Erdoğan says Sudan agreed to give island to Turkey for rebuilding to boost umrah tourism upon his request
KHARTOUM – Anadolu Agency
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on Dec. 25 that his Sudanese counterpart agreed to temporarily hand over Suakin Island to Turkey for reconstruction purposes in a bid to improve umrah tourism from the country to Saudi Arabia.
Suakin, one of the oldest seaports in Africa, was used by African Muslims who set out for pilgrimage to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.
Ottomans used the port city to secure Hejaz province - present-day western Saudi Arabia - from attackers using the Red Sea front.
“I said ‘Right now, Hanafi and Shafii mosques are built here and the customs departments were also built. However, you should give the island to us for a while and we will rebuild and revive this island in accordance with its original form. My brother Omar al-Bashir [Sudanese President] said ‘O.K.,’” Erdoğan said, speaking at the Turkey-Sudan Forum organized by the Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEİK).
The president said his proposal came during a visit to the island with al-Bashir.
“Do you know what rebuilding and reviving [the island] means? We will give those who destroyed here this answer: You came here and destroyed it. The fact that you destroyed this place is like you shaved off our beards. But do not forget that we will rebuild and revive this place in such a way that the shaved beard will grow stronger and you will see it,” Erdoğan said, quoting Sokullu Mehmet Pasha who uttered those words over an Ottoman defeat in the Mediterranean Sea.
Erdoğan also stated that such a reconstruction of the island would contribute to its historic heritage, adding that those who want to go to Mecca for umrah from Turkey would first visit the island before crossing to Jeddah by ship, in what he called “package tourism.”
“This will also bring about the socializing of our people, and history will be resurrected again,” he said.