Sunday, February 28, 2010

Morning has broken over Omdurman

For beautiful scenes around the world, click here.

Khartoum Budgies

Rambo (pictured above and below) and Sweet Pea (not visible) are our two Khartoum budgies. We inherited Sweet Pea and Pretty Boy from the general manager when he went on leave last August. You can read about this here and here. While I was in South Africa waiting for my visa, Prettty Boy died. Apparently from old age. Grant went out and bought another budgie exactly the same and within a day of watching his enthusiasm and sef-confidence in the cage, he named him Rambo.

Now with a younger suitor, Sweet Pea has become to much more confident and recently has taken to spending most of her day lining her nest (although when I Googled it, I read that budgies don't use nesting material). To date she has not laid an egg - I think Rambo is still a little young.
Meanwhile, Rambo talks to himself in the mirror for ages, and also hangs around the mouth of the nest box chatting to Sweet Pea. He often feeds her seeds and bits of lettuce but I've not managed to get a photo of that yet.
Sweet Pea peeks out of the nest at me taking photos

I cannot seem to get them both ...

... in focus at the same time

For more posts on pets, click here

Saturday, February 27, 2010


Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He's done. If you do this, you will experience God's peace which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philllipians 4:6-7

Friday, February 26, 2010

Sunrise over Omdurman

Readers will notice that the above photo is very similar to my new header photo. I took approximately sixty photos of this sunrise on Monday morning. I just couldn't get enough of this beautiful sky

For spectacular skies, click here

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Khartoum Long Life White Bread

I always sift the flour when living in a third-world country and I'm always surprised at the debri in it

For Grant's birthday last week, I baked him a loaf of white bread. (Instead of cake, of which he 'd eat one slice and I the rest!) I'd never made this recipe from a magazine affiliated to a large supermarket chain in South Africa. The bread turned out perfectly and was appreciated by the birthday man!

I believe (my late mum taught me) that the bread dough should always be level with the top of the pan before the second proving takes place

A perfectly rounded bread

I was so thrilled with the perfection of this loaf, I couldn't stop photographing it. See my husband's arm on the table while he waits patiently to taste his birthday treat!

Long-life White Bread (PnP Fresh Living Magazine July 2009)

Makes 2. I only made one loaf therefore used half the ingredients.
By adding milk and Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) the bread stays fresher for longer. I didn't the ascorbic acid tablet as I couldn't find any in Khartoum

1 kg White Bread Flour
30 ml Sugar
15 ml Salt
10 g Instant Yeast
2 Vitamin C tablets - crushed (optional)
375 ml Water - hot
250 ml Milk
30 ml Canola Oil

Measure flour, sugar, salt and yeast into a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly with your fingers to combine.
Dissolve Vitamin C tablets in hot water and add milk (it may get a slightly curdled look).
Add milk mixture to dry ingredients, mix to form a ball and knead for about 8 -10 minutes on a well-floured surface to form soft pliable dough.
If necessary, add a little more water or flour, depending on consistency.
Grease mixing bowl with canola oil and place dough in bowl.
Cover with Clingfilm and allow to rise, until doubled in size. (On a warm day the dough can be left at room temperature but on a cold day make your own little ‘incubator’ by placing the bowl on a cloth-covered cooling rack over a deep roasting pan, half-filled with boiling water).
Cover with a large plastic bag (black bags work well), tie closed and allow to rise. Remember, slower is better, it may take from 30 minutes to 1 hour depending on outside temperatures.
Knead dough again once risen.
Butter two 200 x 100 x 70cm-deep loaf tins.
Divide dough into two.
Roll out dough 2cm thick, and roll up like a Swiss roll.
Place into loaf tins, seam-side down. This helps the bread to rise more evenly and have a better ‘dome’ shape.
Allow loaves to rise again until they reach the top of the tin.
Preheat oven to 220°C and bake for 35 minutes.
Turn loaves out of loaf tins and return to oven to bake for another 10 minutes to crisp the bottom crust.
Place bread on a cooling rack covered with a clean cloth and allow to cool to room temperature.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Khartoum Cats - continued

On Saturday, (see here if you wish)I posted about the disappearance of one of the cats I've been feeding in the city.

