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History up Close

Below is the personal story from one of the blog readers about his great grandfather who came from the city of Anah.    It is an interesting and tragic family history.  With his permission I am posting it here.  I will let professional historians sort out the connections and timelines.  I just think it is worth reading and have placed it as it is.

Issak from Anah and Sudan c 1930I am going to tell you the story about my great grandfather Isaak El Eini. As I mentioned El Eini means in Arabic from Anah. The picture I am attaching is not a good picture taken in the 1930s in Khartoum, Sudan. He is the elderly man in the back alone. He was thin, tall, dark. The lady in the front was his niece whose parents had moved from Anah to Khartoum around 1900. 
 
He was born in the 1860s. He came from a Jewish family. Anah had been a part of the ancient Babylonian Empire. The Jews had been brought over from Judea by King Nebuchadnezzar in 586BC.
 
Jews, Christians and Moslems lived in the town in harmony with no problems. Each in their own neighborhoods. The family were in the Caravan business. They took care of the camels, merchandise etc. Anah was an important station on the Damascus to Baghdad caravan route (it took 33 days). The caravans comprising of as many as 1,200 camels carrying textiles from Britain, sugar, tobacco, drugs etc would stop in Anah for 3 days as it was here where they would cross the Euphrates river. From Baghdad there were caravans to Basra where merchandise would continue to India and Asia by ship.
 
After 1888 when the Suez Canal was opened for all shipping it was quicker to transport goods by ship. This devastated the family business. So Isaak left Anah and moved to Egypt, which was prospering from the construction of the Canal. In those days there was no Iraq. It was known as Mesopotamia and like Egypt was part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
 
He moved to Aswan in southern Egypt and began trading with the tribes in the Sudan. In the late 1890s the British decided to take over the Sudan which was ruled by the Mahdi. Lord Kitchener headed the Anglo Egyptian Army. Isaak followed the army as a civilian trading with the Sudanese all the time. When they arrived in Omdurman (Khartoum) they put a siege on the city. However the siege was not working and the Mahdi was holding out.
 
Girls from the SudanLord Kitchener chose Isaak to act as a spy, enter Omdurman  and to pretend he was a trader who had crossed the Red Sea from Arabia. He brought many gifts to the Mahdi. In return the Mahdi gave Isaak a young boy and girl as a gift to be raised as slaves. Isaak had no choice but to accept the gift.
 
While in Omdurman Isaak found out that the Mahdi was holding off the siege because some Egyptian Officers were giving / selling arms to him. He left the city and gave all the information to Lord Kitchener.
 
Kitchener won the battle and became a hero in Britain. As a reward he gave Isaak a lot of fertile land in Omdurman. Soon later he told all his brothers and sisters to leave Anah and come live in Omdurman / Khartoum. They lived there till 1967 and became Sudanese citizens. But in 1967 when Israel and the Arabs went to war, Sudan expelled all the Jews. The family then moved to Britain and Switzerland.
 
Now Isaak stopped working. He lived off the land holdings and every few years he would sell some acres to live on. He was a terrible husband. and playboy. His wife lived in Cairo all the time with his only daughter Massouda, my grandmother. He would travel to Cairo about once a year to see them. It was basically like being divorced.
 
In his 70s he had spent all his money. In the early 1940s  my father living in Cairo, heard a knock on the door and it was Isaak. He was sick and died soon afterwards.
 
As to the two children who were given as gifts by the Mahdi: one was a boy and the other a girl. Isaak's wife and my grandmother raised them and sent them to school. At 16 the girl got pregnant. Because they wore long wide dresses my grandmother did not realise that she was pregnant. She tried to give birth to the baby and kill it. My grandmother rushed her to the hospital. The needle was infected and she died in the hospital; so did the baby.
 
The boy later got a job at a bank. His son became a very important official at the same bank.
 
Hope I did not bore you with such a long story.
 
Best wishes,
Semsem


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Comments

Dear Semsem....I hope you are doing fine.
I read with great interest the story of your late grandad, Isaak El Eini, and the history of your family in Sudan.
Unfortunately, that beaufitul and tolerant Sudan has long gone because of radicalism, dictatorships and civil wars.
What is only left is memories and nostaligia.
I myself haven't live those days....I was born in the early 1960s in Shendi, north of Khartoumm. Iam a keen reader of the history of communites who live in Omdurman during the Mahdiyya and after the Anglo-Egytpian rule.
I wonder if you have some more photos of the family in Omdurman or even some written historical accounts of how life was in Omdurman at that time.
Best regards,
Zain

Hi Zain:

A cousin of my father from Sudan published a private book of the family with pictures.

I will try to scan them and send them to you.

All I know is that they loved living in the Sudan and thought highly of the Sudanese people. It was very sad for them to have to leave in 1967.

Best wishes.

Hi Semsem,
Thank you for your reply.
I wonder if Massouda, who was burried in Khartoum Jewish Cemetery in the link below, is your grandmother Massouda, the only daughter of the late Isaak El Eini!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GONSRKqAqyA.
As the clip says, she died in September 1936.
It was indeed very sad they had to leave the Sudan; politics always corruts everything, including the social fabric of societies. This is what happened in Sudan, which is known for its distinctive religious, ethnic, linguistic and cultural diversity.
Looking forward to recieving the scanned copy of your cousins book.
My e-mail address is:
klmn_uk@yahoo.com
Stay well,

ZAIN

Hi Semsem....I hope you are doing fine.
Still waiting for your reply.
Stay well,

ZAIN

hi semsem i,m sorry for that happened to your family . always the politics curruts every thying am from southern sudan but im living now in tel aviv . stay well.

GREAT STORY THANKS VERY MUCH BUT MY LANGUAGE IS VERY BAD SO I CAN NOT WRITE MORE.

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