Meaning Of 'Khartoum'
I was told that the word 'Khartoum' itself is derived from Arabic for "end of an elephant’s trunk", probably referring to the narrow strip of land extending between the Blue and White Niles.
'Dubai of Africa?'
If you read 'The Independent', a reputable UK newspaper, there was an article published on the 7th April 2009 that says: "...Everything in Dubai is fake. Everything you see. The trees are fake, the workers' contracts are fake, the islands are fake, the smiles are fake; even the water is fake!". This is not what I say. This was what 'The Independent' UK newspaper said.
So, at the time when the world business community now gradually writing-off Dubai in UAE as a 'gone case' and no more economically-attractive with its property buble, Khartoum strives to be the new 'Dubai of Africa'. You can see clearly here the process of transformation . There are many major mixed-use developments especially in the Mogran area. While the conflict in Darfur rages far away on the other side of the country, developers are hard at work building this city-within-a-city. The project is to include no less than 10 hotels, masses of shopping, residential, offices and more, all rising above the Nile on the site of a former garbage dump.
Khartoum, As I see It
On Wednesday, 3rd of June 2009, I decided to stroll along the streets in the city of Khartoum alone so that I can see the real Khartoum. My Sudanese local partner (Mr Abdul Jalil Abujjoud) said Khartoum is indeed a very safe city. Much safer than London, Washington or even Kuala Lumpur, perhaps.
50 Degree Celcius. Oh Mamamia!
In Malaysia when the temperature reaches 32 degree Celcius (which should be the average maximum in Malaysia) that day is already considered a damn hot day. I still remember back in 1985, when I operated a small stall near the roadside selling sugar cane ice juice (during my MRSM Muar semester holidays), a day with a temperature of 32 degree Celcius was always a good day for my water juice business because a lot of people would definitely bought sugar cane juice to quench their thirst.
Hmm...but now it is 50 degree Celcius in Khartoum. I was so thirsty and I wish somebody sells fresh sugar cane juice near the roadside. What a wish. Only in my dream, I guess. It was really a hot day and the wind blows bringing along a lot of dust. Everywhere is dusty. It seems that it is pointless for you to shine your shoes if you plan to walk along the streets in Khartoum.
Hot..Hot..Hot. I was wondering how on earth this people can stay outdoor so long under this extreme hot weather. There are many small stalls near the roadside selling cigarettes, newspapers and mineral waters. Even I saw many ladies just sit on the roadside on a small stool to sell hot tea and coffee. They bring along a kettle and cups. They boil the water near the road side on a makeshift small kitchen on the ground. This is an open-air stall. They do not have anything that we can call a 'roof' to cover their head from the extremely hot sunlight.. I salute them. They sit there for more than 8 hours manning their small business under the heat of between 46 to 50 degree Celcius just to earn a living.
Warm & Friendly Sudanese
The weather is hot but the Sudanese people are indeed very warm and friendly. It seems that the extremely hot weather does not mould them to be a group of hot-tempered people. I wonder if in my own country the weather is 50 degree Celcius, perhaps Mazidul Akmal Sidik of ''999' series in TV3 has a field day covering many criminal cases of 'human eat human' due to uncontrollable hot-tempered among Malaysians. Don't laugh. We never know.
When I stopped by at a grocery shop, I can see their natural friendliness from the way they communicated with me. This level of friendliness will increase tremendously when they know you are Malaysian. Generally, the Sudanese has a big respect towards Malaysian. Especially towards Dr Mahathir. Whether you love or loathe Dr Mahathir, this is the reality. But believe it or not, one of them thought I am a Chinese. I think it is because there are a lot of Chinese here in Sudan. For your information, apart from our Petronas, China invest heavily in Sudan's oil industry. With my darker skin completion compared to the average Malaysian, there is no way I will be confused as a 'Chinese' in Malaysia. But here in Khartoum I am 'whiter' than a normal Sudanese. That day, on Obaid Khatim Road in Khartoum I looked around and then I paused, whispering to myself: "Well...most probably I am the most handsome guy on the road now".
Before I reached Khartoum, I was based in the UK, also a right-hand driving country same like Malaysia. So I am little bit confused here when I wanted to cross the main road in Khartoum. Normally in Malaysia and UK we will look right to ensure there are no cars coming towards our direction before we cross the road. Not in Khartoum. I have to re-adjust my mind-set. I have to look left, instead of right. It can be very dangerous because a few times I forgot that this is a left-hand driving country and I rush to cross the road without looking left first.
While walking from shop to shop, I saw something that made me feel very 'small'. I saw a few people placed their prayer mat on the dusty pavement near the shops to perform their obligatory prayer or 'solat'. The weather was hot and dusty, yet these things have not hinder them from performing their mandatory 5 times a day prayer. I have a soft spot when seeing this kind of thing. Just imagine the exteme heat of the pavement when they knelt down and prostrated to perform the 'sujud'. Deep in my heart I said to myself that this people are very 'quality' people in the eyes of Allah. Coincidentally when I entered another grocery shop to buy a bottle of mineral water, I found out the shopkeeper was also praying on the prayer mat near the cash register in his shop. Masya-Allah. Despite their relatively poor condition as compared to living condition in Malaysia, they certainly do not forget their obligation towards God the Al Mighty. Yes, he is a businessman, but when the time is up to perform his religious obligation, he just set aside this worldly gain without thinking twice and he performed his prayer there and then.
