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‘Jewel in the Red Sea crown’

As early back as the 10th century, Suakin was described as an ancient town

Sami Moubayed, Correspondent
14:42 December 28, 2017

In ancient times, the jewel in the crown of that region was the port of Suakin, once described as the “height of luxury” on the Red Sea.

For centuries the port was mentioned frequently in traveller accounts and diaries. As early back as the 10th century, it was described as an ancient town. According to a popular Sudanese legend, Suakin was once a prison used by the Prophet Sulaiman — known as King Solomon in the Old Testament — to banish demons. In 1517, it became official headquarters for Ottoman military presence along the Red Sea, hand-picked by Sultan Salim I, giving Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan more reason to want the port, given his obsession with restoring former Ottoman glories in territories once ruled by Ottoman Sultans.

In 1865, Suakin was handed over to the Egyptian Khedive Esmail, coming under British-Egyptian control. They tried to revamp the inland city, building mills, mosques, hospitals, and a Coptic church. Field Marshall Kitchener, the famous British colonialist, set up base in Suakin in 1883-1885, years before launching the battle of Omdurman, which led to the full occupation of Sudan and his “crowning” as Lord Kitchener of Khartoum. Suakin began its steady march into history in 1922, when it was formally replaced by Port Sudan on Mersa Barghout. Consecutive governments neglected it completely; its once beautiful core stone buildings, with Venetian and Ottoman architecture, started to crumble and, by 1939, the port had been completely deserted.