The Suakin Project
The Suakin Project was established to create a future for the historic coral port town of Suakin, one of Sudan's most significant cultural heritages and compelling histories. Mallinson Architects have been Co-directors of the project with Sudan’s National Corporation for Antiquities and Museums since its creation in 2000. The project’s major aim is to provide necessary research and to create a suitable institutional infrastructure to protect and conserve the site, and to help local and government property owners to restore their buildings, following destruction caused by neglect and environmental impact over the last century. As part of this process, efforts continue towards Suakin’s application for World Heritage status since Suakin was placed on Sudan’s Tentative World Heritage List in 1994. The Suakin Project received the ICCROM-ATHAR Award for Best Conservation in the Arab Region in 2016.
Suakin has a unique position in Sudanese and East African culture as a symbol of the coming of Christianity and Islam to Africa, and still functioning as a major pilgrimage port provides one of the last intact Islamic archaeological and pilgrimage sites on the Red Sea coast. The historic coral buildings celebrated Sudan’s international links to India and Europe, and its archaeological heritage has revealed over 1,000 years of continuous occupation and development. Thus, while tragically destroyed over the last 100 years, Suakin is still a potent symbol of Sudan’s heritage and still conceived as the ‘Venice of Africa’ it once was.
To date, the project has included the design of a new museum, various research initiatives, surveys, archaeological missions, masterplanning, restoration and reconstruction works on a number of historic coral block structures, stakeholder workshops and exhibitions. This has been achieved through collaboration with various researchers and consultants, ICCROM-ATHAR, UNESCO, the Arab Regional Centre for World Heritage, Cambridge University, Khartoum University, and the British, Turkish and US Embassies in Khartoum. Plans are currently being developed in partnership with ICCROM-ATHAR in Sharjah for a 5+ year rehabilitation project ‘Tareeg al Haj’ or ‘Pilgrims Way’, including a number of Suakin's historic public structures and access routes and that will complete the site's new museum.