During the bus ride to Khartoum, the guy next to me, Asser, gave me a lesson in basic Arabic. These types of lessons are way better than any phrasebook translations in my book. Probably the most important phrases I learned was "ana eyes moya" (note my bastardized English phonetics) or "I want water" and the immortal "enta bint jameela" or "you are a beautiful woman". Asser suggested that if I didn't want to be slapped in the face or face the death penalty that I refrain from using the latter phrase, at least in public...
Investing a few bucks in a deluxe A/C bus turned out to be a really good idea. I met a couple of nice guys who helped me out with the bus: Targ at the Gedaref station (thanks for the tea) and Asser (on the bus to Khartoum). The left Gedaref at 0700 and got to Khartoum at 1300. As Targ and I were sipping hot milk tea while waiting for our buses, I could already feel the heat of the day building. It would only get worse. At one of the security checkpoints, I stepped out and was met by an incredible wall of heat. By the time we got to Khartoum, my watch thermometer registered a temperature of 43C. Normally, it just gives me a reading of my skin temperature.
Khartoum was a mess. Finding an affordable room was difficult. Asser was nice enough to walk me to a place suggested by LP. It was closed, as was all other budget suggestions. There were a lot of hotels about, but rooms were going for 60 to 100 USD. The last budget hotel on the list actually existed and was full. I was about to give up. The heat was taxing my mind and more importantly my body.
Hell knew what the locals thought of me, walking around aimlessly with a 20 kg bag strapped to my back in extreme heat. Must have looked pretty dumb. I had to rest for a half hour on the steps of the National Bank trying to figure out what to do.
I asked the reception at the last budget hotel where there was similar accommodations. A boy helped me navigate the intricate layout of the Souq al-Arabi district to what turned out to be a un-named hotel (ok, 2 handwritten Arabic words scratched on a wall beside a set of stairs does not constitute a sign to me, eh). I took the room. Overpriced but I didn't care. They didn't seem to want me to share a room with other Sudanese clients. So, I have 4 beds to myself.
I joined couchsurfing.com last night. It puts together travelers with local people who are willing to offer a bed for a night or two. I'm seriously thinking of giving some of these folks a call.
[Aside: Was talking to Asser on the bus. We were watching a really bad B-movie with some idiot American-type special operations Navy Seals guy shooting up bad guys (perhaps Arabs?) when conversation turned to current events in the news... According to Asser, Arabs are always presented in the worse light. If he saw any foreign troops on Sudanese soil he wouldn't hesitate in killing them. Tourists are OK though (I felt a wave of relief travel through my body) that includes American tourists. To Asser, he could distinguish between the US government and the American people. It's when they want to take something of Sudan's is when the problem occurs. The "problem" in Darfur was an exaggeration of the Western media. The Sudanese people are beautiful. With my limited exposure so far, I agreed. It's their government who are the evil ones [me]. According to Asser, George W. is a tosser (I agreed). If he ever stepped on Sudanese soil he would give him the one fingered salute (he demonstrates) and then slit his throat. Other than slitting W's throat it's nice to see Sudanese and most Americans (let alone the rest of the world) agreeing on what they think of dubya. There is hope in future cooperation. I only report the news, eh...]
View Larger Map
The marker in the map points to my Hotel in Khartoum. This area is called the Souq Al-arabi which by its name is where the market is situated. Every night vendors line the streets selling stuff like parfume to shoes and shirts. My hotel is situated in the "garment district". A lot of seamsters ply their trade here, with sewing machines out in the open. The large football like field to the north of the hotel is the amazingly crazy, humungous Souq Al-arabi bus station.
Out of Canuckistan: A travel blog, May 9/07
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