On Sunday we stopped at the shop where the above cat had been living with her kitten, but had gone missing on Friday. I wanted to ask the shopowner to return my can-opener. After greeting him, I asked him if the cat was here and to my surprise, he said yes. Going to the back of the shop, he beckoned me to follow him. He pulled a chest deep freeze away from the wall and began to lift empty soft drinks crates from behind it. He lifted one, then two and finally three crates.Then he bent down and handed me the kitten which was meowing pitifully. I leaned over the freezer and there was the mother cat lying on bare concrete. Looking closely at the kitten, I saw that one eye was crusted closed. I dashed back to the vehicle, where my darling husband was once again, waiting patiently, and told him the cats were back. I collected the cotton wool, eye ointment and the small bottle of milk I had for the cat at the vegetable stalls.

Entering the shop again, the shopowner, who told me his name was Amir, was behind the counter serving customers. I swabbed the kitten's eye with the milk and applied the ointment. By this time a young woman had entered the shop and I heard Amir asking her if she spoke English. She nodded and when he pointed to me, she came to the back of the shop. When I asked her to ask Amir where the cat had come from, she just looked at me and said OK, OK, which turned out to be the extent of her English vocabulary. Eventually she left, giggling furiously.

Meanwhile, I gestured to Amir that I was moving the cat back to her nest behind the fridge. I asked him for water for her bowl and also asked him to open the can of tuna I had paid for on Friday. The mother cat ate some of the food and then settled back into her nest. I placed the kitten at a teat and he started suckling immediately.

By now, Amir had, between serving customers, called in a tall lad with a broom in his hand. He seemed to speak a little more English so I told him to tell Amir that I am just helping him feed the cat. I don't want to harm him or his cat. In fact, I buy the tuna from his shop, which is fed to the cat, and my husband also buys our water there every week. When he translated this, Amir seemed relieved. Here I need to interject that I am sorry I thought Amir was without integrity. It transpires that he was nervous when the cat went missing on Friday that he looked all over for it. He obviously found it nearby.

I was trying to explain to him not to "cage" the cat behind the freezer without food or water when a tall, distinguished-looking Arab gentleman entered the shop. I turned to him and asked if he could speak English, to which he replied "Of course". I told the story of the cats and that I was only helping the shopowner; I wasn't laying any claim to the cats. He interpreted this to Amir, who looked much happier. Then the gentleman smiled and said, "Perhaps we can put a small box filled with sand down for the cat" Wow! This is exactly what I had in mind, except how would I have gotten that across to Amir and the helpful lad-with-the-broom. (Imagine the gesturing and posturing I'd have to adopt to convey this without words?LOL)

Thanking the English-speaking gentleman and paying Amir for tuna until I returned on Wednesday, I left the shop. I pray that the cat remains in her nest and doesn't try to leave again.

Next we stopped at the vegetable stall but as I alighted from the vehicle, the old vendor said: "Missus, la-la" As I approached him, he said, "Kadissa, la-la" (Cat, no-no) It transpired that the cat has either died or being killed by the dogs behind the stalls. Oh well, obviously there is nothing more I can do for the poor creature.

The cat in our courtyard continues to bloom. She is very pregnant but still very wild. I can't think where she will have her kittens. We'll just wait and see...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Khartoum Household Help

Mirriam, my help in Khartoum. Isn't she beautiful?

In August last year, when I first met my Khartoum household help, Mirriam, I knew she and I would get on well. She couldn't speak any English and I could speak even less Arabic, but that didn't pose any problem. She works for me on Mondays and Thursdays and for Issam, the general manager on Wednesdays and Sundays.

After being on leave for more than two months, Issam had a substantial amount of washing. Last Wednesday as Mirriam arrived at his flat downstairs, the power failed. Grant phoned me from work and said he was coming home to start the generator. He also said that Mirriam would need to do Issam's washing in our tub as his is broken.

A while later, Mirriam came up the stairs to my flat, dragging the largest bag of washing I have ever seen. She set to work washing, spinning, hanging items on my clothes line; in between, popping downstairs to do the housework. At about 1pm she began to iron. She ploughed on valiantly but at 2pm she packed up and she said she would finish Issam's ironing the next day. I wondered how she would fit it with her work at my flat, but knew she would somehow.

When Mirriam arrived the next morning, she was not alone; she had another woman with two small children with her. She introduced her companion as her sister Safira. She said Safira had come along to help with Issam's ironing. I thought this was very innovative of Mirriam and welcomed them both.

The children were so well-haved while their mum did the ironing. Here in Khartoum it's the first time I've seen anyone iron on the floor, but it obviously works well!

