A Son of the Soil in Khartoum
August 3, 2006 9 Comments
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.