Welcome to Sudan


The Republic of the Sudan

January 30, 2020

“I prefer civilization” said my cousin when I suggested that she and her husband accompany me to Sudan.

It’s true that in Khartoum, this capital city of five million, the streets are dusty or unpaved.  The sidewalks uneven.  Few signals control the traffic.  Cars are parked wherever they stop.  Buildings lie unfinished, in need of repair or just dilapidated. 

it appears that nothing of any value is discarded.   Men sit on the sidewalk or in small shops where they repair, mend or overhaul everything from watches to eyeglasses to telephones to irons to automotive parts.  

It’s true.  There are travel agencies and camera, music, electronics and smart phone stores.  Restaurants and sandwich shops and cafeterias.  Souvenir shops.  Hotels.  A few modern skyscrapers and British style government buildings.   An air-conditioned shopping mall.   Magnificent mosques.

Khartoum, the city that boats of its location at the confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile, still sits in the middle of the desert.  And in a desert city in the developing world, one inevitably lives with sand and dust.

Despite all this and despite the recent history of repressive regimes, civil wars and foreign government sanctions, I found that Khartoum is quite safe and one of the most civilized capital cities I have ever visited.

It’s also true that in this multi-ethnic North African city of brown and black citizens, this white guy with a camera hanging from his neck is often treated with indifference.  But mostly what I hear is “Welcome to Sudan. Welcome to Sudan.  Where do you come from?”   Eyes light up when I respond, “New York, America.”  Then with a broad smile, “Please take my picture. Let’s take a photo together. Have you been to Sudan before?  How long will you stay?  Would you like some tea?”

Is there anything more civilized than to be invited to tea by a total stranger?


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