Throughout the morning, while Safira ironed I took a few photos. I was so impressed at how well-behaved the three-year-old was. I gave her a few highlighters and sheets of paper to keep her amused. The baby, also a girl, was fed, put down on the floor next to her mum, where she fell asleep.

Mirriam and Safira pose with the children for a photograph

Once the ladies were dressed in their street clothes, I asked them to pose for me. Yesterday I printed the photos, Grant cut them and we gave them to Mirriam.

For other posts on That's my World, Tuesday - hosted by Klaus, and team members Sandy, Sylvia, Louise and Fishing Guy - click here

Monday, February 22, 2010

Khartoum Visit to the Dentist

Grant is involved with the grandchildren and dogs

He's capable of riding for thousands of kilometres
as we tour the country
But he's petrified of dentists...

For the past three months my husband has been suffering with toothache. I noticed that no matter what he did to alleviate the agony(anesthetic spray from the chemist, pain killers, chewing a clove) it just would not go away.
Last week I mentioned that there is only one cure for toothache. Grant looked at me expecting to hear of another immediate cure. My answer: "Go to the dentist and have it seen to" The pain was obviously so bad that he called Marcel, who had told him of the excellent dentist he has been going to for years. Marcel rang back within ten minutes: he'd secured an appointment for 6pm on Saturday.
Over the next few days, I watched as my poor husband struggled with the ever-increasing pain in his mouth and the fear of what he had to face on Saturday.

The dentist, who spoke excellent English, met us at the top of the stairs and welcomed us to his surgery. I thought this was very professional; I'm not sure, though, whether Grant was encouraged by this gesture or even more nervous. (lol!)

We had to wait in the dentist's reception area while a family of little boys had their teeth examined. Eventually it was Grant's turn. When the dentist beckoned him to the surgery, he fair jumped up and ran inside. While he was in there, I popped outside to photograph the dentist's name plate on his door. As I returned to the reception, I saw Grant walk out of the surgery with a sheet of paper in his hands. It was a prescription for antibiotics. He had an abscess under the tooth (Ouch, no wonder the pain had been so bad) and would return to the dentist in a week's time.

Strangely enough, now that the toothache has subsided and he'd been to the surgery, Grant seems to have lost his fear of dentists. He said Dr Hamo was most professional and would commend him to anyone in Khartoum reading this post.
Once back in the city centre, we hit the Saturday night traffic.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Up Close and Personal

Aircraft coming in to land at Khartoum airport (Photo taken with my Sony Cybershot from our moving vehicle)
For more scenes around the world, click here

Khartoum Kites

Yellow-billed kites, common intra-African migrants, are never more prolific than here in Khartoum. This one was perched on the pole just beyond our balcony. I held the camera just out of the door, while keeping myself "invisible" inside. I wonder whether he was eying our budgies who are outdoors during the day...

For more on pets, click here

Saturday, February 20, 2010


The owner of my favourite spaza shop in our neighbourhood

May integrity and honesty protect me, Lord, for I put my trust in You. Psalm 25:21

honesty, reliability, veracity, uprightness

genuineness, sincerity

worthiness, decency, respectability

Earlier this week I popped over to my new and favourite spaza shop down the road. I first visited this shop when I was searching for a sewing kit. You can read about this
here, if you wish. This particular evening he had a number of customers before me, one who kept scrimmaging in the freezer, lifting an item, querying the price and replacing it again.

Eventually it was my turn and I placed my order of one fresh fruit juice and a small tub of vanilla ice cream. The price was SDG2 which is less than one US$. I paid him with SDG5 and at that moment a women leant across me and asked him for an item. He gave me my change, and turned to serve her as I left. I stopped off at the spaza shop just opposite our apartment building to buy a pack of fresh pitas. As I opened my purse, I saw that I had an extra note. Call me crazy but I am always aware of the notes and amounts in my purse at any given time. Here in Khartoum I am extra concious of the denominations as I'm still trying to get used to the currency. Without buying anything at Mohamed's shop, I turned and walked back to the first shop. The owner was serving yet another picky customer. When she left, I said to him, "I paid you with SDG5 and you gave me SDG8 change." He clapped his hand to his forehead and when I placed the 5 pound note on the counter, he thanked me most profusely.
The shop owner might or might not have remembered overchanging me that day. Whichever way, he couldn't have done anything about it. But I would have remembered had I not gone back with the extra money. Acting on this is called integrity.

