My first Mission (Part II)


Just make a statement to the press that despite the political instabilities in Darfur that there are some developmental projects in the area like your project and talk a bit about it

So, I blabbed something that I don’t remember what it was that aired on the local tv stations. My colleagues joined me and spoke more about our role there and that we hope it will invite other organisations to finance projects in Darfur. I understood later the significance of such a press conference in trying to negate the media propaganda about Darfur. Personally, I am very content that this trip corrected the wrong image I had about this highly unappreciated region in the world. However, I am still clueless about the true motives of those external parties who are behind this unjust media propaganda. The only reason being iterated by some is that the Darfur region is one of the three largest deposits of high purity uranium in the world.

After the official reception was over, it was time to rest in one of their so called hotels – specifically “Ferdos Hotel” (means paradise hotel). But I can assure you that this place could be anything BUT paradise. Moreover, I think that they missed an “S” in because a 12 room place is more of a hoStel rather than a hotel.. I had my own air-conditioned room and I was sleeping on an old antique bed that creaks at each movement. It is very similar to the room of our house guard or maybe a bit worse. The washroom is a scene from a horror movie with its yellow basin and smelly “Arabic” toilet. It was in Darfur that I’ve spent the longest time not showering – 3 days and that’s because of another problem; water cuts off very frequently and the same was for electricity. But overall, it is better than I expected. I was expecting to share a room with 4 others and sleep on the floor.

At night, there is not much to do other than be invited for dinner in the outskirts of the town under the gaze of gigantic trees where you eat your food with one hand and shake off flies with the other. That’s how much flies are out there. In Darfur, I have seen species of flies that are most probably not documented by biologists. I’ve seen the “doban il azra2” (blue flies), astonishingly large-sized flies that are around the size of your thumb, and mutated red-eyed flies with abnormally long legs.

After dinner, we go back to the “hotel” where I spend a couple of hours entertaining myself in the most bizarre ways ever. I am so gonna miss my “how many insects are on the floor?” self-created game.

I guess a number.....7...I look at the floor. Oh, there are 2 cockroaches, 2 lizards and one beatle. That’s 5 in total. Less than 7. Leave them in peace.

Half an hour later, I guess 4..I look. Oh no 6 are there..THWUMP, THWUMP, THWUMP, THWUMP....and after running mindlessly in my room for 20 minutes, my biggest THWUMP was for our friend down there. Mr. Grasshopper-who remained there as a souvenir reminding me of how savage I am.

Other than that, our 2 day workshop was very satisfactory. The 2 other things that were interesting was our visit to Darfur museum and a site visit to one of the schools there. And what a great feeling it was to sit there and admire those 6 to 7 year old children singing and doing their cultural dances, showing us how they use first aid kit, showing us their knitted fabrics, their small artistic artifacts build purely from clay, their cooking and housekeeping skills, and many more. I bow for the hard-working efforts of the School’s Principle for the achievements she did with her limited resources and funding in a school that’s only the size of an average 3 bed roomed apartment.

By end of 4th day, it was time to go back to Khartoum to commence working and following up on our other projects. We gave our farewell and sincere thanks to Government of Darfur for their generous hospitality and thanked them for the exceptional souvenirs of the culture of Darfur; including a gallon of pure honey. :D

As usual, the plane arrived late but all I cared about is getting back to the hotel to cleanse myself from the filth that accumulated. I hadn’t excreted in 2 days and I felt my intestines are about to explode. I was so disgusted with myself that I felt like burning all the clothes I wore there. I didn’t do anything that night as I spent at least 4 hours in the washroom. Shower, bubble bath, and another shower. It felt so good to be clean again.

5th day was another long day for me as our next project was in a city called Madani – 2 car hours away from Khartoum. We woke up at dawn and left at 6 a.m. sharp. It was the only time in my stay in Sudan that people were punctual.

One of the hilarious things about that journey is the names of the towns we passed by on our way. There is a town called “arbej” ---which means “sit down” , another called “galleb” ---which means “lie on your side” and another called “kammel nomak” ---which means “keep on sleeping”. That’s another proof that the stereotype of Sudanese people being lazy is not so wrong after all.

We arrived there. Attended a small presentation and spend the day doing site visits to the different colleges and university campuses spread around the city as our project is mainly about expanding the university. I was astonished by the Cancer Research & treatment Center that is considered one of the focal points for Cancer treatment in Africa. It was funded by the UN and it is very well-equipped and is filled with world-class calibre doctors who serve patients coming from all over Africa.

