Khartoum #1 - It's hot!
Jun 07, 2005
Khartoum in the summer is hot, hot, hot, dusty and boring.
I spent a week in Khartoum, and it feels like all I did there was walk 3 blocks over to the nearest market, buy 6 liters of water, walk back to my guesthouse, lie in a pool of my own sweat under a fan while drinking the water, and then walking back to the market to buy more.
The heat sapped away all of my hunger and energy. But really, I think that it was just my body's way of adjusting to the heat. Coming into Khartoum, my body had an excess of insulation (fat), and the lack of hunger was simply my body's way of telling me to get rid of that insulation which I no longer needed. After that first hellish week, my body adjusted, and I lost quite a bit of weight. After that, I felt fine even on 118-degree (48C) days, which was about average.
Even after traveling through places like Uganda and Ethiopia, Sudan still felt much more like "real traveling". None of the smaller restaurants have spoons or forks; if you're not used to it already, you quickly become comfortable eating with your right-hand. There is also no toilet paper to be found anywhere. This is the first country that I've ever been to where I couldn't find toilet paper. For the bathroom, you instead need to buy the packets of kleenex that are readily available, or start learning to use your left hand.
Another challenge which made it feel more like "real traveling" was the total lack of roman numerals. It comes as a shock, when suddenly you can't even read the prices for things. Though, the prices were quite a bit more confusing than that. The currency had been devalued by a factor of 10, but still today they often quote prices in the old currency. Sudanese will often quote the price for a sandwich as 1500 dinar, when the price is only 150 in the new currency. You just have to guess at the right price based on context - but fortunately, no one here in Khartoum is trying to cheat you.
I quickly to my best to learn a bit of a language and at least read the numerals, but sometimes it wasn't enough. One day, I went to the bus station to visit a spot on the outskirts of town. I didn't know enough Arabic to ask for the right bus. There were no sign in English. And no one, absolutely no one, spoke any English. So for 30 minutes in the unbearable heat, I walked around the bus station, failed to find my bus, and then walked back to my hotel to sweat under my fan and try again the following day.
Before coming to Sudan, I was worried about traveling through the country with a name "Adam Katz" which is as Jewish as can be. But what I didn't consider is that "Adam" is also a very Islamic name. Muslims believe that Adam is not only the first man, and the father of all men, but also the first prophet. I didn't have a problem because people thought I was Jewish, instead they simply would _not_ believe that I wasn't a Muslim with such a Muslim name.
If you stay in Khartoum, and you're a backpacker the place to stay is El Nakheel. It's reasonably priced, though not super cheap. They offered me a big, dusty (everything is dusty in Sudan) double room with bathroom for 2000 dinar. Without much effort I haggled the price down to 1500. The nice thing about this hotel is that unlike many other hotels it has a common area with a TV where you can meet other travelers.
I was sharing the hotel with a bunch of Sudanese, and two foreigners. Pyong-an was a Korean photographer waiting around for permission to go and photograph Darfur; permission which most likely never come. He always seemed to be getting into trouble - the day that I met him, he had been talking to the wrong people, and had to run away from the police and hide in someone's home.
The other traveler was unbelievably from Israel, and what I found even more shocking is that he was telling everyone that he was from Israel. I was afraid to tell people that I was Jewish and here was this guy telling everyone that he was not only Jewish, but from Israel (he entered Sudan on his British passport). Rather than meeting with aggression of hatred, which I might have expected, he said that everyone was very hospitable and excited to meet an Israeli Jew. The more that I travel the world the more I find my fears being proven unfounded.
Leave a comment! I'm much more inspired to write when I know people are reading.
Excellent read, nice pictures. Can't wait for your next entry :) (You should consider at least 2 entries a day...so "we" won't stay so far behind your current travels...)
Rhiis - May 31, 2007
At last, you've begun to update this bastard. Took long enough! Keep going, I have faith in your ability to keep the whiskey away from your lips long enough to complete these entries! I'm rooting for you! Go Adam! Go Adam!