This brings me to a very sad point in today's post. About a person who lacks integrity. A week ago I posted about the Khartoum cats , which you can read about
here. For the past ten days, my husband and I have been feeding three stray cats. One is here in our courtyard. The other two are in the city in two different locations. One of these had two kittens about three weeks ago; one kitten survived. The mother cat and kitten belong to the shop owner where we buy our bottled water. I bought tuna from his shop and was feeding the cat every second day while leaving a tin (and my can opener) for him to feed it on the days I did not get there. My husband popped in there on Thursday to buy our water and was taken to see the cat behind the fridge. He came home and reported that the kitten, whose eyes were open, looked like a little slug it was so well fed. The shop owner fed the mother cat while he was there.

On Friday we stopped there and I went into the shop clutching the customary bottle of milk. I found it strange that the owner didn't seem his effusive self when I greeted him. There was a youngster in the shop who greeted me in English. As I walked to the back of the shop to check on the cat, this lad followed me. Expecting to see the mother cat and her kitten in the nest behind the fridges I was surprised to see it was empty. I turned back to the youngster and the shopowner who'd joined us at the back, and asked where the cat was. The young boy told me that it had left. The owner assures me that he had searched for it but the cat was there last night and gone this morning. Trying to think straight after receiving this shock, I couldn't believe that a mother cat, who was safe, being fed and pampered, would pick her kitten up and walk out of the shop.

I walked back to the counter where the shop owner had returned to serve a customer and said I would leave one tin of tuna and my can opener. If he managed to find the cat, to please feed her and re-install her in her nest. Always before, whenever I spoke to this young man, he'd look at me with an open and friendly expression. Yesterday however, he could hardly face me while we were talking and when he did lift his eyes, I noticed a closed expression on his face.

I left the shop feeling utterly dejected. When I told my husband that the cat and kitten was missing, he immediately said that the shop owner had sold it. Until then I'd not considered this but now it made sense. I am going back today and if the cat is not in the shop, I will ask the shopowner for my paid-up-front tin of tuna and can opener. I'm trying not to dwell on the fact that the poor mother cat, who literally tasted a luxurious life for the past ten days and is perhaps starving again tonight.

The cat at the vegetable stalls continues to thrive. It had a sore eye, so we bought eye ointment, and after cleaning both eyes with cotton wool soaked in water, I managed to massage a little ointment into the eye. The Calico Cat waits downstairs in our courtyard in the morning as well as at night now. My husband says she is pregnant, and on closer inspection I realise he may be right.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Khartoum USA Magazines

A few weeks ago I asked fellow bloggers, Sunny of Barnyards and Barnacles,(Massachusetts) and Betsy of Joyful Reflections (Tennessee), if they could suggest a couple of good women's magazines from their country. Our company General Manager, Issam Noah, whom I'd not yet met, was due back from his leave in the States and I wanted to ask him to bring me some magazines.

Sunny and Betsy respectively mailed me a comprehensive list which Grant forwarded to the GM as per my request. Issam arrived in Khartoum last Saturday (he was a week later than originally planned because of the snowstorms in the US). He went to the office on Sunday (which is Monday in the Sudan!) On Monday when I heard him start his car to go to work, I popped my abaya over my house attire, and went downstairs to introduce myself. He went back into his flat, fetched the three magazines he'd bought and handed them to me. He refused to accept any payment. Sweet man.
So thanks to my dear friends, Sunny and Betsy and new acquainance, Issam, I now have more reading material here in Khartoum.
For those of my readers who haven't visited Sunny or Betsy's blog, do yourself a favour and pop over there. You will be so glad you did.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Khartoum Market

The Souq Arabi is behind these corrugated walls. You can hire a young lad to wash your vehicle while you visit the market. We had ours beautifully washed and polished for SDG5/US$2

Last Friday Grant took me to the Souq Arabi as a birthday treat. He asked his technician, Marcell, who speaks Arabic, to accompany us.

In the Arab world, a souq is a market, which may be held in a designated commercial quarter, or in an open-air location. Souqs are an important part of life in Africa and the Middle East and their merchants carry a wide assortment of products from rugs to vegetables.

