Monday, October 11, 2010

Our last weekend in Khartoum

It's our last weekend in Khartoum. Unfortunately no more trips into the desert. However, we had a really action-filled weekend. 

There was rather mad scamble on Thursday night when Grant and I tried to locate our passports. When you leave the Sudan you have to obtain an exit visa. I'm not sure whether this is normal in other countries. Grant and I both have permanent residence in the Sudan but we need visas to enable us to leave the country! (This happened every time we went out on leave as well)

After Grant had gone off to work at 6h30 on Tuesday morning, he left our passports with me to hand to our general manager (who only goes to work between 9h45 and 10h30). The procedure normally only takes two days and by Thursday our passports were apparently ready with the necessary "release" permits inserted. Unbeknown to us though, someone connected to the company (and whom we didn't know) had  passed away on Thursday. When there is a death in the Sudan, the men immediately bury the deceased while the women wait at home. Then for the rest of that day and over the next week, people come from far and wide to pay their respects to the bereaved. And this is what happened on Thursday. The person who was supposed to collect our passpports from the person who dealt with the person at Home Affairs (you get the picture?) had been involved with mourning the deceased person and our passports had not been collected.

At 7h30 on Thursday night (which is the start of the weekend in the Sudan) the GM asked Grant to drive across town to a the head office and wait there. Grant and I got into our landcruiser and drove to the appointed place. This is the way of Africa. All very vague and rather disorganised. We waited in a dark street for more than an hour when the GM phoned to find out whether our passports had been delivered to us yet. When Grant told him "No" he asked us to proceed to the Zain (Sudan telecommunications company) head office a few blocks away and wait there.

Now Grant, who knows Khartoum like the proverbial back of his hand,  had no idea where this building was. By the grace of God, Mohamed the nightwatchman, who has helped Grant with other red tape (such as obtaining his Sudanese drivers license) and who speaks excellent English,  was on duty at the company offices. He knew the Zain building and with him in the vehicle with us,  we dashed down one street, up another, through rush-hour traffic to this spot. Mohamed (on intruction from the GM) phoned the person who had our passport to tell him where we were waiting.

Now, I don't know about anyone out there, but when you're an "alien" in a foreign country, and your passports are floating around somewhere in a vast African city, your nerves tend to become a bit frazzled. I'm a very calm person and merely waited... I must admit I was also prayed fervently! But my darling husband is very different. He was not impressed by the way our travel arrangements were dealt with in this case and was champing at the bit.

He was just about to chew his ninth fingernail to the quick, when Mohamed pointed to a young Sudanese standing on the opposite side of the busy street trying to cross to our vehicle where we were parked on the darkened pavement - all very cloak and dagger-ish! The guy was dressed in khaki shirt and longs (Home Affairs uniform, I wondered?) and clutched a briefcase under his arm. Mohamed jumped out of the vehicle and beckoned the man across to our side of the street. They approached the landcruiser and Grant wound down his window, already reaching out for our documents. As Mohamed  asked the Home Affairs official if he had our passports, the man's mobile rang. So we had a tense few minutes while we all froze and watched while the man had a totally-unrelated- to- our- situation - conversation - in -Arabic on his phone. When he rang off, he unzipped the briefcase and dug out a passport. Yes, ONE passport. Mohamed asked where the other passport was to which the guy looked most perplexed. Then he said he thought perhaps it was in his car, around another dark corner. So Grant asked Mohamed to go back to the car with the clerk and see if they could find the other passport. While they dashed through the traffic, Grant turned on the interior light in the car and opened the passport in his hand. It was his...

We had another couple of very tense minutes while we waited for Mohamed to re-appear from around the corner. He did eventually and weaved his way through the traffic to our vehicle. As our headlights picked up his form, he waved my passport in the air! Praise God!

We dropped Mohamed off  at the company head office and drove across town back to our apartment. The GM was waiting at his door when we entered the building and was most apologetic. He said he had asked the Home Affairs clerk to bring him our passports early on Thursday morning and of course, this never happened. Then because of unforseen circumstances created by the staff death, our passports were the last things on anyone's minds!

Once Grant and I had dinner, we got into the landcruiser again and travelled across town to the aiport to finalise the cat's travel arrangements. But that's news you've heard already !

Ha. Life certainly is fun in North Africa!

On Friday I convinced Grant to take me to the Republican Palace Museum. He's never keen on this type of entertainment, but obliged, dear man, and then he enjoyed it very much!

The Republican Palace Museum situated on Jambouriya Street in Khartoum Central
The Republican Palace museum is the former Anglican Cathedral built and used for worship during British Colonial rule

Many large paintings of royalty (like King George V and Queen Mary) and important persons adorn the museum walls. Above is King Farouk of Egypt
Beautiful stained glass windows in the Anglican Cathedral, now the Republican Palace Museum
A close-up of the stained glass windows in the cathedral

Earl Kitchener won fame in 1898 for winning the Battle of Omdurman and securing control of the Sudan, after which he was given the title "Lord Kitchener of Khartoum"
Having been a church organist  for the Anglican and Methodist churches respectively for almost four decades, I was drawn to the organ pipes in the cathedral
And the cathedral organ opposite the pipes
Even though photos are permitted inside the museum, I didn't want to use my flash and bother the other visitors. Hence the blurry "person" in the photo above. The piano in the glass case was brought to Khartoum by General Gordon in 1884. General Gordon, aka "Gordon of Khartoum", was a important historic figure in the Battle of Omdurman. I have photos of his battlements on the Nile River and interesting Gordon memorabalia in Khalifa House (Omdurman) More about him in a later post

Presidential cars from 1924 are displayed in a showroom outside the museum. We were able to walk inside this room but couldn't enter the room with the Lincoln and a few other vehicles
Once a technical mind, always a technical mind.  As Grant look at (under?) this old Rolls Royce, he said it was leaking oil badly. I didn't see a thing!

