I was wondering how you managed to hold back Egypt as Ethiopia, it's always good to see defeats and failures in a history-book (or a travel pamphlet, in this case) AAR.
Yeah, sometimes defeats are more important for a countries development than victories. I.E. The Alamo. Other times losing a war turns out for the best; what would have happened if the Kings of England won the 100 years war, leaving England the smaller half of a combined monarchy?
I imagine the Battle of Ayshal as being somewhat like Commodore Perry forcibly opening up Japan; a sudden shocking demonstration of how vulnerable the Empire was. Like Japan, Ethiopia was spurred into dramatic change as a means of self-preservation.
In any case, I'm working on the second half of the story.
The story of defeat at Ayshal turns to a story of victory in Gojjam's capitol city, Debre Markos. Debre Markos is a city that grew up around its namesake church, dedicated to St Mark. This Church was dedicated by the Emperor Yohannes III on the site of a great 1841 victory over the Khedive of Egypt. This victory marks the final end of the Age of Princes and the start of Ethiopia's rise to power.
The five years between the defeat at Ayshal and the victory of Debre Markos were a time of unprecedented change. Emperor Sahle Dengel, having agreed to the unpopular peace, was swiftly overthrown. The prime conspiritor in this was the mother of the late Regent Ali II, Menen Liben Amede. She elevated her husband, the hapless and indolent Yohannes III, and proceeded to rule in his name for the next decade.
Empress Menen had the drive and competence that her husband lacked. She reorganized the wreckage of Ethiopia's military. She imported western muskets and created a new army. Armed and trained along European lines, the Empress's army was a standing force drawn from conscripted peasants from across the Empire, and loyal to the Imperial Throne, rather than local warlords. With the army came new taxes to pay for it, and Imperial bureaucrats to collect it. In the process she created two new national institutions, the Army and the Civil Service, which would serve as a binding agent for the Empire in the future.
As Ethiopia became stronger, Egypt unraveled during the truce. Conscription and high taxes spurred peasant revolts in Lower Egypt and Syria. The Khedives problems were compounded when slave soldiers from Sudan and Ethiopia mutinied and joined the rebels. The Ottoman Empire tried to exploit the chaos to retake its erstwhile provinces, and Egypt was only saved from total catastrophe by French intervention.
As a result, when the Empress renewed the war in 1841, the balance of power had swung decidedly in favor of Ethiopia. With most of their forces pulled back to deal with revolts, the Egyptian garrisons in the south were isolated, demoralized and often unpaid. Ethiopian forces shattered the remaining Egyptian field army at modern Debre Markos.
The Ethiopian general, a young noble and former shifta (or bandit) named Kassa Hailu pursued the remnants of the Egyptian forces down the Nile, finally forcing them to surrender at Khartoum, the hub of Egyptian control in the Sudan. The prestigous victory led Kassa Hailu to be honored with a marriage to one of the Empresses granddaughter, and eventually his rise to power as Emperor Tewdros II.
Kassa Hailu leads the pursuit of fleeing Egyptian troops
There are several monuments to the great battle, including the namesake church. But the most well known and visited is the Triumphal Arch erected to commemorate the 50th anniversary.
Triumphal Arch of St Mark, Debre Markos
A public museum near the Arch has informative exhibits of artifacts from the battlefield. Battlefield tours are available, but most of the battlefield has since been buried under the development of the modern town. Amateur historical reinactors gather every year in the surrounding countryside to commemorate the battle every May 26th.
The other principal attraction of Debre Markos is the Palace of Tekle Haymanot Tessemma, Negus (or King) of Gojjam and a decorated army Field Marshall.
Field Marshall Negus Tekle Haymanot Tessemma, accomplished General and late ruler of Gojjam
Recently renovated by the Negus' successor Hailu II in elegant European style, the Palace is open to viewing by the public. Displayed within are many of the late Negus' trophies and keepsakes from his campaigns in the Mahdist Revolt and the Jacobian Rising. Admission is free of charge, but strictly limited in number and open on a first-come, first-serve basis. Visitors would be wise to arrive early to ensure a favorable place in line.
the balance of power had swung decidedly in favor of Egypt : should that be "in favour of Ethiopia" or perhaps "away from Egypt"?
