Muslim Qubba Tombs, Dongola

Muslim Qubba Tombs, Dongola

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Fieldwork : Northern Dongola Reach

The Northern Dongola Reach Survey (NDRS) held a concession on the east bank of the Nile for 80km along the river and to the edge of the desert plateau a maximum of 18km from the river.

Over 450 sites were found together with clear evidence for palaeochannels of the Nile, the banks of which were densely settled during the Kerma period (c. 2500 – 1500 BC). The demise of these palaeochannels resulted in a dramatic fall in the population of the region by the 1st millennium BC.

Many cemeteries were located. Particularly numerous were those of the Neolithic period which were prominent mounds.

Kerma tumuli were in places well preserved and covered in white quartzite pebbles and fragments of black stone. Medieval box graves were almost exclusively located close to the river as were the Islamic period qubba, tombs of holy men.

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The Circassian Qubba-s of Abbas Avenue, Khartoum: Governors and Soldiers in 19th Century Sudan

Departing from two qubba-s, beehive-like tombs from the 19th century in the centre of Khartoum, the author portrays the complicated sequence of power politics in Egypt and in the Sudan, which ‘explains’ the existence of those two burial monuments in an area where most such monuments were destroyed after the Mahdi’s conquest in 1885. These qubba-s are grave monuments of two nineteenth century Circassian governors-general of the Sudan in the service of Viceroy Muhammad ‘Ali and his descendants. In the qubba-s can be seen the passing of an extraordinary age of Circassian prominence in the Nile Valley. Several events contributed to the end of the Circassian importance in international affairs in general and in Egypt in particular, including (a) the elimination of Mamluk recruitment (b) the conquest of a divided Circassia by Russia (c) the exile of many Circassians to Turkey, Jordan, and other points in the Middle East (d) the growth of Arab nationalism in Egypt and other parts of the Ottoman Empire and (e) the momentous changes in the power structure of the Ottoman government that culminated in the revolution of the Young Turks.


Passed every day by thousands of people in the downtown core of Khartoum are a pair of qubba-s, or large, beehive-shaped tombs. Surrounded today by modern office towers, their quiet and dusty façades barely invite a second glance, and they are probably taken by most passers-by to be tombs of a pair of local shaykh-s, as the qubba-style monument is almost universally associated with Islamic saints in the Sudan. In reality, however, these structures are not religious in nature, but are rather reminders of the great variety of people who arrived in the Sudan in the nineteenth century, some to rule, some to exploit, some to develop and some to colonize. Drawn from Europe, the Maghrab, the Caucasus, the Middle East and even Central Asia, most of these individuals came voluntarily to participate in the opening of this vast country, while others arrived on orders or even in chains as prisoners in forced exile. Notable among these were the many Circassian military men in Egyptian service, often rising from slavery to assume vitally important positions in the Sudanese administration.

The qubba-s on ‘Abbas Avenue are almost unique examples of ‘secular’ monuments of this type in the Sudan as they mark the burials of two nineteenth century Circassian governors-general of the Sudan in the service of Muhammad ‘Ali and his descendants. Many examples of qubba-s devoted to Sudanese holy men are surrounded by subsidiary burials as followers and even later generations hope to partake in the baraka of the shaykh through burial close to his monument. Mimicking this pattern of burials, the secular qubba-s of ‘Abbas Avenue are likewise accompanied by a number of subsidiary graves, including those of a pair of notable native Sudanese officers of the Egyptian army who pursued service as far afield as Greece, the Crimea and Mexico.

After the abandonment of Khartoum following the Mahdi’s conquest in 1885 and the subsequent demolition of all major buildings for materials for the new ‘Islamic’ capital of Omdurman across the White Nile, the Circassian qubba-s became virtually the only intact remnants of the pre-Mahdist Sudanese capital. It would seem logical to assume that these tombs evaded destruction by the religiously inspired Mahdists through their resemblance to the tombs of Islamic holy men, but the reasons for their survival may be much more complex.


The Circassians (also known as Cherkess and Adyghe) who occupied the western half of the north Caucasus are among the most ancient of the region’s innumerable ethnic and linguistic groups. By the tenth to thirteenth centuries AD the Circassians began to consolidate themselves on the Black Sea coast, trading with Byzantium and the Mediterranean merchant cities. Among the products dealt were highly prized Circassian slaves, the women esteemed for their beauty and the young men for their military prowess (Allen, 1970). Nominally Christian with many pagan traditions, the Circassians turned to Islam (introduced by Crimean Tatars) in the 17th and early 18th centuries as a reaction to the Russian threat from the north. The Circassians were politically tied to the Ottoman Empire, but disunity amongst the various tribes allowed Russia to militarily penetrate their homeland. In the 1829 Treaty of Adrianople (Edirme), the Ottoman Empire gave up all claims on the fertile Circassian homeland, but in the 1830s a sense of national identity was formed with British and Ottoman encouragement. Foreign intervention on behalf of the Circassians seemed possible during the early stages of the Crimean War, but eventually the Allies (Britain, France and Turkey) decided to make a landing on the Crimean peninsula rather than the Black Sea coast, despite Turkish support for military intervention in the Caucasus. Major Russian operations resumed in 1862, and after 35 years of nearly constant warfare, Circassian resistance collapsed in 1864, with four to five hundred thousand Circassians being driven from their lands into ships destined for Turkey. Heirs to a proud warrior tradition, some Circassian chiefs were said to have ridden their horse into the Black Sea, drowning themselves in full warrior’s regalia. By 1866 as many as one million Circassians had been driven from their homes, many perishing of disease, exposure and starvation in the process. [2] A last effort to retake Circassia came in 1877, when large numbers of Circassians joined in the Ottoman invasion of the Black Sea coast though initially successful, the attempt was eventually abandoned (Allen and Muratoff 1953). A large Circassian diaspora emerged from this catastrophe, in which the Circassians were dispersed to communities in Turkey, Jordan, Syria and Palestine, though the displaced Circassians continued to have great success in the armed forces and royal guards of their adopted countries. The Circassian homeland was eventually broken into three autonomous republics, Adygea, Karachai-Cherkessia and Kabardino-Balkaria, in each of which the Circassians now form a small minority (Habjoka 1972).

To explain the burial of two Circassian military men in religious-style tombs in Khartoum we must first briefly look back to Egypt in 1260 AD, when the powerful class of military slaves known as Mamluks seized power from their masters and created their own unique dynasty. The Mamluks were not Egyptians themselves, but were instead purchased as boys from dealers in the Caucasus mountains, Turkestan, and even Mongolia. They were succeeded in power not by their own children, but by new slaves imported from far beyond Egypt. In 1382, the Circassian faction of Mamluks from the North Caucasus gained dominance and spent the next 135 years battling each other while terrorizing and pillaging their hapless Egyptian subjects. The Ottoman invasion of 1517 did not end Mamluk authority as expected, but in many cases only supplied the Mamluks with a new series of Ottoman governors to bully and torment.

The end of this system of misgovernment arrived in the person of Muhammad ‘Ali at the head of 10,000 Albanian troops in a combined Ottoman-British invasion of French-occupied Egypt. Seizing power in 1803, Muhammad ‘Ali followed a policy of massacres against the Mamluks while also cutting off the supply of new slaves from Circassia and Georgia.

By 1811, Muhammad ‘Ali had succeeded in destroying the Mamluks as an institution, but the resilient Circassians continued to wield considerable control and influence in Egyptian affairs for the next 70 years, although they were now under the vigilant eye of the Viceroy and his successors. Culturally aligned to the Ottoman Turks through their shared use of Turkish rather than Arabic, the Circassians formed part of a Turko-Circassian elite in Egypt that enjoyed a monopoly on force and the major state offices despite their small numbers. Probably only 1% of the population at the beginning of the 19th century, the supply of fresh Circassian slaves began to diminish under the Viceroy’s rule, and the children of Turko-Circassians began to be raised as Arabic-speaking Egyptians.

