Sudan is one of the most diverse countries in Africa. Home to deserts, mountain ranges, swamps and rain forests, Sudan’s natural attractions are plentiful. From Nile tours and virgin rainforests to wildlife safaris and game parks; the breathtaking variety of choices that the country has to offer is endless.
Khartoum, the gateway to Central Africa, was established by Ibrahim Pasha, the son of Egypt's ruler, in 1821, and originally served as an outpost for the Egyptian Army. The settlement quickly grew into a regional centre of trade – a focal point of the slave trade – and later it became the administrative centre of Sudan, and eventually its official capital.
Khartoum later also played an important role in the colonial efforts of the European nations. In 1884, troops loyal to Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad, a Muslim cleric and spiritual leader, launched a siege of Khartoum against defenders led by British General Charles George Gordon. The siege ended in a massacre of the Anglo-Egyptian garrison – a humiliating defeat for the West. The heavily damaged city fell to the Mahdists a year later, and all its inhabitants were put to death. However, the British colonial leaders wouldn’t accept defeat. Omdurman, one of the three cities making up Khartoum, was later the scene of the bloody Battle of Omdurman, on 2 September 1898, during which British forces under Herbert Kitchener defeated the Mahdist forces defending the city.
The etymological origin of the word Khartoum remains uncertain. While some theories argue that Khartoum is derived from the Arabic word meaning 'trunk' or 'hose', probably referring to the narrow strip of land extending between the Blue and White Niles, others disagree. Captain J. A. Grant, who reached Khartoum in 1863, thought that the name was most probably from the Arabic word meaning safflower, which was cultivated extensively in Egypt for its oil to be used as fuel.