Khartoum facade: No longer a face lifting
From our village he moved
To the big town he roved
Even if by a witch,
He has become a big fish
At the First Extension,
His own house in town
He built with the rich
What matters, he dumped his folks
Men and women, poor and rich
No what, no which
He stayed with the rich
The wheel of time does roll,
Thus poor and rich and all
And when time calls
They look, all in all, a repeated doll
By chance, I pass
a funeral march
People of class
so high and tall
they sit in chairs,
with food of mall
Mourn and call
their men that fall
this man, I thought,
is a fallen rich
And when I asked,
at me they laughed
This man, they said,
who has passed
Is but your folk
With that name
That sounded so lame
Babikir wad Babikir,
one man said
Changing vowels and all diphthongs
So that his name looks
Like town folks
His name at home
Abakar they term
A definite rural folk
He was of all
If poetry reflects the social life of its time, that poem wanted to say, the new money moving from rural to urban areas was behind the new household blocks in Khartoum at one time. Nowadays it turns out to be something else: expatriates. A new surge of belle façade showed in the various quarters of Khartoum. It is all linked with Sudanese expatriates, coming home. In this report Sudanow reporter Ibrahim Ali Sulieman examines the issue at length. Mohamed Osman Adam, editor in chief
The person who wrote that Ismail Hassan, a renowned Sudanese Poet, was born in 1929 and died in 1982. Hassan, in one of his poems, depicted the conditions of the recent housing blocks which clearly reflected the class of its owners.
However, presently, the situation depicted by the poet has changed and mansions and palaces are no longer confined to people who live in the first extension area in Khartoum, which is known as al-Amarat (high buildings) area. This was a thing that has come with the affluent Sudanese expatriates.
The usual two room, veranda style no longer governs the houses in rural Khartoum let alone the affluent quarters. A huge variety of edifices have sprung in Khartoum, giving it a new look and sending a wave of construction activities to match this new look
To get acquainted with the urban development in the country, particularly in the national capital Khartoum, sudanow.info.sd interviewed a number of officials at relevant institutions.
This, for Architect Maison Mustafa Bady, a lecturer at the Construction and Roads Research Institute, University of Khartoum, the vertical construction and high towers have begun to appear in Khartoum, coupled with housing construction patterns, going from the normal houses to high buildings and apartments.
For the young architect this change is attributed partially to the economic openness together with overture into foreign expertise with international foreign construction companies and contractors from China, Turkey, Egypt, Syria and Germany.
Additionally, she says the labor force is no longer confined to the Sudanese, but embraces foreign know-how employees who have ventured the filed in the country.
“Therefore, we have managed to implement works that we could not do in the past, thanks to these foreign expertise, besides the fact that some construction patterns and cultures which did not exist in the past have come with the new experiences”, Maison Mustafa said.
With million of Sudanese living in the oil rich Gulf states and Saudi Arabia and beyond, after decades, have started trekking their way home to settle, buy or construct a new house and settle with a new business at home.
Thus the expatriates have played a key role in changing the construction patterns in the national capital where a great category of Khartoum’s population earned their money from abroad and then utilized that money in building modern houses of modern construction designs. This way, the expatriates have influenced the construction patterns in the country though they have not influenced the construction patterns of offices, companies or factories as these are basically associated with the economic development, rather than the rush money coming with expatriates.
She argued that expatriate brings with him the construction culture of the country where he or she lived and tries to apply it in his or her own house, and therefore it can be observed that several construction and architectural patterns and designs have been applied at different housing areas in Khartoum, according to Bady.
“We can find construction and architectural patterns that look like the ones in Saudi Arabia or Europe and this has created a kind of diversity”, she said, “before this economic openness, most of the houses in Khartoum were built on almost the same pattern. Now various patterns can be observed in one line of houses, which is a positive matter.”
She added that she expects Khartoum to gradually arrive, sometime latter, at a certain pattern that distinguishes it from other capitals with a distinct architectural style and identity.
It was not only money that caused this change, architect says. There is also the fact of new materials being introduced in the construction market in Sudan.
“Of course all these factors were accompanied by an improvement in the construction materials where foreign construction companies and experiences bring with them their construction industry which is in growing progress and modernization everyday and therefore new construction materials appear. As long as we are opened to the world, we will manage to cope with the new patterns”, Ms Bady adds.