Growing numbers of native Egyptian administrators and the concurrent growth of Arabic as the language of government meant that by the 1870s the term ‘Turko-Circassian’ had lost much of its ethnic meaning, instead indicating more of a socio-economic class. The use of Ottoman Turkish in government had long kept Egyptians from public office, but long after the use of Arabic and French had become common in many ministries, the Egyptian Army retained Turkish as the language of command, allowing the Turko-Circassians some leverage in keeping a lingering grip on their previous monopoly on force. [3] The development of a nascent Egyptian nationalism behind Ahmad ‘Urabi was in large part a response to the entrenchment of the wealthy, land-holding Turko-Circassian elite, but many Circassians realized that their grip on Egypt was highly tenuous, and the Circassian nobles and officers split into Ottoman and ‘Urabist factions. With the ‘Urabist nationalists in power, a number of Circassian staff officers attempted a coup in 1882 designed to preserve the old order. The rising was thwarted and the officers were sentenced to exile in the Sudan (later commuted to exile in Turkey by Khedive Tawfiq, a virtual non-punishment) (Cole 1993: 237-238).

Some few hundred Mamluks escaped Muhammad ‘Ali’s wrath by fleeing to the Sudan, and in an effort to eliminate these and to acquire at the same time large numbers of black slaves to swell the ranks of his army, Muhammad ‘Ali sent his son Isma’il to the Sudan at the head of a large invasion force in 1820. Isma’il was also entrusted with the task of exploiting the supposed gold fields of Sinnar. The army was a motley collection of Turkish troops, Bedouin, Bosnians, Magharba volunteers and Bashi-Bazouks, [4] loosely disciplined irregulars (mostly Albanians, Circassians, Kurds and Slavs). The army also included a battery of field artillery, which was to prove decisive in several engagements ahead.


The advance of Isma’il’s force was unopposed until they reached the land of the Sha’iqiya, along the Nile in the region between Korti and the fourth cataract. Proud and warlike, the Sha’iqiya courageously but futilely charged the Egyptian guns in two battles in December 1820. Heavy Sha’iqiya losses on the battlefield were followed by the brutal mutilation of many of the civilian population by Turkish troops. Despite this, the surviving Sha’iqi warriors were recruited into Turkish service and remained among the most effective instruments of force available to the regime until its demise 65 years later.
Reaching Sinnar on the Blue Nile in June 1821, a detachment under the Viceroy’s capable son Ibrahim Pasha received the submission of King Badi IV, ruler of the now decrepit Funj empire. The conquest of Fur-ruled Kordofan was entrusted to Muhammad ‘Ali’s son-in-law, the Daftardar Muhammad Bey Khusraw. [5] Again Turkish guns laid waste to the chain-mailed cavalry of the Fur governor and his Arab allies at the battle of Bara. Only the outbreak of an anti-Ottoman rebellion on the Greek island of Morea prevented a further invasion of Darfur itself.

Turkish troops throughout the new territories were immediately put to the task of enslaving tens of thousands of the Viceroy’s new subjects (as well as their neighbors) and shipping them to Cairo. Isma’il was constantly spurred on by his father, who was desperate to fill the ranks of the nizam al-jadid, his new army of black slaves and Egyptian fellahin (agricultural peasants). Muhammad ‘Ali stated these recruits were ‘worth even more than jewels’ (Douin 1944: 277-285).

Massive new tax levies were instituted to compensate for the failure of the Turks to discover the long rumoured gold sources of Sinnar and Kordofan. While the early years of the occupation might be termed ‘rule by razzia,’ there were exceptional administrators such as ‘Abdin Bey al-Arna’ut (‘the Albanian’), who made many improvements as governor of Dongola (1821-26). The stability of Dongola was unusual, however, as rebellion flickered throughout the new Egyptian territories.

On an inspection tour of Shendi in 1822, Isma’il made insulting and unreasonable demands for slaves and cash from the Ja’aliyin mek (king), Nimr Muhammad. Mek Nimr responded by uniting with his cousin Mek Musa’ad to brutally kill Isma’il and his entourage. With Muhammad ‘Ali’s new heir Ibrahim needed in Egypt to deal with rebellious fellahin, the suppression of the Arab revolt that followed Isma’il’s death was left to the Daftardar, Muhammad Bey Khusraw, who accomplished the task through massacres and relentless cruelty towards the rebels and the innocent alike. Before being relieved in 1824, the atrocities carried out by the Daftardar in Sudan coloured Sudanese attitudes towards the ‘Turks’ for the remainder of their administration. Muhammad Bey Khusraw was eventually judged a liability by his father-in-law, the Viceroy, and was poisoned on the Viceroy’s orders in 1833.

The administration of the Turko-Egyptian regime changed little with the arrival of a new governor for Sinnar and Berber at the head of a regiment of the nizam al-jadid. ‘Uthman Jarkas al-Birinji was a middle-aged Circassian Mamluk of the Viceroy’s household who attempted to revive the Mamluk style once in Sudan by recruiting fourteen other Mamluks as a personal bodyguard. These efforts brought admonishment from the Viceroy, and ‘Uthman’s brutal attempts to collect the excessive taxes drove the all-important cultivators of the fertile Gezira region into the desert to perish of starvation and disease.

After ‘Uthman’s sudden death in 1823 he was replaced by a Kurd, the Mamluk Mahu Bey Urfali. Mahu accomplished much in his single year as governor, pacifying the country, suspending tax collection for three years, decentralizing the administration and restoring discipline to the marauding troops. Nevertheless, the Viceroy desired another hand at the helm, and installed ‘Ali Kurshid Agha as the Sudan’s first hikimdar (governor-general) in 1826.

Ali Kurshid was given wide powers, but discovered his new domain was already in ruins after only five years of Turko-Egyptian rule. The hikimdar’s rule, which lasted until 1838, was characterized by a number of important developments, including the establishment of Khartoum as the new capital of the Sudan, the introduction of a number of new crops, the growing cultivation of cotton, and the revival of the Gezira region. ‘Ali Kurshid also worked hard at organizing the slave trade and mounted numerous raids on the Shilluk, the Dinkas and the Hadendowa, many of which met fierce resistance (Hill 1959 Udal 1998 Douin 1944).Qubba of Ahmad Pasha Abu Adhan(McGregor)


Muhammad ‘Ali’s conquest of the Sudan gave ambitious Circassians a new field in which to resume their ruling ways at some distance from the ever-suspicious Viceroy while still being officially engaged in his service. The qubba-s in downtown Khartoum memorialize two such men.

