Gordon and al-Mahdi (Take II)

26 Jan

General Gordon’s Descendant meets the Mahdi’s Scion

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I first read this story in the Sudanese newspaper al-Ra’i al-‘am but it has been in most Sudanese papers. Apparently there was a meeting between the Mahdi’s great-Grandson and a descendent of General Gordon [The word in Arabic is hafid which is often translated as grandson but basically means direct descendent]. It even provoked a savage attack in al-Nilein newspaper condemning this acceptance of a brutal colonial past.

I thought it was a very charming story and wondered why the Western press hadn’t picked it up. Then I started having my doubts. The man in question is an American by the name of Dr. Christopher Gordon, who works with children who have cleft palate (I think this is him but can’t be exactly sure. What do you think looking at the picture). I cannot find any evidence online of him being descended from Gordon. Also Gordon died, as far as we know, childless. Though this does not necessary preclude him being related to Gordon via another route. Was this a genuine meeting or a hilarious mix up. This is the text as it appeared in al-Ra’i al-‘am:

The fates gathered yesterday between the descendants of Mohammed Ahmed al-Mahdi, the man who sparked the Mahdist revolution and Gordon Pasha, who died at the hands of the Mahdi’s followers on 26 January 1885.

Professor Christopher Gordon paid a rare visit to the house of al-Sadiq al-Mahdi, president of the Umma Party. Al-Mahdi said that Christopher’s visit to Khartoum had no relationship to politics, and he had not come in the name of General Gordon, the man with a connection to Sudanese history. Al-Mahdi went as far as to say, during his meeting with the descendant of Gordon, that it was time for a new reading of Sudanese history and the role of the British occupation in so far as there that false opinion had been turned into history. [He also said] that it was necessary to have a new reading of history based on an objective and enlightened basis.

For his part, Christopher Gordon said that he had come on a humanitarian mission and that his visit to Khartoum carried a message of co-operation between children’s doctors. His first visit to Khartoum represented a partnership for the future.

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