Nice, quick, and decisive reversal of fortunes there; who is/was Ethiopia's ally, if France was Egypt's?
They weren't outright allies, in fact the French might not have been involved at all. But I know that Egypt was getting a whipping by the Ottomans yet somehow didn't loose any territory. I also know that two wars later, when I had driven the Egyptians out of Sudan, France felt obliged to go to war with me. I'm inferring that the French felt they had an interest in preserving Egypt. Though it should be noted, Egypt was never in French SoI, and ended the game in the US SoI (Americans having built the Suez Canal). Both the French intervention and the mutiny of slave soldiers are a bit of artistic lisence filling in gaps in my knowledge of how things played out up north.
Ethiopia never really had a European ally Diplomatically I was something of an isolationist (if you can be both an isolationist and expansionist) and the outside world generally didn't care about my neck of the woods (except France). At one point I was allied with the Dutch against the Portugese, but that was when I was the Great Power in the equation. The Ottomans indirectly helped against Egypt but also joined the dog-pile on me when the French launched their War of Containment. Arguably my allies were Prussia/Germany and the UK. Both of them grew freakishly strong and no doubt occupied most of France's attention, and neither ever took an interest in East Africa. In fact the Brits were so busy annexing China they never got around to conquering the Boers, and the Germans didn't bother with colonies at all.
Good catch on the error, fixed now.
BTW, in game terms, things played out like this: Egypt DoWed me about a year in, and promptly kicked my ass, wiping out my starting army of irregulars. I traded about a quarter of my territory for a truce, and rebuilt my army around regular infantry. Importing enough small arms to build regiments was a near-run thing, I had money but I think my low prestige meant that I only got a trickle of imports. As it was my army was only about 1/3rd regulars the rest irregulars. If Egypt hadn't been otherwise occupied things could have been much different.
I tried a game recently with an up-to-date version of Victoria II, and things played out nearly identically: I got creamed in the first war, sceded territory, rebuilt the army and reclaimed my losses plus an egyptian state. However with rebels nowhere near as overpowered these days as they were at launch, the Egyptians put up a much tougher fight and inflicted heavy casualties on me, and I had to run up a much more dangerous national debt in the process. Even though I won the war and got Asmara (and access to the sea) Egypt wasn't left a hapless basket case as it was in the AAR game.
Following the Blue Nile as it curves north, the traveler descends rapidly from the highlands into the southern Sudan. As the altitude drops, the temperature rises, and the danger from malaria increases as well. Travelers are advised to be vigilant with their anti-malarial measures and stay well hydrated.
Alongside the changes in the landscape comes a gradual change in the local population. The farther north one goes on the Nile, the population more and more Muslim and Arabic-speaking. The exact frontier between Ethiopia proper and the Sudan is not as distinct as it appears on the map, and this region has long been a place where civilizations meet, mix, and sometimes clash.
The next major stop is the city of Sennar. While often overshadowed by Gonder and Khartoum, Sennar is a city worth visiting in its own right. Modern Sennar is a major transport hub, bursting with produce from the Nile floodplain and exotic cargos passing through from each direction.
Sennar was a major trading hub long before the arrival of the railroad. Strategically placed along the Blue Nile, Sennar was a major stopping point for caravans. Between 1500 and 1820 A.D., Sennar was the prosperous capitol of the Funj Sultanate. Sennar's prosperity supported a powerful standing army and a thriving population of Muslim scholars, clerics and artists. In 1821, Egyptian forces conquered the city, and twenty years later it fell to Ethiopian troops after the Battle of Debre Markos.
Badi VII, last Funj Sultan of Sennar.
In the generation after its conquest, Sennar became a hotbed of resentment toward Ethiopian rule. The mostly Muslim population resented rule by a Christian Emperor from a different culture. Anger grew when Emperor Tewdros II abolished slavery, ending Sennar's lucrative slave trade. The situation boiled over in 1881, when a Sufi Sheikh named Muhammad Ahmad proclaimed himself the Mahdi, a messianic redeemer prophesied to emerge at the apocalypse.
