19 January, 2013

Tutti Island, Khartoum, Sudan

In the middle of Khartoum main city, Khartoum Al Bahri and Omdurman, lies one of the wonders of Khartoum: Tuti Island. It is about 5 square kilometers (about 1.93 square miles) in area and is formed where the Blue Nile from Ethiopia converges and merges with the White Nile from the South. Though it is in the center of Khartoum, for centuries, this most beautiful spot, has remained rural, pristine and isolated. Before only ferries connected it to the mainland, but with the recent building of a 183 meters (200 yards), $16-million modern suspension bridge connecting the Island to Khartoum main city, the crescent shaped, tiny Island will certainly loose much of its natural beauty; and its very friendly people, who have lived for centuries on the Island - will loose their traditions, their way of life and maybe, eventually, loose their farming fields and homes.

The Island has a variety of birds, is very fertile and most of it is covered with grass and a few trees. Lemons, oranges, animal fodder and vegetables are cultivated on irrigated land and most of these cater for the urban dwellers around the Island, Khartoum city in particular. Reportedly 30% of those living on Tutti are farmers and the remaining 70% are civil servants or self employed. The Island is almost flat with Tuti Mosque at its highest point; most of its population live in the old inhabited part of the Island; in houses made of red mud bricks. Many islanders make a living by selling the red mud bricks.

Before the building of the bridge in 2009, there were less than 1,000 motorcars on the Island; and only one paved road. There is hardly any infrastructure on the island; most of the houses are the same in structure as they have been for decades. The streets between the 2,000 or so mud-bricked houses on the Island, are narrow and are more suitable for carts pulled by donkeys than for cars. Presently the population of Tuti is said to be about 15,000 - which is said to be three times of what it was fifty years ago. Most of its close-knit people, where almost everyone knows everyone - are very conservative; living very much like the Sudanese of old; maintaining the old, true Sudanese traditional lifestyle and culture.

The greatest danger the Island has always faced is that from annual floods that at times can be very devastating; the worst floods is said to be that of 1964 which was most destructive. The islanders have become very experienced and very good at confronting and controlling the floods. But now, the people of Tuti face another danger. A danger which will most likely uproot most of them. Investors and businessmen are now focused and have now zeroed in on the island for real estate and tourist developments.

With the bridge now connecting it to the the main land, and two more bridges being planned, Tuti Island is headed for a massive shake up. Hungry investors are busy planning how they can turn the Island to their advantage and profit. A number of businessmen are busy buying land on the Island; many are busy negotiating with the locals on what they plan for their Island. Many, if not - most, of the locals are not happy with these developments. Most are not happy with the way the very private, traditional island is being encroached and transformed.

But, they are fighting a loosing battle. Tuti, with its strategic, prime location and its beauty, with time, will go the way the hungry investors are planning it to be. Years to come, there will be no more lively children playing football on its beaches - these beaches will have become private for the wealthy and out of reach for the locals; there will be no more carts lazily being pulled by donkeys; there will no more colorfully dressed, cheerful Tuti women chattering around the narrow streets. Tutti will be a quiet, exclusive island for the rich and the privileged.

+ Images of Tuti Island
+ The investment plan for Tuti Island
+ Read this interesting article on Tuti Island
+ Map: Tuti Island