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Ten Years' Captivity in the Mahdi's Camp 1882-1892

He possesses a large house on the Arda


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to the rukuba is a square building with thatched gable roof supported by two pillars. This is open on three sides, but surrounded by well-carved and painted wooden railings: in this there is a seat about three feet high, in which the Khalifa sits when he addresses the Ansar. As one leaves the east gate of the rukuba, the Khalifa's palace gate is visible, being built quite close to the mosque.

The Khalifa's palace is known as the "Bab," just as the Sultan's palace is known as the Bab Ali, or Porte. This palace contains a number of different divisions, all built of mud besmeared with red sand. Just within the great gate is the only two-storied house in Omdurman, which the Khalifa has purposely built in order to overlook the whole town, and from here he can see as far as Kererri to the north, and as far as Omdurman fort to the south. Gordon's ruined palace in Khartum is also visible. Near the great gate, and close to the outside wall of the mosque, is a building surrounded by wooden railings, in which the judge sits and carries on his court.

The Khalifa is very fond of going about to different parts of the town, accompanied by crowds of people, and as he found the narrow streets impeded his progress, and detracted from his splendour, he ordered his engineer Omar to construct broad straight roads to all the principal places. This necessitated the removal of thousands of mud huts, which were immediately demolished;

but I never heard that the proprietors received any indemnity for the losses they sustained. A broad road now leads from the north gate of the mosque to the Hejira (or place from which expeditions start) near the Khor Shambat. This road, as I previously mentioned, is called "the Martyr's Road." The second large road leads from the west gate of the mosque to the Arda (or parade place), and is known as the "Darb el Arda." A third main road leads to the southern Hejira, whence expeditions leave for Kordofan, Darfur, &c.

In addition to these main roads are innumerable winding streets and lanes, to traverse which a guide is absolutely necessary. The great Mahdi's dome forms an excellent landmark.

The Khalifa pays the most special attention to the requisites necessary for war, and for this purpose he has had a large building constructed a little to the south of the mosque, consisting of a large hall supported by pillars, and built of burnt bricks. This is known as the "beit el amana," and it is subdivided into various compartments, in which are stored powder, ammunition, guns, rifles, and other implements of war. This building is entered through a large vaulted gate, and no other houses are allowed to be built near it. It is surrounded by a high wall, and is carefully guarded night and day by detachments of soldiers. Within the yard the flags are all firmly planted in the ground, and present the appearance of a small forest of staves. The great black flag of the Khalifa Abdullah towers high above them all. Near the flag yard is a small two-storied building, in which the war-drums are stored, and they are purposely put high up so that they may be heard from a greater distance. In front of the beit el amana is a large open square connected with the mosque by one of the main roads.

Besides his palace, Abdullah possesses a number of other houses, which he visits from time to time. Of these one is situated close to the bank of the White Nile, and its roof is ornamented with two gigantic hippopotamus heads. He has another house at the beit el mal, from which he can easily reach the river, and embark on one of his steamers to visit his Eastern Hejira, whence expeditions start for the Gezireh, or for Abyssinia. And, lastly, he possesses a large house on the Arda, or parade ground, and at the northern Hejira. In all these houses he keeps up a large establishment of women.


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