This post is long overdue, but I wanted to make sure that I captured my trip to Khartoum, Sudan in a way that would do it justice. There is a lot that I’ve left out considering that I took over 400 pictures while there. That’s more impressive than you might think considering that it’s “illegal” and frowned upon by the government to take pictures out in the general public. There are restrictions regarding taking pictures of public buildings or of anything showing poverty. Nonetheless, I took a lot of great photos and I should be able to summarize my trip using food to guide the way.
I went to Khartoum, Sudan in December 2012 to visit family at the request of my mother. Many people that know me, immediately give me confused looks when I mention having family there (you might have one of those looks on your face right now). The short story is that while my family is Coptic-Egyptian in origin (that means we’re minority-Christians, not Muslims), somewhere along the way (maybe a couple of generations back), my mother’s family moved to Sudan. She was raised there with her two brothers and I’m actually the first generation of my family born in the U.S.
Often that little tidbit of information is followed with the question, “But… why did they move to SUDAN?” Well, unbeknownst to many Americans today, Sudan at one time was more prosperous than Egypt. With both Sudan and Egypt having been ruled by the British, many Egyptians moved to Sudan at various points in time. Eventually, as the situation worsened in Sudan, these Egyptian immigrant families stayed there because Sudan had become their home. For people like my mother (at least during her childhood), her brothers, and now my cousins, this is the only home they know and they love it.
One thing I learned on this trip is that when I say they love it, I really mean they love it. They’re happy there and it’s not because they don’t know any better. They have almost all of the same amenities we have. They have Samsung Galaxy III phones, wireless data internet access cards that cost less than our wired internet, and some of the largest food portions I have ever seen (see the pictures below)! We, as Americans, have this idea that everyone else on the planet is just as miserable as we are, when that just isn’t the case. We have more variety than any other country on Earth, but we just don’t have a monopoly on happiness. As is the case in many foreign countries, it seems that life runs at a slower pace there, which is in stark contrast to America’s concept of work yourself to death as fast as you can. Don’t get me wrong, America is the great country it is because of the hard work of its citizens, but we’ve definitely lost sight of the purpose of our hard work, which is to give us a better quality of life. The culture in Sudan may be tightly ruled by a restrictive Islamist government, but as a culture, the people care about one another. There is a lot of poverty there as well as war and strife, but the people help one another in a way that I haven’t seen here in America. It goes without saying that I would never want to live in Sudan, but I’d be a fool not to learn something about caring for others from how they live.
I realize now that while I should be careful traveling to any “dangerous” country, the media in America has really made us all extremely xenophobic when it comes to the rest of the world. We (or at least I did) imagine that the rest of the world is as closed off as we are when it is the opposite. That probably comes from the fact that our news only focuses on ourselves and the tragedies we face internally when the rest of the world receives real “world news.” On the flight to Sudan there were many non-African people, including a few Asians, many Europeans, and even a couple of bright redheaded Irish people traveling with us. While Sudan consists mostly of black Africans, there are many non-African people that visit, live, and work there who speak both Arabic and English. Hearing Arabic come out of an Asian person’s mouth while in Sudan made me smile every time.
I’m a little ashamed that I honestly did not really want to go to Sudan (even if I am completely justified in dreading the dauntingly cramped plane rides). I wanted to see my family, of course, but I wasn’t really looking forward to going to a country where the U.S. Consulate was attacked just three months before my trip. Anti-U.S. sentiment is not something to ignore when it comes to safety, but when it comes down to it, I wasn’t traveling on my own or without any guides. I also wasn’t going to the Darfur region to the West or the warring South. I had family waiting for us in the capital that was going to take us in, take care of us, and show us around. Once we arrived, I felt much better when I saw the country and realized that my family was doing just fine there.
Ok… enough with the ranting. On to the photos below!
Please scroll down after clicking on a photo to read a more detailed description underneath.