Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Khartoum Neighbours

The view of our neighbours' courtyard from our balcony

My husband and I noticed, while sitting on our balcony in the evening, that the elderly gentleman of the house opposite, was making a wardrobe. On Monday three weeks ago, I decided to visit him and the two ladies we'd seen in the courtyard.

I rang the gate bell while a number of customers at the shop in the street looked on curiously. Soon I was being ushered into the courtyard by a beautiful woman. With gestures and much arm-waving (I’m getting SO good with charades-lol!) I managed to convey that I’d like to speak to the man of the house. On her call of “Mohamed”, he appeared from the house next door. He spoke English and introduced himself and then the lady with us as Harda, his sister. He said his wife was out, but please would I come in.

Saire, Mohamed and Harda

Once inside Harda's home where a friend whom she introduced as Saire, was seated on a divan, Harda motioned for me to sit down. The women immediately wanted to know all about me: where do I come from, how many children do I have, where does my husband work. That day, our fourth grandchild had just been born. I explained this to Mohamed who relayed it to the ladies. They in turn, clapped their hands then leant over to pat my knee in congratulation.

Meanwhile Mohamed disappeared outdoors and returned within a few minutes with two bottles of Pepsi Cola. Harda brought out two wine glasses which Mohamed filled. He gave one to me, took one for himself and gave the remainder of the two bottles of Pepsi to the two women.

Mohamed and his wife, Zenab pose in front of the wardrobe he built
After chatting a while longer and learning several important Arabic words and phrases from these kind people, I asked if they would pose for a photograph. They sat on the divan opposite and at first they looked very somber. Lowering my camera, I smiled at them and dredging up a newly –acquired word to depict “happiness”, I asked them to daheka /laugh. Immediately their faces broke into wide smiles and I continued to click away amid much laughter.

As I started to leave, another beautiful lady entered the yard. Mohamed introduced her as his wife, Zenab. While greeting Zenab, I suddenly remembered the wardrobe that Mohamed was making. I asked them if I could see it. They took me around a shoulder -high wall to their home. After admiring the wardrobe and asking Mohamed if he’d make an item of furniture for me, they both posed in front of it.

When I finally left, they asked me to please come again.

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  1. Hi Jo,
    Your posts are always so interesting. What nice neighbors you have and the fabrics of their clothing are so beautiful.
    Sunny :)

  2. What a wonderful post! Full of hope for the world! I love the way the women congratulated you on the birth of your grandchild. Lovely!

  3. How great you got to meet your neighbours and that they were so welcoming ;-)

  4. It's always nice to get in contact with the local people. I always try to do that when I am somewhere.

    That banks have never money is well known, lol ! remember two years ago the financial crisis all over the world. I just wanted to make a joke because they still can afford luxurous buildings !

  5. Thanks Sunny;) the ladies wear the most exquisite outfits of flowing fabric and the most gorgeous colours.

    Hi Brenda: yes, it is lovely how outgoing and friendly these people are.

    Hi Gattina;) my aim, exactly. I always want to immerse myself into the language and culture of a place. Ha, I remember now: the banks never have money...

  6. Thanks for the beautiful story and wonderful pictures.

  7. Jo: Beautiful story, so nice to meet new people who show such warmth. Thanks for sharing this encounter from your world.

  8. Hi JO, what a great post, I enjoyed this very much. How different their life looks from what I am used to. How nice that you reach out to meet them, and they in turn were friendly also. Nice to see this slice of life!

  9. What a sweet post! It will be good for all of you to know each other.

  10. Hi Jo, How neat to take time to meet some of your neighbors. They seem like really nice people. The wardrobe is gorgeous... What are you going to have him make for you????

    You are such a neat lady, Jo, and I am so glad that you are meeting people there.


  11. Always love your posts, Jo! And I really love the fact that you reach out to the people in and of that country. Having lived in several countries outside the US, I found it really sad that the Americans just stuck to their group of American friends. They made little if any attempt to speak the language -- well, maybe enough to direct servants. That's one reason I get really annoyed when people here in the US will whine and complain about people who come to here and don't learn the language. It works both ways but somehow many of my countrymen don't seem to be able to see it that way! Thanks for sharing this!
    Have a great week!


