace, and the palace was rebuilt from green bricks during the reign of Al-Hakimdar Ali Khurshid Pasha (1826-1838), who contributed greatly to building a number of government institutions and public facilities in Khartoum. Then Al-Hakimdar Abdul Latif Pasha Abdullah (1850-1851) rebuilt the palace for the third time from red brick, which was brought from the ruins of the ancient city of Soba on the Blue Nile, and placed in its corners white carved stone, which was brought from Omdurman.
The palace at that time, according to Abu Salim’s account, consisted of three floors and was in the shape of a semi-square, with its main building extending from east to west, and with an entrance to a great circular tower in the middle, overlooking the Blue Nile. The two wings extend from the eastern and western corners, north and south.
After that, the palace witnessed minor architectural modifications during the reign of Al-Hakimdar Ahmed Mumtaz Pasha (1871-1872) and Al-Hakimdar Ismail Pasha Ayoub (1873-1876), during whose reign the last sultan of Darfur, Sultan Ibrahim Qard (1873-1873), was eliminated, and Darfur became part of The state of Ottoman Turkish rule in Sudan.
Mahmoud al-Qabbani described the city of Khartoum at that time as a city that “combines the beauty of the natural site, the virtues of civil order, and urban splendor. Most of its buildings are made of stone and red brick, decorated with plaster and brick. Its palaces are very cheerful and splendid, and its streets are very regular. It has a street that begins from the seashore.” Blue and ends in the south of the city, it is called the new railway, borrowing from the name of the new railway in Cairo.
All its residents preserved their original customs, then the Western tradition and the customs of European civilization arose there, and the morals and customs of the residents of the first and second classes, even in food and drink, became purely European. The residents of Khartoum have a strong tendency to decorate their homes with luxurious feather tools, and they imitate the Europeans in what they invent. There are more than five hundred types of home furniture and types of clothing, and they have more than five hundred cabarets, dancing places, and coffee shops.” This is how Khartoum was before its siege and liberation in 1885.
In the capital of the Ottoman Turkish rule, Charles Gordon ruled over Sudan for the second time (1883-1885) with the aim of evacuating the country from the Egyptian military forces, which were unable to defeat the Mahdist revolution, which broke out in the island of Aba on the White Nile and then spread to Kordofan and liberated its capital, El Obeid.
After the victories achieved by Imam Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi (1844-1885) and his supporters in the Kordofan and Al-Jazira Directorates, Khartoum became the focus of their attention until they imposed a stifling siege around it in the latter half of the year 1884, which extended for a few months.
At dawn on January 26, 1885, the Ansar announced the attack on Khartoum, according to which the city was liberated, and General Gordon was killed on the stairs of the palace, which the Ottoman Turks had built as a symbol of their authority and a sign of their sovereignty. After Gordon was killed, the Ansar carried his head to the Mahdi, “where it was raised in the open for three days” (Abu Salim, Republican Palace, p. 18).
After the liberation of Khartoum, the Al-Hakimdariya Palace and the buildings of the capital were destroyed, and Abu Salim analyzed the destruction witnessed by the city of Khartoum by saying, “The emergence of a modern city next to an ancient city must hasten the destruction and demise of the old, because the modern city is created at the expense of the old city, whether materially by taking its bricks, stones, and wood. This also happened to the city of Soba when Khartoum was established, and to Khartoum when Omdurman was established.” Or culturally and commercially, such as what happened to the city of Suakin when the city of Port Sudan was established, and to the historical city of Berber, which was weakened by the emergence of the city of Atbara (Atbara).
Palace of the Governor-General during the era of Anglo-Egyptian rule (1898-1956)
After the defeat of the Ansar in the Battle of Karari (Omdurman) in 1898, the victorious invaders entered the city of Khartoum and performed their Christian prayers in front of the ruins of the palace in gratitude to God who enabled them to triumph over the “dervishes” and in fulfillment of the spirit of the martyr of the British Crown, General Gordon. Then they raised the British and Ottoman (Egyptian) flags. Later) on the ruins of the destroyed palace as a symbol of the return of their sovereignty over Sudan.
Abu Salim described the ruins of the palace at that time, saying, “The view of the palace and its surroundings was depressing and desolate. The Ansar had taken from it the windows, doors, ceilings, and everything that was useful from it. Only some of the wall of the ground floor remained of the building of the palace. As for the walls of the first and second floors, they were demolished for the sake of its bricks. He was transported to Omdurman, and his soil was filled inside the ground floor and its sides.”
After the situation stabilized for the invaders in Khartoum, they began to rebuild the Governor-General's Palace on the old stone foundation and its Turkish map, which was in the form of a half-square and three floors, and its walls were built of red brick. The building was completed in 1900, and the first Governor-General to reside there was Sir Francis Wingate Pasha (1899-1916).
Republican Palace in the National Era
After the declaration of Sudan’s independence on January 1, 1956 and the departure of Sir Knox Helm (1955-1956), the last British Governor-General of Sudan, the palace became the official headquarters for the members of the Sovereignty Council. The first council was composed of: Ahmed Muhammad Yassin, Abdel Fattah Al-Maghribi, Ahmed Mohamed Saleh, Sercio Ero, and Al-Dardiri Mohamed Othman, and his presidency alternated between them.