The first of these is Ahmad Pasha Abu Adhan, Governor-General of the Sudan from 1839 to 1843. Brought to Egypt as a Circassian slave, Ahmad Pasha was a career soldier who fought under Muhammad ‘Ali’s son, Ibrahim Pasha, in Arabia, Syria and Greece. After serving as Egypt’s Minister of War, Ahmad Pasha’s first task as Governor-General was an eight-month campaign undertaken in 1840 to subjugate the Hadendowa tribe of the Beja in the east part of the Sudan. Taking Kassala following heavy fighting, Ahmad Pasha then embarked on a large raid into the Blue Nile area in search of slaves for Muhammad ‘Ali’s army. According to one source, his force of nearly 5,000 men and artillery was soundly routed by a desperate charge of spear-carrying tribesmen at Kormuk (Paton 1863: 227-231). In 1843 Muhammad ‘Ali ordered the preparation of a large force to invade Darfur, an independent sultanate west of the Sudan, but the operation was called off at the last minute because Muhammad ‘Ali began to suspect Ahmad Pasha of treasonous activities.
While governor, Ahmad Pasha made a number of innovations in the administration of the Sudan, including the development of the manufacturing sector of the country, the imposition of a levy of slaves upon each taxable person, and a crackdown on government corruption, especially among the Coptic financial clerks who used the mysteries of accounting to fleece their Turkish masters. The Governor-General was especially popular with the black troops of the Egyptian army, which eventually caused Muhammad ‘Ali to regard him as a threat to his own rule. The Viceroy could well recall that it was his own popularity with the Albanian troops serving in Egypt that enabled him to seize control, though Muhammad ‘Ali would later take pains to eliminate his unruly supporters by sending them off to fight in expeditionary forces accompanied by letters to their commanders advising them that these men were to considered ‘expendable.’

When rumours began to circulate that the Governor-General was negotiating with the Ottoman sultan to separate the Sudan from Egypt, Ahmad Pasha was ordered back to Cairo. The Governor-General apparently decided instead to take a fatal dose of poison in Khartoum, though rumours held that the poison had been administered by Muhammad ‘Ali’s messenger. The Governor-General’s family was detained in Khartoum for a year afterwards in an attempt to suppress speculation, and the whole incident was regarded as something of a scandal in Istanbul. [6]

Qubba of Musa Pasha Hamdi(McGregor)


The Western qubba on ‘Abbas Avenue is that of Musa Pasha Hamdi, Governor-General of the Sudan from 1862 to 1865. Musa Hamdi was a Circassian soldier of long experience in the Sudan. His career began when he was sold as a slave in the Cairo market to a Turk. Enrolled in the army, Musa Hamdi was captured in a campaign against the Syrians, but succeeded in escaping. Musa Hamdi progressed quickly through the ranks due to a combination of cunning and ruthlessness, and despite being dismissed at one point for his inhumane treatment of prisoners (an accomplishment at a time when taxes were collected through beatings and conscripts were transported in chains), Musa Hamdi was soon appointed to a succession of important posts. When made Governor-General, Musa Hamdi brought with him a reputation for cruelty demonstrated in campaigns against the Beja in the eastern Sudan. Although several of his predecessors had taken steps against the Sudan’s immense trade in slaves, Musa Hamdi allowed the slave trade to resume unhindered. Taxation was also raised to unsustainable levels and it was not long before the Sudan’s administration became a net drain on the Cairo treasury. In the south the Governor-General came into conflict with several of the often-large private slave armies created by Nubian and Arab traders and slavers from the north Sudan. A successful raid on Abyssinia resulted in Musa Hamdi’s promotion to the third grade of pasha (Rumeli beylerbeyi), but a later expedition against the Nuba of Southern Kordofan ended in defeat for the Governor-General. Musa Hamdi solved the problem of a large and under-utilized army in the Sudan by loaning regular troops to slave-raiders in the South. The Governor-General’s short rule ended with his death from smallpox in Khartoum in 1865. His successor defamed him as ‘a drunkard, a gambler, and a thief,’ though it was the practice for new governors to denigrate their predecessors so as to make their own regimes shine in comparison. Samuel Baker, who knew the Governor-General, described Musa Hamdi as ‘a rather exaggerated specimen of Turkish authorities in general, combining the worst of oriental failings with the brutality of a wild animal’ (Baker 1877: 8). HA MacMichael, a later Governor-General of the Sudan, remarked of Musa Hamdi that ‘murder and torture were no more to him than pastimes’ (MacMichael 1922: 429).


As mentioned above, Islamic qubba-s are typically surrounded by the graves of followers and descendants of the shaykh within, a pattern followed by the monuments of ‘Abbas Avenue, which are accompanied by a handful of lesser burials. Among these is that of Muhammad Bey Almas (or al-Maz). A Dinka from the south Sudan, Muhammad Almas entered the Turkish-Egyptian army as a common soldier in 1834 and eventually rose to the rank of commissioned officer.

Far from the Sudan, the manipulations of the French emperor Napoleon III in Mexico were to have an unforeseen effect on the lives of Almas and many of his fellow Sudanese comrades-in-arms. Napoleon III committed a large number of French troops in 1862 to support the ambitious attempt to place a Hapsburg royal on the throne of Mexico, but Yellow Fever and malaria proved devastating to the French troops. The French Emperor was increasingly involved financially with Egypt, and his request for the loan of black troops used to such conditions for use in the most fever-ridden areas was met with approval. By January 1863 Muhammad Almas was on his way to Mexico as second-in-command of 447 Sudanese soldiers, assuming command of the regiment shortly after the death of its commanding officer, Binbashi Jubarat Allah.

The Sudanese proved very effective fighters and became highly popular with their French allies. [7] Almas was personally decorated by the Hapsburg Arch-Duke Maximillian with the order of Our Lady of Guadeloupe, a singularly unusual distinction for a Muslim officer. A much-reduced Sudanese force embarked for the return to Egypt in 1867, stopping along the way for a review by Napoleon III in Paris. Almas was decorated with the cross of Officer of the Legion of Honour by the French emperor,and was further promoted upon his return to Egypt. The Mexican veterans proved a remarkably durable lot, serving as the most reliable troops under successive governors of the Sudan. Gordon gave the highest commands to Mexican veterans in his defence of Khartoum, and several served long enough to participate in Kitchener’s 1899 conquest of the Mahdist forces at Omdurman. [8]


A second military burial at the site is that of Adham Pasha al-‘Arifi (commonly called al-Taqalawi). Born in the Nuba hills of Southern Kordofan, al-‘Arifi, probably a Nuba in origin, was one of the first black Sudanese to be taken to Egypt for a military education. After his training, al-‘Arifi fought in Muhammad ‘Ali’s campaigns in Syria before serving as second in command of a regiment of Sudanese troops (the 9th) sent to the Crimea in 1853 as part of the Ottoman expeditionary force. After fighting the Russians, al-‘Arifi returned to the Sudan in 1862, where he embarked on a tax-collecting campaign in the Fazughli mountains of the Blue Nile region. In 1865 Cairo issued orders for a battalion to be formed from black troops stationed in Kassala for the relief of the Sudanese battalion already in Mexico. The Kassala garrison mutinied, and al-‘Arifi was placed in command of one of three columns sent to suppress the mutineers. Al-‘Arifi persuaded the garrison to surrender, but they were then executed to a man, despite Al-‘Arifi’s protests. His own role in the affair nevertheless brought al-‘Arifi promotion and eventually the post of acting Governor-General in 1872 while serving as commanding officer of all troops in the Sudan (Hill 1967: 27).

Several other tombs are found on the site, including that of the wife of Mari Bey. Mari Bey (also known as Békir Agha, and Békir Bey) was a Corsican adventurer who claimed to have served under Napoleon as a colonel, though others insisted he was only a drummer hence his nickname, ‘Le Colonel Tapin’. Appointed an instructor in Muhammad ‘Ali’s army, Mari Bey campaigned against the Wahhabites in Arabia and against the Greeks in Morea. By 1834 he was on the staff of Ahmad Pasha in Arabia. While serving as a prefect of police in Cairo in 1853 he fell into disfavour with ‘Abbas I and was temporarily exiled to Khartoum, where his wife died and was buried beside the qubba of his old commander, Ahmad Pasha.

The last tomb on the site belongs to Ibrahim Bey Marzouk, an Egyptian writer who appears to have been of some influence in Khartoum, having once served on a commission of inquiry regarding government corruption.