She further said that in the past architects in Sudan were aware of the modern construction materials but the barrier was in application, as they lacked trained cadres and equipment. However, presently the application issue has been resolved particularly after emergence of new fast applicable construction materials (Prefab Meter), which contribute to implementation of big buildings in a short time such as the towers recently constructed at al-Mugran area in Khartoum.
Such buildings need parts and frames to be manufactured in factories close to the construction sites and not to be imported. The open investment provided the opportunity for establishing such plants, matter which made it easy to provide different types of construction materials, in a relatively affordable price.
“These materials are less-cost alternatives where we are no longer obliged to use red bricks or other traditional construction materials. Examples of such materials are the ones made from petroleum extracts. This construction development is attributed to the economic stability and the openness towards abroad which started with the oil extraction and entry of the Chinese who ventured the construction field in the country, matter which broadly opened the door before foreign investors. Additionally there was the political support which encouraged foreign investors to invest in the field of construction and urban development with the focus on infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges where construction industry is related to these matters as well as to the commercial development.
The most important contribution of the expatriates represented in effecting a change to the construction field where the Sudanese got used to the horizontally constructed homes that consist of a saloon and some rooms as they preferred wide spaces in their houses. The most important observed change in the field during the past few years is that this old construction culture has started to change.
In the past the apartment was socially and culturally rejected by the Sudanese, but with the return of the expatriates and their families, the Sudanese started to live in apartments and it has become a normal matter for the Sudanese to rent or build apartments to live in.
Of the changes which accompanied the development in the construction field in the past few years is the vertically established schools, i.e. in forms of high buildings where Camboni and Unity schools were the only two-story schools in the national capital Khartoum.
Presently, it has become normal to see multi-story school buildings, particularly private schools which are vertically constructed in smaller areas.
There is also the technological change in the field of construction where in the past the construction depended on load-bearing walls, while during the few past years the relay became on application of short concrete bases and then presently appeared the steel methodology. The first steel-constructed building was established in Khartoum five years ago on al-Matar (airport) avenue besides the recently constructed towers at al-Mugran area. In the past, steel was only used in building (trusses and warehouses) and reservoirs. Steel is a new technology in the field of construction besides other things such as the concern with tree planting and planning.
sudanow.info.sd. also met Ustaz Abdul-Rahim Mohamed al-Hassan, Director of Ibn Rushd High Private Schools Complex in Al-Haj Yousif area, Khartoum who has been working as a teacher for over 15 years
He told sudanow.info.sd that the private school has become a social phenomenon and therefore it should be well-structured.
“The development which took place in the country is that most of the pupils’ sponsors are educated people unlike our sponsors in the past who were uneducated and were not concerned with education”, he said.
He added that in the past the pupil should go to any institution in search for knowledge, but presently both parents are educated and are keen that their sons have good education at well-designed schools and at good places.
He further said that the majority of the sponsors of the pupils in the private schools are expatriates and therefore our pupils belong to the generation of expatriation with parents whose economic conditions are good.
He went on citing that when these pupils were in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates or any other foreign or country, they used to learn at schools with specific characteristics and when they returned to Sudan they searched for schools that are designed similar to those in the countries where they returned from.
“Therefore, we worked to establish educational institutions with international standards and presently we have accomplished 25 percent of what is required for that”, he said.
He stressed the importance of improving the learning environment, saying that “Ibn Rishd School, which lies in al-Haj Yousif area, Khartoum, for instance, is classified as a third class school in terms of construction and therefore the educational development process in Khartoum should begin from the outskirts area instead of expanding from the center to the outskirts”.
He said they were planning to invest at the outskirt areas and move towards the center, adding that there was presently great numbers of students from Hilat Khojali and al-Sababy areas of Khartoum north who are studying at this educational institution in al-Haj Yousif at the outskirt of the national capital.
This is a victory in itself”, he said.
He said that the school, in its current structure, started to influence the neighborhood, adding that the school has contributed to planting trees at the neighborhood, an idea which has been followed suit by other areas.
