Bayt al-Maal ("House of Money")
Another obscure historical building now used for a different purpose is Bayt al-Maal, which is where the Mahdi's money used to be kept safe...something like a bank. Nowadays, it has cleverly been incorporated into a football stadium where you can watch local rivals Hilal and Mareekh battle it out in front of enormous crowds!
As you enter Omdurman by bus, you pass a huge mud-brick building on your right before arriving at Shuhada. This is the local prison, but it wasn't always used to house criminals...a new sign on the outside has been erected by the Ministry of Tourism saying that the prison used to be the Leader's House. the English on the sign is not really fully comprehensible, so I couldn't tell you which leader that was, but I imagine it was something to do with the Mahdi (most historical buildings in Omdurman seem to be!). It is hard to imagine today, but this was quite an important building a century or so ago. I wouldn't recommend photos or trying to visit, as the guards with guns would probably not be too pleased.
North of Omdurman is a range of hills where the Mahdist army met the British army in September 1898. The area is a flat plain at the foothills of the mountain. The Battle of Kerrari takes its name from a small outcrop at the east of the hills.
Some years ago I went to Kerrari and climbed the small hill [puff, puff] from which there is a good view over the surrounding area. Our guide showed us the positions of the two armies and described the tactical manoeuvres. Winston Churchill was there, and this was the last battle in which the British Cavalry took part.
I don't think this can be done nowadays . However, I found the following on the US Embassy Khartoum website :
The Kerrari Battlefield: This is seven miles outside of the city of Omdurman and can be seen by arrangement. This is the battle site which is also known to historians as the Battle of Omdurman. It took place on September 2, 1989 [sic. Actually 1898] and ended the Mahdist State. The Khalifa’s forces were defeated by Kitchener’s troops.
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel
As well as visiting Omdurman Souk - the most famous in Sudan - try to also get to Souk Libya. Pretty much every tourist in the city goes to Omdurman Souk (so prices can rise and serious haggling is needed), which is interesting but can be quite tame compared to most people's exotic image of souks and bazaars.
Souk Libya is still nothing to compare with many souks and markets in the Middle East and Asia, but it is more 'authentic' (I hate using that word!) and very interesting to wander round. For a foreigner it can often be cheaper too. The camel market is nearby so why not have a look.
There are buses direct from Khartoum and Shuhada in Omdurman.