History & Culture
First established in 1821, as a military outpost for the Egyptian Army, Khartoum said to have derived its name from the thin spit of land at the convergence of the Nile rivers, which resembles an elephant's trunk or khurtum.
The city grew rapidly in prosperity during the boom years of the slave trade and in 1834, became the capital of the Sudan. For the many European explorers who flocked to the country in search of the source of the Nile, Khartoum was an ideal base. General Charles Gordon was famously killed in the city in 1884, when Sudanese rebels led by Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi mounted a siege and massacred much of the Anglo-Egyptian garrison, but 14 years later, Lord Herbert Kitchener avenged Gordon’s death by finally defeating and expelling the Mahdist forces. The following year, Khartoum became the capital of Anglo-Egyptian Sudan.
Following the ousting of the rebels, Kitchener set about rebuilding the entire city. Remarkably, he designed the streets in the shape of the Union Jack, partly as a symbol of British dominance but also, it is alleged, because he believed that the grid system and diagonal streets would make the city easier to defend in future.
In 1956, Khartoum was named as capital of the newly independent Sudan.