Sudan’s new plan for Bordein


The Bordein was one of the original batch of five paddle steamers ordered by Sir Samuel Baker from Samuda Brothers shipyard at Poplar on the Thames in 1869 for his 1871 Nile expedition. She was delivered the following year in kit plate form to Cairo, where she was assembled at the Boulak Dockyard. She was subsequently used by Hicks Pasha in 1883 and then sent to Shendi. During the siege of Khartoum she was attacked by Dervish forces aft er the failed attempt to rescue General Gordon, and wrecked near Mernat Island on 21 January 1885. She was salvaged by the Dervishes and took part with Safia, Tel el Hoween, Ismaileih and Mahomed Ali in their occupation of Lado on 10 October 1888. After serving in the Mahdist “Navy” until 1898, she was recovered at Omdurman in 1898 and subsequently used on local transport until 1905, when she was laid up in the Khartoum North Dockyard. Used for collecting wood from the wooding station, her own consumption was enormous, usually half the load. In 1936 she was restored as a national monument for the Coronation celebrations, but was subsequently abandoned. In 2006 the iron hull was cut up into twelve sections and made ready for scrapping.

Survival – Bordein’s new role

Last year the Sudanese team led by Eng. Abdelmonim Salama, General Manager of the River Transport Corporation, rescued the sections of this unique 19th-century side wheeler from the Khartoum North Dockyard. A special site on the river bank overlooking the Nile near the old Omdurman fortifications has been prepared and the hull sections have been moved onto the purpose-built land berth. Today, this unique steamer’s iron hull has been reassembled as part of a major restoration programme where it will become a major attraction for British and other foreign visitors.

Sudan is looking for new ways to earn money as it faces the prospect of losing its oil-producing south following last week’s Southern Independence referendum. Some are pinning their hopes on reports of huge new gold reserves in the north’s Red Sea Hills. Others are optimistic about another largely untapped resource, the country’s rich and complex history – particularly the spur it might give to a nascent tourist industry.

“It is already starting to attract tourists,” said Khartoum State’s Minister of Culture, Media and Tourism, Mohamed Awad al-Barodi. “We were astonished recently when two buses of European tourists came to the area.”

Many Britons and other history buffs still cling to the stories of Britain’s long relationship with the Sudan. Th ere have been at least four films based on the classic novel The Four Feathers, and the dramatic depiction of General Gordon calmly facing his attackers on the steps of the Governor’s palace in Khartoum has become an icon of British stoicism.

A benefit to tourism in Sudan

The official unveiling took place on 26 January and there are plans for a glass-walled museum telling the story of the Bordein alongside the remains of the mud-walled fortification built up by the Mahdi who captured Khartoum and defeated Gordon in 1885. The Minister said he had put in a request to Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir to turn the Presidential Palace into a museum. Another British gunboat, the Melik, lies in a sand berth surrounded by bougainvillea awaiting restoration on the site of the Blue Nile Sailing Club, where she has served since 1925 as the Clubhouse.

Tourism remains a tiny industry in Sudan. The Minister had no official statistics for tourist numbers in the capital. Intrepid visitors have to fight through a forest of red tape to obtain visas, and risk arrest by taking photos without a permit.

Sudan’s frequent conflicts, most recently in Darfur, have also left it with severe image problems when it comes to making it a major tourist destination. But Barodi remains optimistic that these sites will attract local visitors and, over time, foreign tourists. “The war in Darfur has distorted the image of Sudan for a long time. It has obscured the real nature of the Sudanese people. We are peaceful, hospitable and engaging … and we would like people to come.”

Adapted from a Reuters report, Khartoum, 19 January 2011

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