Muhammad Ahmad, leader of the Mahdist revolt.
Though his claims of divinity were met with skepticism by mainstream Muslim clerics, Muhammad Ahmad quickly amassed a following among the dissatisfied Muslim population of Sudan, particularly among the poorer rural areas and nomadic tribes. Sennar was one of the first major towns to fall to Mahdist troops, who wrested near-total control of the Sudan from Imperial troops in the 1880s.
While in power, the Mahdists attempted to impose an ultra-strict form of Muslim law. Muhammad Ahmad claimed to speak directly for god, with his decrees even overruling existing Muslim tradition. In 1885, Ahmad temporarily occupied Khartoum, though he died of typhus when Ethiopian troops returned to besiege the city.
Despite the death of their "Prophet," Mahdist rebels carried on the fight. In 1889 the last Mahdist army was defeated in the desert between Sennar and Gondar at the Battle of Matamma. There Yohannes IV sustained a fatal gunshot wound, making him the last Emperor to die in combat. Fearing reprisals and frustrated by harsh Mahdist rule, citizens of Sennar rose up and overthrew Abdallahi, the "Caliph" of the Mahdist forces, hanging him from the city mosque's minaret.
Though the days of religious warfare are long past, there are still relics of the era to be found. A stele outside the modern city hall is dedicated to those killed in the Mahdist uprising. Otherwise little remains of the old city besides its mosque. Excursions are available to the battlefield of Matamma, though the area is now largely abandoned. Also available are passenger boat cruises down the Nile to Khartoum, for those who prefer a more leisurely journey than the railroad can offer.
Ah, interesting that this version of history has the Mahdi as well.
While I don't recall the particulars, I know I faced a major nationalist revolt in Sudan at around the time the Mahdi was running about in real life. So really it was an obvious connection to make.
For those curious, the battle of Matamma was a real event though it's better known as the Battle of Gallabat, and the Emperor Yohannes IV really died there of a gunshot wound. Actually he was shot twice, but insisted on staying in the field after the first shot. IRL, his death caused the Ethiopian forces to collapse and the Mahdists sacked Gonder. In my timeline the Ethiopian army was a modern, professional force instead of a feudal army, so the death of the monarch didn't spark a rout.
Khartoum's Blue Nile riverfront. The Emperor Tewdros bridge (at right) connects the east and west banks
Following the Blue Nile north takes the traveler through the timeless Nile floodplain, where life still moves to rhythm of the annual flood. In many places one still finds humble peasant families working the rich river silt as their forefathers have since Pharonic times.
But this timeless landscape gives way suddenly to the most modern city in Africa, Khartoum. Located at the point where the Blue Nile finally meets the White Nile, Khartoum has grown rapidly, from a remote post of the Egyptian military in the 1820s to become the Empire's second city.
Khartoum's suburbs from the air
Khartoum's rise has relied directly on science and technology. Blessed with an abundance of hydroelectric power and abundant rubber plantations, Khartoum is Africa's #1 source of electric equipment, telephones, automobiles and tractors, armaments and aeroplanes. Khartoum was the first African city to boast electric streetlights and a modern electric trolley system. Khartoum is the cradle of the African film industry. Khartoum was the first Ethiopian city to have an airport, and remains the hub of air travel in East Africa.
Menelik International Airport
Much of this technical innovation can be traced to the Khartoum Institute of Technology. Endowed by Menelik II to promote modern technology, the KIT has educated many of the Empire's greatest scientists, inventors and entrepreneurs. Dr Goobanaa Gobena, Nobel Laureate in Physics and discoverer of Gobena Scattering, is among the many luminaries to grace its faculty.
It's rapid growth and hunger for skilled workers have drawn migrants from across the Empire. Virtually every race, creed, and language in the Empire's vast domain can be found in the streets of Khartoum. The confluence of cultures has created a thriving arts scene, second only to Gonder itself.
One exception is in architecture, a field in which Khartoum has no peer in Africa. Khartoum is the birthplace of the Heliopolis School, a style of architecture that aspires to mix ancient styles from Egypt, Nubia and Ethiopia with modern conveniences and luxuries. The name comes from the stylish suburb of Heliopolis. An elegant planned community built in 1907 by the Khartoum Electric Railway Company, Heliopolis is home to many grandiose buildings, most famously the Heliopolis Palace Hotel.
