GALLABAT, or Galabat, called by the Abyssinians Matemma (Metemma), a town of the Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, in 13° N. 36° 12' E. It is built, at the foot of a steep slope, on the left bank of a tributary of the Atbara called the Khor Abnaheir, which forms here the Sudan-Abyssinian frontier. Gallabat lies 90 m. W. by N. of Gondar, the capital of Amhara, and being on the main route from Sennar to Abyssinia, is a trade centre of some importance. Pop. about 3000. The majority of the buildings are grass tukls. Slaves, beeswax, coffee, cotton and hides were formerly the chief articles of commerce. The slave market was closed about 1874. Being on the frontier line, the possession of the town was for long a matter of dispute between the Sudanese, and later the Egyptians, on the one hand and the Abyssinians on the other. About 1870 the Egyptians garrisoned the town, which in 1886 was attacked by the dervishes and sacked. From Gallabat a dervish raiding party penetrated to Gondar, which they looted. In revenge an Abyssinian army under King John attacked the dervishes close to Gallabat in March 1889. The dervishes suffered very severely, but King John being killed by a stray bullet, the Abyssinians retired (see Egypt: Military Operations, 1885-1896). In December 1898 an Anglo-Egyptian force entered Gallabat. The Abyssinians then held the fort, but as the result of frontier arrangement the town was definitely included in the Sudan, though Abyssinia takes half the customs revenue. Since 1899 the trade of the place has revived, coffee and live stock being the most important items.
The town and district form a small ethnographical island, having been peopled in the 18th century by a colony of Takruri from Darfur, who, finding the spot a convenient resting-place for their fellow-pilgrims on their way to Mecca and back, obtained permission from the negus of Abyssinia to make a permanent settlement. They are an industrious agricultural race, and cultivate cotton with considerable success. They also collect honey in large quantities. The Takruri possess jagged throwing knives, which are said to have been brought from their original home in the Upper Congo regions.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)