Located right in the centre of Khartoum city, this is your classical chaotic market teaming with people. The market is divided in to several sections, each focusing on a certain product. It is huge and spread over several squares in the center of Khartoum proper just south of the Great Mosque (Mesjid al-Kabir) and the minibus station. There is even one block devoted to gold but we didn't get to see it. If you are looking for handicrafts and fresh produce - which we weren't - it is better to visit Souq Omdurman. The latter is situated only two blocks away from our apartment and the largest open-air market in Africa. I never realised it was so close to us, until a kind-hearted neighbour took me there on Monday. More about this in a later post.

As we walked into the first hall, this gentleman asked me to take a photo of him and my husband in his shop. He sold mens' and boys' traditional Arabic clothing.

The shopowner (on my right)in the previous photo was sent by my husband to find me

While Marcell and Grant were looking at the goods in this shop, I wandered off to a few stalls down the passage when the owners there asked me to take photos of them. They also wanted me in the pictture so one of the friends took this photo. Meanwhile my husband had lost sight of me and sent the previous owner to look for me! When I rejoined him, he admonished me for going off on my own saying I could get lost. I said no problem, I had my cell phone and would've called him, but he argued that where would I say I was. Good point! I stayed behind him and Marcell from the remainder of our visit.
These men sold the most exquisite material for abaya's/traditional robes. They also had beautiful hijab's/headscarves on display

Marcell was looking for a pair of jeans without slogans or embroidery, so while the men were in a shop which sold Western-style clothing, I snapped the above photo. There is such an eclectic mix of textures and colours in the material on display. Hanging on racks at eye-level on the left were ready-made Western-style garments for women. Hanging above me on the right, were traditional jalabiya/Arabic mens' robes

There are many photos of my husband and Marcell
walking along ahead of me

These men had beautiful displays of hijabs and while Marcell and Grant were busy looking for denim jeans without slogans or embroidery, I clicked away...

Just outside the primarily textile display hall, we came across the above scene. I just loved the huge bowls of dried fruit and vegetables.

Inside the next covered hall, my olfactory senses were assailed with the most divine fragrance of spices and herbs. Once again, we weren't sure what they were, so my husband, who normally cooks our spicy dishes, wasn't interested in looking. I took photos though...

These looked like legumes of some sort: I recognised whole brown and green lentils as well as the fruit of cream-of-tartar

Just around the corner from the dried fruit, vegtables and spices displays, we entered an alley with more beautiful cloth
When we entered the section which displayed Chinese merchandise, the place was packed. You can see dozens of shoes hanging from displays on the right. There were hundreds of women in this area (why wasn't I surprised?) Merchants also carry their goods around the market and try to tempt you. It's also normal to see merchants pushing carts displaying their goods

This section had very reasonably priced skirts and blouses with children's clothes on the left. Up ahead are more jeans which is why Marcell is heading off in that direction (He didn't manage to find the jeans he wanted)

More ladies blouses, beautiful cloth and colourful hijabs on display

Marcell never gave up looking for his jeans...

Leaving the previous hall, we found a huge section which sells household goods: kitchenware, cookware, glassware, plastic products. The displays were enormous. In future I will be buying all I need at the souq instead of the upmarket Afra. The items are a quarter of the price of the reegular shops

The displays on the left had items like (you guessed it) sewing needles, cotton, straight pins...

You see hundreds of donkies in Khartoum. I always take photos of these beasts of burden. My husband assures me that the Sudanese are more caring of their donkies than the Maleans and Guineans of West Africa

Furniture is manifactured one site and you can place your order. Ornate gates and security doors were on display all along this alleyway

We passed through another dried fruit and vegetable section. My husband actually stopped to look!

There is a huge motorcycle shop outside

Grant bought himself a pair of flip-flops for SDG7 instead of the normal SDG10 we pay in the regular shops. He was pleased that he found a pair- made in China - promoting the World Cup Soccer to be held in South Africa in June and July this year
We bought a few hand towels and three new floor rugs as well as a pizza cutter. One of the gifts from Grant was the above outfit. The shop owner quoted me SDG48/US$19.20 for the skirt and blouse. I told him I only had SDG35/US$14 for it so he said SDG36/US$14.40. I paid him with a smile. I bought the pink hijab at another stall for SDG8/US$3.20

I had a wonderful time at the Souq Arabi and intend to visit it often. I'm also a day late with That's My world Tuesday, an interesting meme by Fishing Guy, Klaus, Sandy, Wren and Sylvia, so hope you will still click here.