A Son of the Soil in Khartoum

I am in Khartoum and I need a drink. Badly. But there are none to be had here or at least in no place that I know. Most women are covered up demurely which only seems to raise my curiosity rather than diminishing it. This is my first time here and so far of all the trips I have taken so far this year, I have yet to encounter better hosts. In every office I have gone to, I have been given something memorable to eat or drink. There is a laid back feel to the place and graciousness to the people that put me immediately at ease.

The city itself sprawls over a large area with very few high buildings. Many are clay colored, like the desert, and have wide spaces between them which lends the city a sense of unfettered freedom which clashes somewhat with the careful covering of body and hair by many of the women. The avenues are wide: a runner’s paradise as I discovered this morning when I took what is becoming a small tradition in every city I visit. Unlike cities like Addis Ababa or Copenhagen where the sight of me running attracts a certain amount of attention, people in Khartoum just seem to take it in their stride even though I did not meet any other runners. There are new cars everywhere, and new buildings on the rise, this is a boom city. Oil may be a curse further to the south of the country but here in Khartoum it most definitely a blessing.

The situation in Darfur scarcely seems impact this city. To be here, you would never imagine that there could be such intense suffering in some other part of the country. Politically, one of the more striking sights is of the numerous posters of John Garang on buildings and street lights. In the few conversations I have had with ordinary folk on the peace with the SPLM, I have felt that there was a genuine desire for peace. But will it last I wonder? Should South Sudan opt to secede during the 2011 referendum, I wonder if the peace will be maintained. I hope I get to see more of the country, especially the South. Sudan has always loomed large in my imagination and yet I find that I am so deeply ignorant of it and its complexities.

I remember when I was just about five or six, I would take down the world atlas and insist that my mother play a find-the-place game with me. She would usually pick towns and cities close to Nairobi and I, believing that she would try and go for some distant, obscure town, would start my search in the furthest corners of what was then the Soviet Union. Once or twice she picked Khartoum. When it was pointed out to me (when on the verge of tears of frustration I may add), I would run my finger along the Nile all the way north through Egypt to Cairo. So how surreal it was to stand at the intersection of the White and Blue Nile never having imagined that fate would conspire to bring me here. To see the different currents, the differing colors and to be told that the waters from the two rivers even taste different.

More later.

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About bulletsandhoney
I read my first book when I was three, then my second one a few weeks later. It has carried on this way for decades with only temporary distractions of eating, fighting, loving, heartbreak and other such irrelevant biographical details.

9 Responses to A Son of the Soil in Khartoum

  1. Kabinti says:

    maybe you should get together with half kenya half sudan when considering going to southern sudan. she seems to know a thing or two about the place…

  2. Anonymous says:

    did you see this
    http://economist.com/world/africa/displaystory.cfm?story_id=7258611

    sudan sounds like an intriguing place after nigeria and maybe congo its the other african country that has always intrigued me

    i once watched a soccer game on TV here in the US between motema pemebe of DRC and al hilal of sudan – i swear to god i have never seen anything like i saw in the stand in both the home and away games

    i cant even describe it

  3. Zephyr says:

    Hey,
    First of all, what happenned to my job as your travel valet? May I add on to my cv (did you ask for that, did I send it?) that I am an accomplished masseuse… Even the massuers I know say I am not bad, hehehe.
    You did it again, very descriptive analysis of the people and the place. Incidentally, thanks in part to you 🙂 I started running in the mornings, so you have really piqued my curiousity about what it would be like to run in the morning in a different city. Keep going.

  4. MMK says:

    kabinti – who is this half Kenya and half Sudanese? I am leaving in a few hours and I think I will miss this city. There is such grace and kindness from the people. The lack of alcohol has actually made me start to think that I should stop drinking since there was such clear-minded communication in the dinners that I attended every evening. But I doubt that this wish will last since the first thing I intend to have on the plane is a big whiskey on the rocks.

    Zephyr – I keep trying to ask you for your CV and you never send it. I have an opening on my massage team.

  5. Kabinti says:

    she’s a KBWer, that’s the name of her blog

  6. HASH says:

    Ahh, Khartoum… The dusty, flat, hot as hell land of my youth (when not in Kenya). I hope you find a drink soon. 🙂

    Though it’s somewhat inhospitable, you’ll find that most of the people are extremely friendly. I did enjoy it when I wasn’t baking in the heat.

  7. ms. fierce says:

    I just stumbled across your blog.

    I DO NOT want to finish reading the post until I have had some coffee and breakfast.

    I want to read it slowly to enjoy.

    God bless blogs and their ability to let us link up.

  8. MMK says:

    ms fierce – I am anxious to have you roam around and read more if you are going to be so nice about it. Welcome. And tell me what you think.

  9. Mona says:

    Looks like a beautiful world out there. The kind you don’t want to destroy. I wonder if some people realize that we shouldn’t try to Americanize every nation. The uniqueness of foreign cultures makes America’s look washed out.–>

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