The Sudanese Qubba in its most basic beehive form – Northern Dongola Reach, Nubia(Sudan Archaeological Research Society – Northern Dongola Reach Survey)

Qubba-s are found mainly along the Blue Nile and the Nile north of Khartoum, though isolated examples are found through most of Muslim Sudan. The qubba is always a holy place, and the fenced area around it is also haram, a sanctuary where a traveler’s goods can be left safely and without interference. The qubba-s are sites of local pilgrimage on holy days, or on occasions when it is necessary to make a special request from the saint. A solemn oath may also be sworn at a qubba belonging to a family ancestor.

More complex examples from Wad Madani on the Blue Nile (Photo – David Love)

The qubba of Ahmad Pasha, the earlier of the two on ‘Abbas Avenue, represents the beginning of the last phase of development of Sudanese qubba-s, using a cube foundation with a beehive cupola, the two being mediated by a polygon in the middle. In the ‘Abbas Avenue examples and in another qubba at Mekali (that of Al-Shaykh ‘Abd Allah al-Halengi) each of the foundation corners supports a phallic-shaped column. This type of ornament evolved into a more elaborate small dome supported by four open arches, as in the Mahdi’s tomb and others in Omdurman (as-Sadig 1966 Humudi 1977: 107-116).

How did these small burial structures on ‘Abbas Avenue come to be the last remnants of pre-Mahdist Khartoum? Their outward appearance as religious sanctuaries does not appear sufficient reason when the historical record is examined. The tombs were those of major figures in the hated Turko-Egyptian regime, and while the vast majority of the Mahdists were illiterate tribesmen from the west Sudan, the identity of the occupants of these qubba-s would have been no mystery to Islamic scholars such as the Mahdi or to the many former members of the Turko-Egyptian regime who had fallen in with the Mahdists, and who would know the true nature of the tombs’ occupants or at least be able to read the inscriptions found there. Islamic associations were not alone enough to prevent the destruction of a structure by the Mahdists: the Great Mosque of Khartoum was dismantled for building materials shortly after the Mahdist victory, and it is further known that the Mahdists destroyed the qubba of al-Hasan al-Mirghani (1810-69) in Kassala because of his son’s opposition to the Mahdi and his successor, the Khalifa. In these circumstances it is all the more puzzling as to why these two ‘secular’ qubba-s, representative of the cruelty and extortion of the Turko-Egyptian regime, should have survived the abandonment and destruction of the rest of the city.

The Qubba Tomb of Muhammad Ahmad al-Mahdi, Omdurman

It is suggested that, given the structural similarity between the ‘Abbas Avenue qubba-s and the much grander tomb of the Mahdi in Omdurman, that the Circassian qubba-s served as architectural models for the tomb of the Mahdi, who died very shortly after the fall of Khartoum. As the rest of Khartoum was dismantled, these qubba-s were spared the fate of the rest of the city through their association (however tenuous) with the Mahdi. These tombs, representative of the old order, could owe their preservation to the sanctity of the man who forever destroyed that old order in the Sudan.

What, then, was the legacy of these Circassian governors and their fellow Ottomans during Egypt’s 19th century rule in the Sudan? Before his fateful return to Khartoum, General Gordon insisted in an interview in 1884 (in the Pall Mall Gazette) that ‘all that was needed in order to restore law and order in the Sudan was to promise the Sudanese that in future no Turks or Circassians should be allowed to exploit them and ruin their country’. Lord Cromer, who devised the Condominium government of Britain and Egypt that ruled the Sudan after 1899, described the Turko-Circassian administration of the Sudan as ‘the worst form of misgovernment’. George Schuster, a prominent member of Sudan’s government in the 1920’s, described the regime as ‘one of the blackest stories of misadministration in human history – a record of corruption by Government officials, of slave trading, of local wars and complete civil disorder.’ [9]

Egyptian views of the Turko-Circassian legacy in Sudan vary some have focused on
Egypt’s ‘civilizing mission’, some have disclaimed Egyptian involvement in what was in reality an Ottoman Turkish administration, and still others have blamed the ills of the administration on the Europeans introduced to the Sudan government by Khedive Isma’il in the 1870’s. Sudanese scholars have used Egyptian correspondence of the period to reject any notion of Egypt carrying out a ‘civilizing mission’ above and beyond the exploitation of Sudanese resources and peoples, and further emphatically dispose of the idea that the Sudanese umma required Egyptian guidance in religious affairs (Warburg 1992).

While the Turko-Circassians did open the Sudan to world markets and created a centralized administration, the devastation wrought by a brutal and wasteful slave trade, the consequent depopulation of viable economic areas, and the use of forced labour on over-ambitious and ultimately unsuccessful attempts to exploit the country’s natural resources meant that the Sudan’s financial books were doomed to drown in red ink even before corrupt administrators of each level of government took their take of the official revenues.


The small collection of qubba-s and graves on ‘Abbas Avenue are an important monument to the vast changes that came to the Middle East and North Africa in the 19th century. In the qubba-s we may see the passing of an extraordinary age of Circassian prominence in the Nile Valley. Among the events that conspired to bring an end to Circassian importance in international affairs in general and their prominence in Egypt in particular were

a) the elimination of Mamluk recruitment
b) the conquest of a divided Circassia by Russia
c) the exile of many Circassians to Turkey, Jordan, and other points in the Middle East
d) the growth of Arab nationalism in Egypt and other parts of the Ottoman Empire
e) the momentous changes in the power structure of the Ottoman government that culminated in the revolution of the Young Turks. [10]

On the other hand, we may see in the careers of the two Sudanese officers the entry of the black tribes of the south Sudan onto the modern international scene. Born into a world where most people rarely ventured far from their village, these Nuba, Dinkas, Shilluks and others represented their little known peoples with distinction in such far-flung places as Syria, Russia, France and Mexico.

Though they, like the Circassians, began their Egyptian service as slaves, they were pioneers in the transition of power in the Sudan from the varied ‘Turk’ races of the Ottoman empire to the Sudanese nationalists who would eventually guide the Sudan to independence.

  1. [AIS Update – December 2016] – The author made several visits to the site in the 1980s and 1990s, which was, at the time, close to a road sign that read “Abbas Avenue.” It was later learned that the avenue had been renamed al-Baladiya Avenue at some point after independence, though apparently the old road signs had not been removed. The qubba-s can be found on al-Baladiya (formerly Abbas) between al-Qasr Avenue and Babiker Badri Street. The author regrets the mistake.
  2. The precise figures have been the subject of some dispute see Henze (1992: 103-104).
  3. For the role of the Circassian elite in a changing 19th century Egyptian society, see Abu-Lughod (1967: 325-344).
  4. Turkish: basibozuk, literally ‘crack-brained.’ Lively accounts of service in such units can be found, for example, in Money (1857) and Vizetelly (1897).
  5. The Daftardar was the Egyptian government Intendant of Finance.
  6. Hill 1967: 41-42. For details of the controversy, see Santi and Hill (1980: 87-89) and Hill (1956: 83-87).
  7. The Sudanese and French were only part of a polyglot force that included Austrians, Belgians, Mexicans, Legionnaires and Martinicans.
  8. A full history of the Mexican campaign is given in Hill and Hogg (1995). A colourful first-hand account can be found in Jifun (1896). See also Ravert and Dellard (1894: 43-53, 104-23, 176-85, 230-45, 272-85).
  9. Gordon is quoted in Daniel (1966: 426). For British views of the Turko-Egyptian regime, see Schuster (1979) and MacMichael (1934: Ch. 3).
  10. The post-Communist efforts to unite the Circassian diaspora are described in Smith (1998 : 92-95).