  12. Hi Sandy;) good to see you again! Thanks for your kind comment.

    It's true, Tom;) the people are so courteous and hospitable. This particular family is well-known in the suburb, especially the gentleman. He commands respect wherever he goes. I'll do a post on this when I return from South Africa.

    Carol, their lifestyle IS very different from ours - a lot simpler and more frugal. Amazing. Thanks for popping in.

    Hi Betsy;) they are wonderful people. I have had the item made already and will post about it when I return to the Sudan in three weeks time!

    Thanks Lori;) it is a pleasure knowing these people.

    Thanks Sylvia;) I agree with you. The same happened when we lived on a mining camp. We all stuck to "our own kind"! I love the fact that we live in a city now and have to make the effort to learn the language and culture. Have a wonderful week!

  13. How wonderful to meet your neighbours, Jo - and for them to be so friendly & welcoming, too - great pictures ! (Now I can't wait to hear/see what item of furniture you are having made !) P.S. I'm intrigued by the 'Tinkerbell' link on your blog - do tell !

  14. I enjoyed the pictures and reading about your visit with your neighbors. I am particularly fascinated by the colors and patterns of the ladies' clothing.

  15. You would make a great Southerner in our country - very warm, friendly and welcoming! Not everyone is like that. Lovely post about your neighbors!

  16. A wonderful post Jo. I admire you for taking time to meet your neighbours and talk to them. I always admire people who are willing to learn the language. You are so different compared to some of my South African colleagues, they are not willing to learn the arabic language and they always rely with the interpreter. There was one day that I suggested to them to at least learn 1 arabic word every week, and some told me that they are not interested.

    You must be very excited Jo. Bon voyage and keep safe on your trip back to South Africa.

    off topic:
    We're leaving UAE for a holiday on March 9. I am on sick leave for almost a week. Am still coughing, for the past week, am barking like a dog and still coughing. Can't sleep well and eat well. Good thing that I have a medium frame body and losing some weight will not be a problem. It's getting worst and am taking lots of medicine to no avail. I revisited our employee health doctor today.

  17. Enjoyable post, maybe we should all learn from it. We really should try to make friends with our neighbours, but not all are quite so friendly. What an enjoyable time you all had And now you know some new words of their language you will be able to keep up the friendship.

  18. Hi Lynda;) good to see you again! Thanks for your kind comments. You know me, I like to interact/chat/socialize...I already have the piece made - here in my lounge (Ha!) Will post when I return to Khartoum. I was contacted by Tinkerbell - they targeted my blog. Apart from asking me to add their link, I don't know what they stand for (I mailed and asked them - no reply) (((Hugs))) Jo

    Thanks Diane;) the ladies' outfits are really beautiful even the everyday ones like these women are wearing.

    Thanks Carolina Mountains! As a young married woman and mother, I lived in a close-knit community. When I arrived there, a few ladies welcomed me by arriving at my door with a plate of fresh scones. I invited them in, and of course they tell you all about what there is to do in the area and that you can join the local garden club, Womens Institute etc! The town I come from in the Free State (central South Africa) is exactly like that too! Here in Khartoum I realized the culture is not like that so I decided to go to them! And I'm so glad I did.

    Hi Misalyn;) I found that same South African (and British/Australian) lethargy to learn French in West Africa. There most locals on site/camp spoke reasonable English which made the expats even lazier. I had to communicate with my house help in French and we got on very well. As you know, I'm deteremined to learn Arabic and have documents on Word that I've copied and pasted from your help. I have quite a few verbs and nouns already. Mohamed helps me regularly. No matter what when we speak I ask "How do I say that in 'Arabi'?" and he sets me right. I am SO sorry you have been unwell. I pray you are soon better. But the holiday will help you. (((Hugs))) Jo

  19. Photos of beautiful, happy people. Very nice.

  20. What a lovely post. I always enjoy hearing about how others live and what they do, even if it's just meeting the neighbors. Thanks for sharing, it is interesting to learn more about different cultures!


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