The palace had rooms for the hospitality of heads of state and dignitaries, and Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah (1960-1966), Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1954-1970), Yugoslav President Joseph Tito (1953-1980), and Leonid Brezhnev (1964-1982) stayed there. , Saudi King Faisal bin Abdulaziz (1964-1975), Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie (1930-1974), and Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022).
Among the historical events that took place in the corridors and halls of the palace was the fourth summit of the Arab League, which was held against the backdrop of the Naksa War in 1967, and was known as the “Three No’s” conference: no reconciliation, no recognition, and no negotiation with the Zionist enemy before the right returns to its owners.
The palace gardens witnessed a series of annual celebrations marking the birthdays of the Kings of Egypt and Britain and their accession to the throne, and many national occasions and social events, including the presentation of the Appreciation Award to the historian Sheikh Muhammad Abd al-Rahim (1878-1966) in 1967.
The Republican Palace (the home of Officer Othman Haj Al-Hussein Abu Shaiba) was also the location of the disappearance of the Sudanese Communist Party Secretary Abdel Khalif Mahjoub (1927-1971), and in one of his offices President Jaafar Numeiri and some members of his government were also arrested during the July 1971 coup.
In the south-eastern part of the palace complex there is a small museum overlooking University Street. Its archaeological holdings include some presidential vehicles and cars that were used to transport British rulers and some national presidents, oil paintings and photographs of prominent figures in the colonial era and the national era, in addition to gifts given to some of them. Rulers and presidents, a number of musical instruments, utensils and household furniture.
Most of these collectibles were located at the entrance to the northern palace and the hall extending east and west, the organization and arrangement of which was supervised by Al-Sadiq Al-Nour, curator of museums at the Sudanese Antiquities Authority at the time, upon commission from the first member of the Sovereignty Council, Abdel Fattah Al-Maghribi (1898-1985).
In 1997, the museum’s collections were transferred from the palace entrance and hall to the cathedral church building, which opened in 1912 to hold Christian prayers. It continued to perform this role until 1971, when it was closed for security reasons, and a church was established in its place in the Amarat neighborhood. On December 31, 1999, President Omar Al-Bashir (1989-2019) opened the Palace Museum in its new location. The museum was partially destroyed, according to pictures shown by the Emirati Al-Hadath channel.
The Governor General's Palace obtained a number of books, maps and official reports related to Sudan, but they were not preserved and cataloged in an organized manner throughout the period of dual rule (1898-1956) and part of the era of national governments.
In 1976, the Palace Protocol Department decided to collect these books, maps, and reports from the palace’s offices and stores, classify them, and store them in a library designated for this purpose in the main palace building. After that, their numbers doubled and exceeded the capacity of the place. In 2006, the palace administration ordered the library to be moved to the southeastern part of the building to make room for the office of the Vice President of the Republic.
In its new location, two halls were allocated for it, one for storing government documents and archives, the other for displaying books and publications, and a third hall for reading and receiving readers and researchers.
The unfortunate thing is that these valuable and rare possessions have been exposed to destruction, fire, and devastation as a result of mutual artillery exchanges between the armed forces and the Rapid Support Forces rebelling against them, or because of the ignorance of the soldiers residing in the palace, who do not realize the importance of these priceless and irreplaceable historical possessions. Rather, Its loss is a loss of a precious inheritance.
Thus, the Republican Palace represents a source of modern and contemporary Sudanese history, and a symbol of its sovereignty. But the peoples who do not value the value of historical hoardings and antiquities are peoples who do not value the value of human giving, and for this reason Ibn Khaldun described them with the returns of “savagery” that have become their “character and nature” and behavior that is incompatible with and contradictory to civilization, and they have “no limit to which they reach, but rather the more Its members' eyes extended to the money, belongings, or supplies they had looted. If they are able to do this through conquest and ownership, the policy of preserving people’s money will be invalidated, and urbanization will be ruined.” Therefore, reconstruction requires innovative ways of thinking, based on a strategic vision for rebuilding the state of Sudan, away from visions based on ethnic and racist hatreds and unproductive political rivalries.
The civil forces need to agree on a program that will save Sudan from its current crisis. Agreement does not mean that the political forces unite, but rather it means that each political force presents its proposal to remove the country from its crisis reality. Then the presented theses are discussed in an atmosphere where objectivity prevails, its sticks are based on accumulated experience, and its course is guided by moral obligations that give priority to public national affairs over narrow partisan affairs. The outcomes of such dialogues can produce a practical program for reconstruction and state building according to modern and innovative foundations that meet the aspirations of Sudanese youth who dream of a better tomorrow.
Achieving this goal requires conducting radical reviews of the structural and intellectual structures of the civil forces, political parties, and security and military systems, which will result in the production of new leaders and clear future visions that can answer a set of foundational building questions: How is Sudan governed? What are the roots of the problems that led to the current political crisis and war? What is the national strategic vision that everyone can agree on, to come up with goals and initiatives that can provide radical solutions to Sudan’s accumulated problems?
Proposing radical, sustainable solutions requires moving away from the traditional recipe for “dividing power and wealth,” which is guarded by the mouths of rifles and is far from the objectives of strategic planning. If the civil forces and political parties come together after long-standing division, dispersion, and personal and sectoral rivalries, and agree on rational reform policies, the goal of which is that everyone wins; Perhaps there is a glimmer of hope for organic solidarity that will lead to extricating Sudan from its great ordeal and its bleak future that regional and international circles greedy for its wealth are lurking about.