Abu-Lughod, I. ‘The Transformation of the Egyptian Elite: Prelude to the ‘Urabi revolt’.
Middle East Journal, Summer 1967: 325-344.

Allen, W. E. D. 1970. Russian embassies to the Georgian kings (1589-1605). Volume 1. Cambridge: Haklyut Society.

Allen, W. E. D. and Muratoff, P. 1953. Caucasian battlefields: A history of the wars on the Turco-Circassian border, 1828-1921. Cambridge.

as-Sadig, S. O. 1966. The Domed Tombs of Eastern Sudan: Their functional, cultural and psychological values. Unpublished MA Thesis, University of Khartoum.

Baker, S. W. 1877. The Albert N’yanza. London.

Broxup, M. E. (ed.) 1992. The North Caucasus barrier: The Russian advance towards the Muslim world. London.

Cole, J. R. 1993. Social and cultural origins of Egypt’s ‘Urabi movement. Princeton, New Jersey.

Daniel, N. 1996. Islam, Europe and Empire. Edinburgh.

Douin, G. 1944. Histoire du Soudan Égyptien, Vol.1, La Pénétration, 1820-22. Cairo.

Habjoka, S. M. 1972. Heroes and Emperors in Circassian History. Beirut.

Henze, P. B. 1992. “Circassian resistance to Russia,” In: The North Caucasus barrier: The
Russian advance towards the Muslim world, Marie Bennigsen Broxup (ed.). London.

Hill, R. 1956. ‘Death of a Governor-General,’ Sudan Notes and Records 37.

Hill R. 1959. Egypt in the Sudan, 1820-1881. Oxford.

Hill, R. 1967. Biographical Dictionary of the Sudan, 2nd ed., Oxford

Hill, R. and Hogg, P. 1995. A Black Corps d’Élite: An Egyptian Sudanese conscript battalion with the French army in Mexico, 1863-1867, and its survivors in subsequent African history. Michigan: East Lansing.

Humudi, S. T. 1977. ‘Arab and Islamic origins of the tomb and enclave in the Sudan.’ Sudan Notes and Records 58: 107-116.

Jifun, A. (Translation: Bey, P. W. M.) 1896. ‘The Story of Ali Jifun,’ The Cornhill Magazine, new series 1. London.

MacMichael, H. A. 1922. History of the Arabs of the Sudan, Vol. II.1934

MacMichael, H.A., 1934. The Anglo-Egyptian Sudan. London.

Money, E. 1857. Twelve Months with the Bashi-Bazouks. London.

Paton, A. A. 1863. A History of the Egyptian Revolution, Vol.II. London.

Ravert and Dellard 1894. ‘Historique du Bataillon Nègre Égyptien au Mexique (1863-1867).’
Revue d’Égypte I.

Santi, P. and Hill, R. (eds.) 1980. The Europeans in the Sudan, 1834-1878. Oxford.

Schuster, G. 1979. Private work and public causes. Wales: Cowbridge.

Smith, S. 1998. Allah’s Mountains: Politics and war in the Russian Caucasus. London.

Udal, J. O. 1998. The Nile in Darkness: Conquest and Exploration, 1504-1862. Wilby:

Vizetelly, E. 1897. The Reminiscences of a Bashi-Bazouk. Bristol: Arrowsmith.

Warburg, G. R. 1992. Historical discord in the Nile Valley. London


Basic structure

The structure is basically octagonal. It is capped at its centre by a dome, approximately 20 m (66 ft) in diameter, mounted on an elevated circular drum standing on 16 supports (4 tiers and 12 columns). [11]

Surrounding this circle is an octagonal arcade of 24 piers and columns. [12] The octagonal arcade and the inner circular drum create an inner ambulatorium that encircles the holy rock.

The outer walls are also octagonal. They each measure approximately 18 m (60 ft) wide and 11 m (36 ft) high. [11] The outer and inner octagon create a second, outer ambulatorium surrounding the inner one.

Both the circular drum and the exterior walls contain many windows. [11]

Interior decoration

The interior of the dome is lavishly decorated with mosaic, faience and marble, much of which was added several centuries after its completion. It also contains Qur'anic inscriptions. They vary from today's standard text (mainly changes from the first to the third person) and are mixed with pious inscriptions not in the Quran. [13]

The dedicatory inscription in Kufic script placed around the dome contains the date believed to be the year the Dome was first completed, AH 72 (691/2 CE), while the name of the corresponding caliph and builder of the Dome, al-Malik, was deleted and replaced by the name of Abbasid caliph Al-Ma'mun (r. 813–833) during whose reign renovations took place.

Exterior decoration

The decoration of the outer walls went through two major phases: the initial Umayyad scheme comprised marble and mosaics, much like the interior walls. [14] 16th-century Ottoman sultan Suleyman the Magnificent replaced it with Turkish faience tiles. [14] The Ottoman tile decoration was replaced in the 1960s with faithful copies produced in Italy. [14]

Surah Ya Sin (the 'Heart of the Quran') is inscribed across the top of the tile work and was commissioned in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent. [15] Al-Isra, the Surah 17 which tells the story of the Isra or Night Journey, is inscribed above this.

Pre-Islamic background

The Dome of the Rock is situated in the center of the Temple Mount, the site of the Temple of Solomon and the Jewish Second Temple, which had been greatly expanded under Herod the Great in the 1st century BCE. Herod's Temple was destroyed in 70 CE by the Romans, and after the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135, a Roman temple to Jupiter Capitolinus was built at the site by Emperor Hadrian. [16]

Jerusalem was ruled by the Christian Byzantine Empire throughout the 4th to 6th centuries. During this time, Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem began to develop. [17] The Church of the Holy Sepulchre was built under Constantine in the 320s, but the Temple Mount was left undeveloped after a failed project of restoration of the Jewish Temple under Julian the Apostate. [18]


Original construction

The initial octagonal structure of the Dome of the Rock and its round wooden dome had basically the same shape as is does today. [11] It was built by the order of the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik ( r . 685–705 ). [19] According to Sibt ibn al-Jawzi (1185–1256), construction started in 685/86, while al-Suyuti (1445–1505) holds that its commencement year was 688. [20] A dedicatory inscription in Kufic script is preserved inside the dome. The date is recorded as AH 72 (691/2 CE), the year most historians believe the construction of the original Dome was completed. [21] An alternative interpretation of the inscription claims that it indicates the year when construction started. [22] In this inscription, the name of "al-Malik" was deleted and replaced by the name of the Abbasid caliph al-Ma'mun ( r . 813–833 ). This alteration of the original inscription was first noted by Melchior de Vogüé in 1864. [23] Some scholars have suggested that the dome was added to an existing building, built either by Muawiyah I (r. 661–680), [24] or indeed a Byzantine building dating to before the Muslim conquest, built under Heraclius (r. 610–641). [25]

The Dome of the Rock's architecture and mosaics were patterned after nearby Byzantine churches and palaces. [2] The supervisor and engineer in charge of the project were Raja ibn Haywa, Yazid ibn Salam, and the latter's son Baha. [26] [2] [27] Raja was a Muslim theologian and native of Beisan, and Yazid and Baha were mawali (non-Arab, Muslim converts clients) of Abd al-Malik from Jerusalem. Abd al-Malik was represented in the supervision of the construction by his son Sa'id al-Khayr. [26] The Caliph employed expert works from across his domain, at the time restricted to Syria and Egypt, [26] who were presumably Christians. [27] Construction cost was reportedly seven times the yearly tax income of Egypt. [28] The historian K. A. C. Creswell noted that those who built the shrine used the measurements of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The diameter of the dome of the shrine is 20.20 m (66.3 ft) and its height 20.48 m (67.2 ft), while the diameter of the dome of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is 20.90 m (68.6 ft) and its height 21.05 m (69.1 ft).