I was also shocked by the medical college there. Despite the fact that their labs are very outdated, underequipped with facilities that are nearly zilch, the college managed to get least 4 awards for being the best medical college in the arab world in 2002 from different organisations. It shows you the persistence and determination of the college to maximize on their existing limited resources.

At lunch time, we ate at a hotel that was hosting the MAREEKH team (Sudan’s famous soccer team). Apparently, they were having a local match in the Sudanese league in the city. The hotel was “internet-equipped”. It gave me the glimpse of hope of accessing that urgent email I am expecting from work. My hopes diminished when I discovered that the internet access has been down at COUNTRY level for at least a week.

We concluded our work sessions by 6 before we headed back to Khartoum. It was nice to see the sun rise and sun set on the same road.

6th day was nothing special at all. First day of Ramadan but it didn’t feel like Ramadan at all. We did some project follow-up. I swam in the afternoon and worked on my back to office report.

Friday was our last day. And it is at Friday that my stomach gave up and decided to breakdown. I spent most of the time in bed before forcing myself to dress to attend an iftar invitation.. My memory is vivid of that day as I didn’t eat anything and I spent most of it in the washroom puking. I could recall watching a stand-up Sudanese comedy but I barely understood the jokes because most of the time I either couldn’t understand the accent or it was related some insider Sudanese joke.

My suffering was not over as we have been informed that our 11 p.m. flight was delayed till 6 a.m. which means that we cannot check out the hotel and that we need to stay one more night. The problem is that our travel allowance given to us is not enough for one more night. And unfortunately, because of government regulation, VISA & American Express card transactions are not accepted. The same problem was for my other 2 colleagues. Our combined cash reserves can accommodate the 3 of us one room only. But i had an idea. My colleague’s room is adjacent to mine and they are both connected with one door. I opened the joint door before I left and I checked out my room. We booked my colleague’s room for a further night with our combined reserve money. And I went back through my colleague’s room and slept in my room. I was gambling on the fact that they do room service in the morning of next day and that they won’t give the room to anybody. Oh, I love cheating the system.

By 5 a.m in the morning, we were on our way to the airport going back to Jeddah after an unforgettable thrilling 7 day trip.


7aki Fadi said...

wow what a trip!

If there was one sarsoor in my room I would like seriuosly not sleep for DAYS after.

eshda3wa said...

ya36eekom el3afya

man ... all these insects!! gave me shivers!
i stated looking on my floor to see that there was nothing!
i cant believe u went thru all that
bs what an experiance it must have been to go and see a country that not many people bother to even hink about!

Anonymous said...

It’s my birthday today! I’m so glad I got to read such an entertaining story form early morning! :D Man that was something out of this world! I hope 6you are all well jumping and enjoying your Fu6urs!!!??? Glad you came back to post in one piece! ;)

KJ said...

Man that was awesome. I can't imagine myself not showering and sleeping in a room of insects. I mean I changed my house because of that :S

Welcome back! I bet this was a great eye opening trip for you! Now don't go there again

Sam said...

o poor u...yeh i would die if there was a sarsoor in my room...i'd feel like it is crawling on me for days..glad u survived those 7 days..

Manutdfanatic said...

"Oh, there are 2 cockroaches, 2 lizards and one beatle. That’s 5 in total. Less than 7. Leave them in peace. Half an hour later, I guess 4..I look. Oh no 6 are there..THWUMP, THWUMP, THWUMP, THWUMP....and after running mindlessly in my room for 20 minutes, my biggest THWUMP was for our friend down there. Mr. Grasshopper-who remained there as a souvenir reminding me of how savage I am."

I would've passed out or run right out the door like a madhatter. :|
I applaud you, I really do.

Hamza said...

7aki Fadi - oh really? what should that woman who was with us when two grasshoppers attached themselves to her dress say?

eshda3wa- indeed and I am happy that it went better than I've expected

nora cassandra- oh sweety. happy birthday and I am glad that this post delighted your day

KJ- actually if you were there, you would have honed your photographic skills and you might even become famous for snapping pictures of species that may have never been documented

sam - I think i've developed survival skill to live anywhere

manutdfanatic - thanks. well passing out was not an option for me. hehehe

Anonymous said...

I'm gonna have to dedicate a day to read these 2 posts, will be back though, just wanted to show my concern :)