The grand Heliopolis Palace Hotel
While staying in the Palace is beyond the means of most travelers, it's elegant cafe is less exclusive. For those who wish to sample the high life of the modern African Aristocrat, a visit to the Palace Cafe for some Kenyan tea or strong Ethiopian Coffee is a worthy way to pass the heat of the afternoon.
The elegant Palace Cafe
Also open to the public are the gracious Pasha Empain Gardens, an oasis of greenery and an ideal place for people-watching. Abutting the gardens are several major places of worship built in Heliopolis style. Jewish synagogues, mosques, and churches of multiple denominations all open on the gardens in a deliberate effort to promote harmony and neighborliness among the city's diverse peoples.
Near the Heliopolis trolley station is Luna Park, Africa's first amusement park. Opened in 1912, Luna park hosts horse races, pollo and cricket grounds, a switchback roller coaster, midway games, and a skating rink, along with many small restaurants and food stands. Crowds can be very large, especially in the evening.
The Luna Park entrance
Due to the extreme daytime heat, social life in Khartoum is mostly confined to the evening hours. Streets are brightly lit by electric lights, and illuminated signs advertise attractions throughout the night. As suits the birthplace of African Film, Khartoum boasts more movie houses than any other city in Africa. These range from the squalid to the elegant. The finest example of the latter is the Nasr Theatre, a palatial cinema that hosts high-profile premiers.
The lobby of the Nasr Theatre
In the ancient Nile valley, Khartoum's assertive modernity can be jarring. Visitors tend to leave the city with a very strong impression, for better or worse. Very few find Africa's City of Lights forgettable.
Just north of Khartoum is the 6th Cataract of the Nile. The sixth cataract is the furthest upriver and south of the cataracts. In these stretches the mighty Nile becomes shallow and strewn with rocks, creating rapids that have hindered travel on the river since time immemorial. In modern times river vessels can bypass the Cataracts through locks and canals, allowing ships to travel smoothly from Khartoum all the way to the Mediterranean.
The Sixth Cataract of the Nile
The Sixth Cataract is traditionally considered the southern boundary of Nubia. Nubia is a land of ancient civilizations and kingdoms that has long been connected with Egypt. At different points in history Nubia has been a part of the Egyptian empire, at other times Nubians conquered Egypt and ruled as Pharoahs. In 1863 Nubia was wrested away from Egypt in the fourth and final Ethiopian-Egyptian war. This war ended with the last heir of Khedive Muhammed Ali being overthrown, and its successor the United Arab Republic of Egypt and Syria agreeing to the modern border at the Second Cataract.
The greater Nubia region
Modern Nubia is a mostly agricultural region, relying on the rich black soil of the Nile valley and modern irrigation to grow great quantities of fruit, wheat and rubber. The countryside makes for a picturesque view from the railways or riverboats that carry visitors to the regions main attractions.
The Pyramids of Meroe
Some of Meroe's many pyramids
The most widely known attraction of Nubia is undoubtedly the Pyramids of Meroe. Meroe was the ancient capitol of the Napata and Merotic kingdoms that ruled in the region from 800 BC to 350 AD. During that long reign, fifty royal pyramids and hundreds of smaller tombs were built in three principal cemeteries. The pyramids are distinct from their Egyptian relatives, with a markedly steeper slope and often a small temple at the base.
The Pyramids are a national park, and interpretive programs and guides are available. Attempting to remove antiquities from the park is a serious offense, resulting in heavy fines and potentially jail time. Visitors are wise to take nothing from the Pyramids but photographs.
Like Meroe, Dongola was home to a long-lived state, the Kingdom of Makuria. From the 4th to the 14th century AD Dongola was a powerful, wealthy, and cultured city. Civil war and Egyptian expansion eventually brought down the Makurian kingdom, and most of the population relocated across the Nile to the site of the modern city of Dongola, fifty miles to the north. Old Dongola was left to be reclaimed by the desert, which preserved many of its ruins and treasures until they were rediscovered by africologists in the past forty years.