Motivations for construction

Narratives by the medieval sources about Abd al-Malik's motivations in building the Dome of the Rock vary. [9] At the time of its construction, the Caliph was engaged in war with Christian Byzantium and its Syrian Christian allies on the one hand and with the rival caliph Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, who controlled Mecca, the annual destination of Muslim pilgrimage, on the other hand. [9] [29] Thus, one series of explanations was that Abd al-Malik intended for the Dome of the Rock to be a religious monument of victory over the Christians that would distinguish Islam's uniqueness within the common Abrahamic religious setting of Jerusalem, home of the two older Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Christianity. [9] [30] The historian Shelomo Dov Goitein has argued that the Dome of the Rock was intended to compete with the many fine buildings of worship of other religions: "The very form of a rotunda, given to the Qubbat as-Sakhra, although it was foreign to Islam, was destined to rival the many Christian domes." [31]

The other main explanation holds that Abd al-Malik, in the heat of the war with Ibn al-Zubayr, sought to build the structure to divert the focus of the Muslims in his realm from the Ka'aba in Mecca, where Ibn al-Zubayr would publicly condemn the Umayyads during the annual pilgrimage to the sanctuary. [9] [29] [30] Though most modern historians dismiss the latter account as a product of anti-Umayyad propaganda in the traditional Muslim sources and doubt that Abd al-Malik would attempt to alter the sacred Muslim requirement of fulfilling the pilgrimage to the Ka'aba, other historians concede that this cannot be conclusively dismissed. [9] [29] [30]

Abbasids and Fatimids

The building was severely damaged by earthquakes in 808 and again in 846. [32] The dome collapsed in an earthquake in 1015 and was rebuilt in 1022–23. The mosaics on the drum were repaired in 1027–28. [33]


For centuries Christian pilgrims were able to come and experience the Temple Mount, but escalating violence against pilgrims to Jerusalem (Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah, who ordered the destruction of the Holy Sepulchre, was an example) resulted in the Crusades. [34] The Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099 and the Dome of the Rock was given to the Augustinians, who turned it into a church, while the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque first became a royal palace for a while, and then for much of the 12th century the headquarters of the Knights Templar. The Templars, active from c. 1119, identified the Dome of the Rock as the site of the Temple of Solomon. The Templum Domini, as they called the Dome of the Rock, featured on the official seals of the Order's Grand Masters (such as Everard des Barres and Renaud de Vichiers), and soon became the architectural model for round Templar churches across Europe. [35]

Ayyubids and Mamluks

Jerusalem was recaptured by Saladin on 2 October 1187, and the Dome of the Rock was reconsecrated as a Muslim shrine. The cross on top of the dome was replaced by a crescent, and a wooden screen was placed around the rock below. Saladin's nephew al-Malik al-Mu'azzam Isa carried out other restorations within the building, and added the porch to the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The Dome of the Rock was the focus of extensive royal patronage by the sultans during the Mamluk period, which lasted from 1260 until 1516.

Ottoman period (1517–1917)

During the reign of Suleiman the Magnificent (1520–1566), the exterior of the Dome of the Rock was covered with tiles. This work took seven years. [ citation needed ] Some of the interior decoration was added in the Ottoman period. [ citation needed ]

Adjacent to the Dome of the Rock, the Ottomans built the free-standing Dome of the Prophet in 1620. [ citation needed ]

Large-scale renovation was undertaken during the reign of Mahmud II in 1817. [ citation needed ] In a major restoration project undertaken in 1874–75 during the reign of the Ottoman Sultan Abdülaziz, all the tiles on the west and southwest walls of the octagonal part of the building were removed and replaced by copies that had been made in Turkey. [36] [37]

Sudan, Old Dongola archaeological site

The remains of the medieval town of Dongola lie on the east bank of the Nile river. The city prospered between the 7th to the 14th century as the capital of the Christian Kingdom of Makuria and crucial starting point for caravans heading west towards Darfur and Kordofan regions. It was founded around the fifth century as a fortress, but soon afterwards a city developed in the surrounding area.

Old Dongola, the Throne Hall Old Dongola, the Throne Hall

With the advent of Christianity, Dongola became the capital of the kingdom of Makuria, and numerous churches, monasteries, cathedrals and houses were built there. The city reached the period of its most significant development in the 10th century, and during the 13th and 14th centuries, it fell into decline. In 1317, the Muslim King Abdallah Bershambu was placed on the Throne of Dongola marking the end of the Christian rulers. Unfortunately, since the collapse of the Kingdom of Makuria, houses and churches have been plundered for building materials.

Old Dongola, the remains of the church Old Dongola, the remains of the church

The most prominent and well preserved surviving building of the site is the so-called Throne Hall , a two-storey edifice with thick walls sit on a hill overlooking the east bank of the Nile. Not far from the Throne Hall is the Church of the Granite Columns, used to be a cathedral and the seat of the Dongola bishops. With the advent of Islam in 1317, the Throne Hall was converted into a mosque and used until 1969. In the valley, it is possible to see the 17th-century Islamic cemetery with several Qubbas, monumental domed tombs where Muslim holy men, also called marabouts, were buried.

Old Dongola, the qubba tombs

Need to know about Old Dongola

Entrance fee

There isn’t a fixed entrance fee, but you need to bargain with the guardian. We paid 300 SDG per person. It’s also quite challenging to find the guardian itself therefore, so as in all the sites, go on with your visit and he’ll find you. Anyway, click here to see the location of the building where to pay for the ticket .

The Diversity Of Early African Architecture/Ruins Thread

Fasil Ghebbi – a complex of castles in Gondar in Ethiopia, which in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries served as the residence of emperors of Ethiopia. The complex was in 1979 a UNESCO world heritage site. Sometimes referred to as “African Camelot.”

City of Gondar was founded in 1636 and soon became a political and commercial center of Ethiopia. Rich resort began to attract artisans and artists from all over the country. According to the messages, the first castle was designed by architect from India, another had been built by Ethiopians themselves. How to certify a Scottish explorer James Bruce, who was then in Ethiopia, participated in the work of a builder of Greek origin. It is also possible that some effect on the creation of Portuguese castles were Jesuits. Some locks betray aksumską relationship with architecture.

The complex Fasil Ghebbi kładają are castles, palaces, churches and other buildings. The whole is surrounded by a stone wall with a length of 900 meters. The largest building is the palace Fasiladas.

In this town-fortress surrounded by a wall with a length of 900 meters and an area of ​​nearly 70,000 m² located up to 6 locks. Each of them served as the seat of the then ruler, and was built specially for him. This practice stemmed from the prevailing tradition in Ethiopia – just not proper to live in a mansion predecessor. In addition to the castles, the walls are the ruins of three churches and the remains of numerous public and private buildings.

The most famous complex of Fasil Castle is a castle Fasilidasa Ghebbi, built in the seventeenth century. Noteworthy is also the archive bear his name. Aside from the Fasilidasa their residences here have also Yohannes, Iyasu, Dawit, and Mintiwab Bekafa.


Monumental Architecture

The Royal Tombs of Axum: A Visit by Stuart Munro-Hay

In Aksum itself impressive structures were built. The great 'palaces' or elite residences of the rich apparently consisted---only foundations now survive---of towered pavilions mounted on high basements (an anti-flood measure?) approached by monumental granite staircases. A 6th century Greek visitor to Aksum mentioned the king's 'four-towered palace'. Such buildings were enclosed by flanking wings of domestic structures, ensuring them both privacy and defence---if that were necessary in a land that was itself a mountain fortress. Inside, there were carved granite pedestals and capitals adorning the columns, brick ovens, underfloor-drainage systems, marble flooring and paneling. We may imagine, almost certainly, carved wooden columns and other decorative work.

