Probus hears about Sudan

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MONTROSE and District Probus Club met last Tuesday in the George Hotel when the guest speaker on this occasion was Roy Nelson who gave an illustrated talk on the little-known land of Sudan.

Roy, an engineer by profession, had spent a few years there in the early ‘80s teaching engineering on a voluntary basis. He came to have a great knowledge and understanding of the land and its peoples.

Sudan, recently split into Sudan and South Sudan, was one of the largest countries in the African continent with an area roughly equal to a quarter of the size of Western Europe. Historically it is a very ancient civilization. One of its citizens, Tirhakah, became a Pharaoh of Egypt and is actually mentioned in the Bible. The Nile, one of the world’s longest rivers, flows through the country on its journey from Uganda to the Mediterranean Sea. The river provides a life-line in a terrain which is mainly arid desert and the scene of some of the world’s worst famines in recent years.

Sudan was originally a Christian country but became mainly Islamic in the early 14th century. Later the country came under the power of Egypt, and Egypt under the control of Napoleon but later in the 19th century French influence waned and British colonial influences were most strongly felt. Many people have heard of Gordon of Khartoum (the Sudanese Capital city), who had been a mercenary fighting in China and was employed by the Egyptian Government to help rescue British citizens who were being attacked in Khartoum by Sudanese nationalists.

Another well-known personality who figures in the history of Sudan was General Kitchener of First World War fame. Both he and Gordon were trained engineers, and thanks to their efforts Sudan achieved its first railway in 1898. It was interesting to hear that some of the locomotives used there were actually built in Glasgow’s famous Springburn Works and shipped out to Africa. Roads were very primitive until recently when some fine new roads were built by no less a person than Osama bin Laden, prior to his going to live in Afghanistan.