The Church of the Granite Columns, one of Old Dongola's many ruins
Much about Dongola and the Makurians remains a mystery to modern historians. Makuria underwent two great religious upheavals, first converting from the old gods of Egypt and Nubia to Coptic Christianity, then at some point embracing Islam. Makuria defeated early Muslim attempts to forcibly convert them at the First and Second battles of Dongola, but ultimately adopted Islam and many Arab customs. Just how these different faiths and cultures competed and coexisted is a hotly debated topic in the fields of History and Africology.
Instead of the pyramids of Meroe, Old Dongola's cemeteries are dotted with Qubbas. These unique conical tombs mark the resting places of revered Muslim religious figures.
The modern town of Dongola hosts a highly competitive boat race every year, which draws entries from around the world. The city archives display an ancient copy of the Baqt. This peace treaty between then-Christian Makuria and the Muslim rulers of Egypt. Though only scraps of ancient papyrus remain, this treaty was the basis for centuries of peace on the Nubia-Egypt frontier and stands as a symbol of peaceful coexistence between faiths.
So I see you pretty much grabbed all of Sudan. Quite the achievement!
Not really. I almost started to feel guilty about it: Egypt became such a basket case after it lost our second war that it was like stealing candy from a baby. A sleeping baby. With an exceptionally weak grip.
If the Ottomans had ever bothered to take back Syria and Palestine I would have been seriously tempted to just take all of Egypt. Serious nationalist revolts and a prudent desire to avoid massive infamy held me back. Once I got all of Sudan and became civilized I let Egypt keep its remaining lunch money.
In hindsight, it might have been wise for me to be more aggressive there, and try to get it at least into my Sphere. But by the time I became a great power it was an American sphere country, and I did not fancy getting into fisticuffs with Teddy Roosevelt over the Suez Canal.
The next section will be the start of the New Empire. It will most likely begin with the scramble for Africa, how the French wound up with Somaliland and most of Arabia. That'll get us to Nairobi, and then further south to the border with Portugal's colonies and Ethiopia's last war in game.
South of the Ethiopian heartland in the Old Empire lies the most settled and civilized province of the New Empire, the Principality of Nairobi. The rail journey south to Nairobi passes through a magestic country of exotic wildlife, fascinating natives and beautiful vistas: The Kenyan Highlands.
The rail line in Kenya is relatively new, and travellers should not expect the level of reliability or comfort they will find in Ethiopia proper. Delays are often caused by wildlife or weather, especially during major migrations or monsoon season. One benefit of this slower pace is that it provides ample opportunity for wildlife watching.
The most famous wild animals in the region are of course the infamous lions. Two legendary lions actually halted construction on the railroad for nearly a year. The Maneaters of Marsabit are believed to have killed and eaten over a hundred railroad workers in 1914, evading all efforts to kill or deter them until American hunter Lt Col John Patterson was able to bring them down.
One of the infamous big cats shortly after it was killed
The lions were found to be uncommonly large mane-less males, and Patterson's memoir of the hunt became an international best seller. The hunter received a knighthood and land grant from Emperor Iyasu V, and he now runs a highly successful safari company. The lions were stuffed and are now prominently displayed in the Nairobi Central train station.
Despite the incidents at Marsabit, attacks on humans by lions are actually quite rare, though in rural areas visitors are advised to avoid traveling alone at night.
Mt Kenya, 2nd highest mountain in Africa
Further south, the railroad curves around the edges of Mt Kenya National Park. More than 17 thousand feet high, Mt Kenya is capped with glaciers year-round, despite lying just south of the Equator. Considered holy by many local tribes, like the Gikuyu, Masai and Embu, the peak itself is a difficult climb best left to very experienced mountaineers. For the less daring the park offers a dazzling range of environments, wild animals and traditional native villages.
The Mt Kenya area is also the heart of coffee and tea production in Kenya. Introduced by settlers from Ethiopia in the last 30 years, Kenyan coffee and tea has quickly developed a reputation for quality and is sold worldwide. The region is sometimes called the "Amhara Highlands," because of the high number of ethnic Amhara families that have come from the Ethiopian heartland to settle. This has led to some discontent among the native tribes who have seen their grazing lands reduced by the growth of modern agriculture.