The Aksumite kings dedicated granite thrones to their Gods---Astar, Beder, Meder, Mahrem---inscribing them with accounts of military campaigns. Such thrones still stand, broken and desolate, around the city. Statues of gold, silver and bronze were erected to Mahrem, the dynastic god, paralleled with the Greek war-god Mars. One statue-base discovered earlier this century still bore fixing holes and the outline of the feet of a statue, each 99 cm long. All this represents the elite of the Aksumite world.

Archaeology is not all royal monuments, but the perishable nature of humbler dwellings means that often enough little remains to indicate how the ordinary people lived. This is the case at Aksum as elsewhere, but sometimes one can be lucky and find some hints about the lives of lesser people. In one modest tomb on the outskirts of the town of Aksum were found sets of glass stem goblets and beakers, iron tools, weapons and about seventy exquisitely-finished earthenware pots. Even this signifies a certain wealth, but the style of the tomb---little more than a hole dug into the ground---and the contrast between the contents and those from more imposing tombs, hints at very different strata of society.

Text copyright Stuart Munro-Hay 1998

Engraving of an excavated Aksumite style palace at Lalibela.

The 17th-18th century church of Mary of Zion, successor to the earliest Christian church in Ethiopia's ancient capital

Axumite Architecture at Gondar

Passageway Beneath Tomb Entrance, Axum


Here's a recreation of the palace at Dungur

Here's one of the smaller Aksumite palaces, called Enda Semon:

D&#703mt (Proto-Ge'ez: Himjar dal.PNGHimjar ajin.PNGHimjar mim.PNGHimjar ta2.PNG Unvocalized Ge'ez: &#4848&#4816&#4632&#4720, D&#703MT theoretically vocalized as &#4851&#4819&#4635&#4725 Da&#703amat or &#4851&#4821&#4635&#4725 Da&#703&#601mat was a kingdom located in Eritrea and northern Ethiopia that existed during the 10th to 5th centuries BC. Few inscriptions by or about this kingdom survive and very little archaeological work has taken place. As a result, it is not known whether D&#703mt ended as a civilization before Aksum's early stages, evolved into the Aksumite state, or was one of the smaller states united in the Aksumite kingdom possibly around the beginning of the 1st century.

The capital of D&#703mt was in present day Yeha, Tigray, Ethiopia,

Ruins of the temple at Yeha in the Tigray Region of Ethiopia.


I might have a look and see if any of this stuff has been done for Sketchup . there's a bunch of historical models on there now, castles, ziggurats, pyramids, etc. The 3D aspect really brings the stuff to life.


(This is an image of more Sudano-Sahelian architecture. This image is from Kong, in Côte d'Ivoire. Kong was the capital of a kingdom of the same name in northern Côte

Painted Ndebele house SouthAfrica

King of Kongo receiving Dutch Ambassador 1686

One of the gateways to Kano city, showing outer wall Another of the entrances to the city. (1911)

The gates of Dahomey. (1851)

Title: Ruins of royal apartments at the palace in Abomey, Benin, ca. 1925-26.

"Dahomey (modern Benin) - The ruins of royal apartments at the King's Palace
destroyed by cannonballs at Abomey."

Sybellah: Behanzin, Dahomey


Jenne: a corner of the town. (1897)


Ruins of Kumbi Saleh, Capital of the Ghana Empire (9th to 14th century)

"The King's Sleeping Room, 1817"

From Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee: With a Descriptive Account of that Kingdom by Thomas E. Bowditch

"Part of the Piazza in the Palace, 1817"

Also from Mission from Cape Coast Castle to Ashantee: With a Descriptive Account of that Kingdom by Thomas E. Bowditch

Both of these images are drawings of parts of Kumasi, the capital of the former Ashanti Confederacy.

“Reception of the Mission. By the Sultan of Bornou”

From Narrative of Travels and Discoveries in Northern and Central Africa, in the Years 1822, 1823, and 1824

“Kanó, from Mount Dalá / Febr 10th 1851”

Publication: 1831-34. Ferrario, Giulio. Aggiunte e Rettificazioni all'Opera. Il Costume Antico e Moderno di Tutti i Popoli. Cogli Analoghi Disegni del Dottore Giulio Ferrario, Vol. II.
Caption translation: The Queen's Palace.

Text translation: “The population of Tandi a Vua may be estimated at 15,000 individuals, of whom two-thirds are women. The homes of the nobles are elegant and vast. The exterior walls of the Queen’s Palace are covered by a sort of moss which preserves them from the humidity of the rainy seasons, while their interior attics are ceiled with smooth posts set one against the other so as to appear as a single board: the reception room is vast and lit up by four windows whose squares are glazed with sheets of transparent mica. Five hundred Negroes constantly surround this palace: the beautifully sculpted main door is guarded by only three men, two are seated on their heels, one on one side and the other on the other side, are armed with a club, and the third is fully armed (see Table 44).” (p. 402).

“View of the City of Timbuctoo” [This is the first view of Timbuktu drawn by a European visitor.]

“Sketch of the Plan of the Great Mosque of Timbuctoo, and View Taken from the E.N.E.”

"I visited the great mosque on the west side of the town it is larger than that on the east, but it is built in the same style. The walls are in bad repair, their facing being damaged by the rains, which fall in the months of August and September, and which are always brought on by easterly winds, accompanied by violent storms. Several buttresses are raised against the wall to support them I ascended the tower, though its staircase, which is internal, is almost demolished. . . . The western quarter of the mosque seems very ancient, but the whole facade on that side is in ruins. There are also some vaulted arcades, from which the whole of the plaster facing is detached. This mosque is constructed of sun-dried bricks, of nearly the same form as those made in Europe. The walls are rough-cast with a kind of coarse sand, similar to that of which the bricks are made, mixed with the gluten of rice. . . . The eastern part is composed of six galleries. . . . The walls of the mosque are fifteen feet high and twenty-five or twenty-six inches thick." - René Caillié (1799-1838), Travels Through Central Africa to Timbuctoo, and Across the Great Desert, to Morocco, Performed in the Years 1824-1828, Vol. 2, pp. 71-72. London, 1830.

Publication: 1908. Powell-Cotton, Major P.H.G. "A Journey Through the Eastern Portion of the Congo State." The National Geographic Magazine, Vol. XIX, No. 3.
Caption translation: Wall of burnt clay surrounding a village near Timbuktu, Africa.

“1, 2, 3: Details of the Great Mosque of Timbuctoo 4, 5: Plan and Front of the House of Sidi Abdallah Chebir, in Which Mr. Caillié Resided”

Publication: 1892. Binger, Louis. Du Niger au Golfe de Guinée par les pays de Kong et le Mossi. vol. I, Vol. I of II.


Caption translation: Entrance hall in the chief's court of Bamum

Caption translation: The Bamum chief in his audience court. Inside a round hall, with richly carved bars, Njoja sits. He is smoking a pipe, and youths and all of his attendants surround him. The throne is of estimable, old beadwork.

Caption translation: Attending court in the chief's palace in Fumban

Publication: 1917. Wuhrmann, Anna. Vier Jahre im Grasland von Kamerun.
Entrance to the chief's compound

Publication: 1874. Skertchly, J.A. Dahomey as it is Being A Narrative of Eight Month's Residence in that Country with a full account of the notorious annual customs, and the social and religious institutions of the Ffons. Also an appendix on Ashantee, and a Glossary of Dahoman Words and Titles.