The Lincoln and other Rolls Royce's were in this locked showroom. All the vehicles have bullet-proof windows and windscreens

On Friday morning Grant and I visited the Souq Arabi (Arabic Market) in Khartoum to buy a few gifts/momentoes to take home to our families. We've been to this market on more than one occasion, always with Marcial, Grant's  technician, who could translate for us. However, Marcial has also left the company and returned to the Phillipines so it was up to me to negotiate with the stall holders.  On Saturday afternoon we visited the National Museum, but I was not allowed to take photos inside.

The National Museum has artifacts from ancient Sudan and many Christian era art treasures
Many priceless monuments and treasures were moved from the Nubia (the border near Egypt) and brought to Khartoum to save them from being destroyed when the Nile flooded during the construction of the Aswan High Dam

On Sunday morning I went into Omdurman market with Achmed (the night-watchman at our apartment building) on Sunday.  
I rode in the tuk-tuk (rickshaw) with Achmed

 One of the many shoe shops in the Omdurman market (Achmed, right, looks on as the stall holder serves a customer)
On Sunday evening the GM took us to eat out at the five-star Burj Al Fateh hotel on the Nile. In May I posted about an enjoyable evening we had at this same hotel. You can read about this here, if you wish.  More about the weekend's exciting dinner outing tomorrow.
The five star Burj El Fateh hotel on the Nile, Khartoum. Photo credit: Internet

For more posts on "What did you do this weekend", click here

The Arabic word for museum is Mtḩf (Mata-heef)

Note: I'll do one more post on Tuesday and a pre-dated one for Wednesday when we'll be airborne. Please forgive me for not visiting and commenting as regularly as I'd like to. Apart from packing my personal effects, and us taking the budgies across town tonight (to their new home with Robyn, the lovely Australian teacher) I also have to clear the company laptop which I've used for the past year. I have my own new and personal laptop waiting at home in South Africa and should be online again by the end of the week. Till then, bless you all.


  1. Oh, Jo, you certainly are a patient person. I doubt if I'd have been as cool as you were "under fire" with the missing passports.
    I will be looking forward to your Tuesday and Wednesday posts, and then your news from South Africa on your own personal laptop.
    Be well. Be safe. Go with God.

  2. Praise God, indeed. Sounds like a minor (or perhaps major) miracle that you obtained your passports and exit visas at all!
    The museums look interesting, and a good way to spend your last weekend in the country. Hope your travels are safe and not too complicated.

  3. That was surely a nerve wracking moment for a while there as you waited for your passports. But thanks be to God for His protection and intervention! I always enjoy your photos! Have a great week ahead and God bless you always.

  4. My Jo, you have been busy! I thought of you yesterday when I was cleaning and thinking of all you will have to do to pack and be ready to go. I am sure you will have everything organized and til we meet again from SA, I wish you (Grant and Shadow) bon voyage and God speed.

  5. Wow Jo.... You need to write a book about your experiences in Khartoum.... You will need a vacation when you get home...

    BUT--other than all of the problems you have had trying to get ready to leave, I am glad to hear that you got to visit a couple of museums --and have a wonderful dinner at the hotel on the Nile. WOW--what a gorgeous place.

    God be with you both --and with Shadow...

  6. You sure have had a busy week getting ready. Glad the passport thing worked out OK. Sounds so backwards. Have a very safe journey. Look forward to hearing from you when you get home. Bless you!

  7. You certainly lived it up for your last weekend and visited some beautiful places. It must have been nerve wracking to be waiting for your passports and visa like that. Someone up there is looking after you. Have a safe trip home. Looking forward to hearing from you when you are back in the swing.

  8. So glad your passport ordeal ended well.
    Go now in peace.

    (What a coincidence. While posting about Gordon's Calvary yesterday, I mentioned Gordon's ill-fated end in Khartoum. And I thought of you, my only personal connection with Sudan. Thank you for your wonderful blogging about the country.)

  9. Hi Jo. My apologies for not visiting your page for several bit emotionally unwell because of my hubby's upcoming knee surgery.

    I have to catch up reading your previous post. I have read 2 posts and hoping to read more later.

    Good thing that your passport ordeal ended well. Many thanks for sharing those wonderful pictures that you snapped from the Museum and from the other places of Khartoum.

    Have a safe trip and regards to your hubby.

  10. OMG!!! Reading this post is like watching a James Bond Movie!!!Hahaaa....Good Lord Girl! You're Brave!!
    Can't Wait for the Next installment!!!
    SAFE Travel!

  11. You do have the best adventures and stories! Glad it all ended favorably!

  12. I am sorry that he had to laugh so much about your passport story I can imagine how you felt ! I think I would have gone through the ceilings ! That's exactly the same in Egypt, I had once asked for a wheelchair for my friend, don't ask me how long it took and what I had to do to get it ! I could write a book ! I never imagined that there were so amazing things to see in Khartoun like this church ! I would never have expected a church there !
    I didn't get if you are returning forever to SA or is it only for your usual holidays ?

  13. I would have been a basket case by the time my passport showed up, if I'd been in your shoes! PTL that it all worked out. What a wild night!


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