I can imagine a fair bit of friction between the planations and the grazing economy. Kenya today does things like tea for example, rather than normal farming.
I lifted most everything from the real life history of Kenya. And of course the maneating lions delaying the railroad was a real event, though it happened nearly 20 years earlier and in a different area.
Unfortunately the vintage lion photo didn't seem to load properly. Google "Tsavo Maneaters" and you'll find some. Or you can just trust me when I say they were damn big cats.
There was indeed a tremendous amount of friction between the tea and coffee plantations and the indigenous grazing economy. And of course IRL the settlers were not Amhara from Ethiopia but whites from Britain. Since the scramble for Africa started late in my game, I figure the anti-colonial backlash would also start late. Also there were no world wars to organize and politicize the colonized populations, which would also slow the development of organized resistance. So in 1935 things might seem just peachy for the Amhara in Kenya but in the future they'll probably face a mau-mau type uprising. But a guide book would gloss over deeply submerged cultural tensions wherever possible to create a cozy image for tourists, if they even realized there was an issue at all.
Coming up is Nairobi, which might well be a two-parter, as I intend to cover a good deal of the scramble for Africa as well as the interesting brief reign of Iyasu V.
The Ethiopian Empire's Coptic Christian population uses the Julian calendar. Thus in Ethiopia the celebration of Christmas, known as "Ganna," falls on January 7th instead of December 25th. In other ways an Ethiopian Christmas will be familiar to a western visitor: people decorate their homes, especially with beautiful nativity scenes. In Ethiopian tradition one of the three Magi was Balthazar, an Ethiopian king who brought the gift of frankincense. Many Ethiopians will therefore burn frankincense incense. The carols are different than those sung in Europe or America, but the spirit of the season is the same.
Children (and sometimes adults) play a game similar to field hockey at Ganna. The game (also called Ganna) is played with shepherds crooks and a rubber ball, and is traced back to the shepherds who witnessed the birth of Christ. Teams typically represent neighborhoods or villages and rivalries can sometimes become heated enough to overcome the players goodwill toward their fellow man.
Another traditional seasonal game is yeferas guks. This game is played by men on horseback who throw ceremonial lances at one another. As Ethiopians have become more urbanized in the past few generations, the average Ethiopian man's horsemanship skills have fallen off and the game has slowly waned in popularity. In rural areas it remains popular, and competitions are still held at horse tracks and country clubs for the urban elite.
Ganna is an important religious holiday, and Ethiopian Christians traditionally fast the day before Ganna. At dawn they don a "shamma," a thin white cotton robe fringed with colorful stripes, and attend an early morning mass. In modern Ethiopia many urbanites use the holiday as a time to reconnect with their extended families. Small towns in the countryside swell with visitors as families travel to the homes of aged parents and grandparents. For many the holiday is as much about gathering the family for the traditional post mass meal of wat (a spicy stew) and injera (a round flat bread) as religion.
Twelve days after Ganna comes Timkat, the celebration of Jesus' baptism. The celebration lasts for three days, and is marked by colorful processions led by clergy and children's groups. Traditional musicians are a big part of these festivities. In the major cities Timkat processions have grown to epic size. Professional associations, civic clubs, political groups and Ethiopian businesses sponsor marching bands, performers and floats. Some religious figures complain that Timkat processions have become overly secular and filled with corporate advertisements.
In recent years, some Ethiopian stores have begun using western Christmas images such as Christmas Trees, artificial snow and even Santa Claus in their advertisements. They hope to establish gift-giving as a major part of Timkat celebrations as a way to increase sales. Ethiopians traditionally do not exchange presents, and efforts to change that have so far not been well received.
An Ethiopian holiday season is a magical time of the year and something a visitor should feel blessed to experience.
HoHoHo! Sorry for the long delay between updates. I'll likely finish this mess over the holiday.
Everything I put up there about Ethiopian Christmas traditions was gleaned quickly over the internet, so I apologize for any inaccuracies. Some were deliberate efforts to account for how things might go differently had Ethiopia developed into a wealthy capitalist empire.