Classes at the UofK were cancelled on Sunday so some of us decided to go to Tuti Island.
Tuti is the white patch in the middle of the blue. “Khartoum” is actually made up of four sections – Khartoum, Omdurman, Bahri and Tuti. There are bridges over the Nile which join up the different sections. Khartoum was the old British colonial capital and Omdurman was the Mahdi’s capital. The middle of Khartoum is structured according to a grid system shaped like a Union Jack (supposedly) and has lots of colonial buildings. Omdurman is more confusing with winding roads, a massive bustling souk and a camel market. Khartoum is the site of the confluence of the Nile (the “mogran” in Arabic).
We all gathered under the bridge near the Corinthia hotel then walked over the bridge (2 mins) to Tuti. There’s a beautiful view from the bridge, we were told that it’s a place Sudanese couples go on dates! On the other side there’s a little restaurant and there are a few tea/ice cream sellers dotted around.
When we got there we started walking towards the Nile and found the beach which was lovely. Perfect place for a picnic! We walked around in the water for a little while (ankle deep, very cold) and then found a tea lady with some parasols and delicious ginger tea.
There were children playing in the mud (we walked bare foot and it did feel nice) and swimming in the Nile. There was even a family with a puppy, I haven’t seen many dogs in Khartoum and it’s the first puppy I’ve seen (I’ve been here for over a month now…I think it’s too hot for dogs during the day so they stay under cover and then come out at night). While we were at the beach we got talking to some Tuti locals. They offered to show us some “historical artefacts” – we had no idea what these would be but we went with them and it turned out to be the Mahdi’s Northern fort (there’s another one in Omdurman, the Tuti one isn’t in the guidebook though – the Omdurman one is).
The Mahdi’s Northern Fort – where he fought against the British. That’s our guide in the pic – you can almost see that his hands have henna on them. People put henna on their hands if they’re attending a wedding and on their hands and feet if they’re the ones getting married. It’s a bit of a status thing, especially for women – expensive/intricate henna = reflection of social standing.
The Mahdi’s fort was interesting but the best thing about Tutti was the landscape, the best word I can think of to describe it is verdant. The footbridge between Khartoum and Tutti was built in 2009, before that the only way of getting to the island was by ferry. Since the bridge was built more buildings have gone up (it used to be 70% agricultural, now it’s only 30%) but it still feels a lot more like the countryside than the city. It was quiet, it smelt nice and the air felt fresh – crazy to think it’s slap bang in the middle of Khartoum.
Our guides walked us from the beach through the little town (a few shops, some houses and one mansion) and then we hopped on a rickshaw to get to the fort. We couldn’t all fit in so one guy had to walk (felt quite bad as he was actually the one that paid). We went through very pretty countryside, and saw the happiest goats in Khartoum:
And a cow:
After seeing the fort we walked along the edge of the island for a little while and bumped into some fishermen (the guides’ cousins), some guys sitting in a clearing smoking Shisha (also their cousins) and woke a farmer up (he was also introduced as…their cousin). The farmer was sleeping on a bed which he had placed under a tree in front of his field, which I thought was quite a practical thing to do. I didn’t take a pic (thought it might be a bit rude) but this what the general landscape looked like:
Eventually we needed to get going because Kate had an Arabic lesson and I had Hausa. As we walked towards the bridge into the busier part of town/Tuti we passed lots of people on the path who all seemed to know our guides. As we walked along they kept showing us different trees – a lemon tree (they picked a lemon and gave it to us), a toothbrush tree and a Neem tree. One of the guides also kept talking about the henna on his hands, apparently he had just attended a wedding, he seemed to be quite happy with the henna because he brought it up 6 – 7 times.
Some of the things we passed were some people making bricks (they dug a hole and mixed water with mud, then carved square blocks of mud out of the hole and dried them), a boat making yard (wooden canoes) and a boat repair area.
I love the fact that Tuti exists in the middle of Khartoum – a sleepy little village in the middle of one of the busiest and most populated cities in Africa. So glad we visited!