Commercial and agricultural center of eastern Sudan.
Founded in 1840, Kassallah grew rapidly, and within a few decades became the most important commercial and agricultural center in eastern Sudan. During the Mahdiya revolt, its Turko–Egyptian defenders withstood the siege by the Mahdists from 1883 until 1885, when the garrison surrendered after the Mahdi had captured Khartoum. In 1894 the Italians, who had occupied Eritrea, captured the town; they did so again for a few months in 1940, before Kassallah was liberated by Allied forces under British command. As the gateway to Eritrea and Ethiopia and the entrepôt for the rich agricultural lands in the Gash River delta of the Sudan, Kassallah became the center for road and rail traffic between Port Sudan and Khartoum. Its strategic location has made it the sanctuary for the thousands of refugees who have fled from the Eritrean–Ethiopian war since the mid-1960s. The influx of refugees has swollen the population beyond any accurate assessment, but Kassallah has become the largest city in the Sudan after the Three Towns (Khartoum, Khartoum North, and Omdurman).
robert o. collins