“This is a positive effect by the school and this is what was really required. The area where the school lies is known as No. 14 Service Block. The school provides services inside this block and therefore, I must upgrade the level of the service so that there would be a cross migration from the heart of the city to the rural area, which will lead to stability in education”, he explained.
In the meantime, Mohamed al-Hassan stated that 10 percent of the students in each of the school classrooms are sons of expatriates and that the school is generally suffering from this category as their fathers are not present in the country and the mothers also could be abroad, which places additional educational burden.
“The sons of the expatriates need special treatment inside the school because they experience special psychological and social circumstances. They need special care, where some of these pupils could be academically weak, but financially they pay their fees in full. This is attributed to the fact that the majority of the expatriates’ sons do not live with their families but with their uncles and other relatives, which negatively affect their academic performance”, he noted.
He added that there were psychological and educational units at the school to attend to these cases.
Ten years ago, Khartoum’s population did not exceed 2 million people. Khartoum then was one of the most beautiful Arab capitals and less crowded.
Presently, the condition has changed where the migration from the rural areas to the city caused the national capital Khartoum to be crowded as its population currently has surpassed 15 million people. This means that two third of the Sudan population are in Khartoum. This in turn made of horizontal expansion in housing planning a difficult matter and thus there has been a shift, as the case in most of heavily populated Arab capitals, from horizontal expansion to vertical expansion. This vertical expansion phenomenon first appeared in the heart of Khartoum with the construction of Al Waha (Oasis) Tower, which contains over one thousand housing units beside Al-Qadisiya, Meca and Karpala housing Complexes.
Additionally, there is also Al-Nasr Construction Company which established over 2000 housing units on the base of vertical expansion.
“The general objective then is to tackle the issue of crowd through vertical expansion and we at the school must expand vertically. This reduces the administrative burden, unlike the horizontal expansion which needs many administrative cadres. Therefore, it is better to have few qualified cadres to provide better education services”, he explained.
He said presently Ibn Rush School has 25 classrooms over an area of 6000 squire meters, adding that if the school classrooms were distributed horizontally, it would have needed an area of 15000 squire meters.
He explained that they have decided to construct the classrooms in tight areas with a wide squire, allowing admission of more than 1200 students.
He said the school has also over 50 health units and three cafeterias, explaining that they adopted the vertical expansion because there were no enough areas to establish schools of more than 1500 capacity.
He added that the State itself has started to establish vertically constructed schools to admit the biggest number of students and provide them with the best services, citing Abdulall Karim-Eddin Model School in Khartoum North and other model schools in Khartoum State as examples.
In the meantime, also at al-Haj Yousif area, sudanow.info.sd interviewed Ustaza Fawzia Osman Murad, Dean of Ibn Rushd Private Basic Level Schools and member of the Arab Women Investors Union.
“Until very recently, living in apartments or small buildings was rejected in the Sudanese society on the pretext that they were not suitable for Sudanese climates”, she told sudanow.info.sd.
“However, presently the culture of air-conditioning has been introduced, which encouraged the Sudanese people to rush towards apartments which have even become favorable”, she added.
She went on to cite her personal experience in this respect, saying that “I personally lived in a normal house with a normal design. However, we have presently moved to live in an apartment because the Sudanese climate is usually dusty and the apartments are more comfortable in this respect, not to mention that they are easier to clean under the current circumstances of the Sudanese women who have to go out for public work which makes it difficult for them to clean their homes on daily basis”.
She attributed these changes to many factors including the expatriates whereas the Sudanese themselves ventured the investment in the construction field, explaining that the Sudanese women investors have invested in this field and that their revenues inside Sudan were no less than the revenues of the expatriates’ investments if not more.
She went on to say that the vertical construction of schools has become acceptable, provided that there would be enough area for students’ activities which help revealing the students’ talents.
She said the Sudanese women’s investments were not confined to construction field only, saying that there are women who have factories and import licenses as the investment in construction is static and restricting to the investor.
“We were around 20 Sudanese women investors when we visited Morocco, where each one of us was in a different field and I was the only investor in the education field, while the rest were in different fields”, she said.
Murad further criticized investment in construction of one building for lease, saying “to invest in constructing one building to collect a monthly rent is unlikely. This is an unyielding investment and leaves no room for the investor to think”, she concluded.