[FONT=Verdana, Arial] Church Ruin pic from the book [/FONT]

City -old dongola
[FONT=Verdana, Arial] Old Dongola | Capital of mediæval Nubia, Makuria Kingdom [/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, Arial] Wikipedia: Old Dongola (Old Nubian: Tungul Arabic: Dunqulah al-ʿAjūz‎) is a town in Sudan, on the east bank of the Nile opposite the Wadi Al-Malik. It is 50 miles (80 km) upstream from (New) Dongola. Old Dongola was the departure point for caravans west to Darfur and Kordofan.

[/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial] It was an important city in Mediaeval Nubia. From the fourth to the fourteenth century it was the capital of the Makurian state. In the Fifth Century Old Dongola was founded as fortress, but became soon a town. Latest with the arrival of Christianity it became the capital. Several churches were built. There was the Building X and the Church with the Stone Pavement. There were erected about 100 m apart from the walled town centre, indicating that at this time the town already extended over the original walls of the fortress. In the middile of the Seventh century, the town was attacked by the Arabs, but was not conquered. However, the two main churches were destroyed, but shortly after rebuild. Building material of the Old Church was used for supporting the city walls.

[/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial] The Building X was soon replaced by the Old Church.

[/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial] The Church of the Granite Columns was erected at the end of the Seventh Century over the Old Church. It was perhaps the cathedral of Old Dongola and adorned with 16 granite columns. These columns had richly decorated granite capitals.

[/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial] Around the Tenth century, Old Dongola had its heyday. At the place of the Church of the Stone Pavements, the Cruciform Church was erected. At this time Old Dongola had many other churches, at least two palaces, and in the North a huge monastery. Several houses were well equipped and had bath rooms and wall paintings.

[/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial] In the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Century, the town lost importance. It was attacked by Arabs several times and the throne room of the palace was converted to a mosque. [/FONT]

[FONT=Verdana, Arial] Under the Funj, Old Dongola was the capital of the Northern provinces.

[/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial] When the traveller C.J. Poncet travelled through the city, he described it as located on the slope of a sandy hill. His description of Old Dongola continues:

[/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial] The houses are ill built, and the streets half deserted and fill'd with heaps of sand, occasion'd by floods from the mountains.

The castle is in the very center of the town. It is large and spacious, but the fortifications are inconsiderable. It keeps in awe the Arabians, who are masters of the open country

[/FONT][FONT=Verdana, Arial] A Polish archaeological team has been excavating the town since 1964.

The Diversity Of Early African Architecture/Ruins Thread

Lalibela church, Ethiopia, carved entirely out of one whole rock.

Other Ethiopian rock churches

Angolan houses and European trading post

Iddah (an Igala town of what is now central Nigeria) king's court



The Dogon of Mali are known for their incredible ability to have preserved their culture and completely shielded themselves from all political and religious invaders (i.e Islam). Hence their decision to reside in the obscure and almost inaccesible corners of Mali in the 15th century, whereby no mode of transportation by invaders could reach,

Fresco Paintings- “They are created by the Gurunsi women of Tiebélé for decorating their traditional adobe homes that also share similar geometric pattern with shapes found on the calabashes of Fulani women. These motifs can also be found on the frescoes of traditional adobe buildings found in Northern Ghana, Niger, Northern Nigeria and Cameroon.” African Architecture and Design


These houses are from titled men of Onicha and may have Benin influence.

ONITSHA [IGBO]. Chief Ogbua&#8217s house. Entrance portice seen from within.

The Ngwo people. Another traditional two-storey building.


I can't thank you enough for the pics you posted! Especially the ones of Abomey (and the Dahomey) and other parts of Nigeria. I've never seen them before, and it's nice to see what things looked like back then. I like their building style. Much appreciated.

And besides what you posted, you're right, it's extremely hard to find ruins of the Funj kingdom of Sudan. It's a shame because I find it among the most interesting of African precolonial states. Maybe because it was so mysterious (no one truly knows who the Funj were, though they may have been Shilluk peoples).

From what I've read, the Funj invaders re-used many of the old buildings previously built by the Nubian inhabitants of Dongola and other cities. And they seemed to have continued the tradition of building in the style of Christian Nubia, as it was the region they took over. So the Funj architectural style was very similar to that of the medieval Christian Nubians: mostly mud-brick and stone buildings, with some reed and thatched ones also. But obviously the Funj (who were Muslims) built mosques instead of churches, or converted old churches into mosques.

Through my searches, I did however happen some interesting arcticles on Funj and medieval Nubian architecture. Copied from one of them, here is a description of some of the Funj towns of the medieval era.

Lies on the left bank of the Blue Nile, about 148 km south of Khartoum. It is said to have been founded in 1445 CE by Hijazi ibn Ma&#8217in (Dayf Allah 1992: 5) but the visible remains of today belong to the Funj town of the 16th-18th centuries, when the town was an urban centre of administration. The main archaeological features of the site, which measures about 1,000x750 m, are the foundations of mud brick, rectangular and square structures with thick walls and two cemeteries to the north and the south. The ancient northern cemetery contains remains of five big qubbas of red brick.

Another important feature is a track, nowadays used by lorries, which crosses the site from the north to the south, called (the camel road), which used to be a caravan route, probably the main route between Sennar and the north. The site in the first half of the 20th century was merely low mounds covered with scatter of potsherd and broken stone artifacts. North of the mounds were the cemeteries, with three gubbas built of unfired mud brick and known as the tombs of sheikhs Abu Sinayna, Doshayn and Abu Zaid.

If the information given to Bruce in 1770s was correct, it had been in existence in 1504 CE and was the capital of the &#8216Abdellab chiefs. Evliya Celebi (1672), Ludfus (1681) and Bruce (1772) visted Arbaji. Bruce mentioned it as the seat of wad Ajeeb and as a large and pleasant village. Arbaji could have been an urban centre of administration.

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Timothy Kendall received his PhD from Brandeis University in Mediterranean Studies. Before retirement, he was Associate Curator of the Department of Egyptian and Ancient Near Eastern Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He is an archaeologist and Egyptologist with a specialty in the ancient Nubian civilization of Kush (Sudan). For 29 seasons (from 1986 to 2015), Dr. Kendall directed an archaeological expedition at Jebel Barkal. In 1982, after organizing an exhibition called Kush: Lost Kingdom of the Nile, drawn from the Boston Museum’s extensive Sudan collection, he received a sabbatical that allowed him to travel to Sudan to visit the sites that the Museum had first excavated between 1914 and 1924: Jebel Barkal, el-Kurru, Nuri, and Meroë. This trip changed his life and his specialty. In 1986 Dr. Kendall applied for and received a permit to renew the Museum’s archaeological excavations at Jebel Barkal, and his initial discoveries were featured in National Geographic Magazine (Nov. 1990). In the early 1990’s, he helped plan and install the Boston Museum’s first Nubian gallery, and in 1996 he was invited by the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian, to curate a loan exposition from the Boston Museum, called ‘The Ancient Nubian City of Kerma: 2500-1500 B.C.’ He also wrote the exhibit’s catalogue: Kerma and the Kingdom of Kush, 2500-1500 BC: The Archaeological Discovery of an Ancient Nubian Empire. Dr. Kendall is the author of many articles and books on ancient Nubian archaeology, and for his contribution to Sudanese history, he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Khartoum in 2002.

Tombs (qubba) of holy men.

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Watch the video: Ground Breaking Nubian Cathedral Discovered In Medieval Capital Of Old Dongola, Kingdom of Makuria