Strategically located at the confluence of the Blue and the White Nile, Khartoum has a relatively short history. It was established as an Egyptian military outpost in 1821, and then grew rapidly in prosperity due to the slave trade. In 1834 it became the capital of Sudan.
In the 1880s, Khartoum achieved notoriety in Victorian Britain. From 1881 to 1885, Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Abdallah, called the Mahdi, rose against the Egyptians and the British who had come to dominate Sudan. This first successful uprising of an African country against the colonial forces led to the foundation of an independent state, the Caliphate of Omdurman. When the movement gathered pace, General Gordon was despatched to Khartoum to assist the Egyptian forces. He persevered until, after a long siege, the town was overrun by the Mahdists who killed Gordon and presented his head to the Mahdi. Later, Kitchener reclaimed Khartoum for Britain and Egypt. He began rebuilding the city, using the shape of the British flag to design its streets.
Today Khartoum is a bustling town, bursting at the seams. But the city centre still bears the marks of its colonial past: impressive administrative buildings, the former Anglican Cathedral, the architecturally remarkable premises of Khartoum University and the tree-lined streets, which recover their tranquillity only during the weekend when business and office work comes to a stop.