After walking around for almost an hour, I decided to check my e-mail at an internet centre or what we call in Malaysia a 'cyber cafe'. so I asked a Sudanese on the street where I can find an internet centre. He gave me a direction to the nearest cyber cafe which that so happened was located not very far from the place we were standing. What amazed me was when I finally managed to find the internet centre which is less than 100 meter away from where he was standing, I looked back and I saw he was still standing there, looking at me at a distance away to ensure that I have managed to reach the internet centre. With his hand gesture I can see he waved at me to say that I am now standing in front of the right place, i.e the internet centre. I'm impressed with this Sudanese. Not only he showed me the direction, he even wanted to ensure that I reached my intended destination, safely and correctly.
However, there is one thing I do not like about Khartoum. It seems that all the drivers here (whether bus, car, taxi and Tuk-Tuk drivers) really love to press their automobile horn. Sometimes it is non stop. I can bet my money that every three minutes at least somebody will press their horn. Horn here, horn there. It sounds like the Bukit Nenas Convent School brass band team is performing on the street of Khartoum. Maybe they press their horn to warn people not to cross the road, maybe to warn other drivers to give they way. Whatever. Oh dear. I really found it very annoying.
There is no Tuk-Tuk (auto rickshaw) on the street of London or Kuala Lumpur. But here in Khartoum, I can say these Tuk-Tuk drivers are the 'King of the Road' on the steets of Khartoum. The way they ride (or 'drive ') are very daring. It reminds me the time when our very own 'Bas Mini' or Mini Bus used to ply the roads of Kuala Lumpur. It seems that this Tuk-Tuk drivers love to show-off their skill.
After checking my e-mails at that internet Centre, I took a Tuk-Tuk from Balabil Station to a nearby shopping complex called 'Afra Shopping Centre'. I was told that a taxi will cost me more money. So I took a Tuk-Tuk. The Tuk-Tuk driver charged me SDG 3 (RM 4.20) for a distanace of less than 3 km. 'SDG' means 'Sudanese Pound' and SDG 1 equivalent to approximately RM 1.40. Even though the distance is less than 3 km, there was no way that I would want to walk for 3 km under 50 degree Celcius of sun heat.
I guess my luck was not good that day. I got a little bit crazy young man as my Tuk-Tuk driver. He literally performed a stunt. He overtook a car in front of us although he knew fuly well that there was an incoming van on the other side of the road. I was so scared. I though that was it. That was the end of my so-called 'Conquering Africa' ambition. I thought I will die or at least lost my legs, or lost my hands or lost my sexy tummy. But guess what? This silly hero managed to squeeze his Tuk-Tuk in between the car he overtook and the incoming van. I was so thankful to Allah but I cursed at him in Malay language for his silly action. He just laughed at me showing his extemely white teeth. I shouted at him in Malay that although his skin is very dark, my blood and his blood still have the same colour and I did not want to spill my blood on the road of Khartoum just because of his silliness. Enough of Tuk-Tuk. Next time, I will take a taxi although I know not every Tuk-Tuk driver is as crazy as this young man. But I do not want to take the risk.
Oh Sudanese lady!
I reached Arfa shopping Centre with great relief after a 5 minutes hell of ride with my daredevil Tuk-Tuk driver. If you can recall, long time ago in Malaysian television there was an advertisement with a tagline 'Black is Beautiful'. When I saw Sudanese ladies at Afra Shopping Centre, I remember that tagline. The Sudanese ladies are indeed very beautiful and elegant, in term of their body figure and 'body design'.
When I was in Tehran last year, there was nothing much I can comment about the body figure of Iranian ladies on the street because the dress code in Tehran requires them to wear a loose traditional 'hejab'. But it is not the case here in Sudan. Yes, Sudanese ladies wear head scarve or 'tudung' but in many cases I saw their dress are indeed very tight which can show their body figure or shall I say 'body-design'.
The moment I entered that Afra Shopping Centre I saw many Sudanese ladies walking around inside the complex doing their shopping. Well..my friend, I must confess Sudanese ladies are indeed have a very unique and beautiful body structure. The 'design' or to be precise the 'curve' of their body is simply magnificient.
No, please do not get me wrong. I do not go to Sudan to stare at Sudanese ladies like a lunatic or even like a 'Gorila Masuk Kampung'. But when these ladies walk in front of me, logically as a normal, healthy, strong and warrior-blood man I simply can't ignore their extremely attractive body design which is too obvious to see. Only a blind man can deny this. By the way, I cannot walking around with my eyes looking downward towards the ground all the time. Can I?. If I did that, I may end up hitting some pillars inside the building, right? So, I just let my eyes admiring the beauty of God's creation. My intention was noble, you know. Admiring the beauty of God's creation. Nothing more, nothing less.
Perhaps the Sudanese lady's skin is not as fair or white as Nicole Kidman or Renee Zellweger but when comes to 'body-design' or body structure I am very certain that even Nicole Kidman's is nothing compared to Sudanese lady's. As a normal man, I was simply speechless on that day. . I do not plan to go to the details here but suffice to say that the 'upper part' of a typical Sudanese lady can make even a violent person like Mike Tyson purrs like a kitten. Oh Dear...The Italian says 'Magnifico' & 'Fantastico'!
Again, Queue Jumping. Should I Throw Her Out Like a WWF Wrestler?
However, like I told you in my earlier posting, the lady here can just walk in front of you and then slimply jumps the queue. It has happened to me at least three times including when I was in the Khartoum International Airport. Perhaps it is just a normal habit here. Not an isolated case like I initially thought. It happened again at Afra Shopping Centre when I wanted to pay for my groceries at the payment counter. It was too obvious to ignore.
As a Malaysian gentleman, I just smiled at her. However, when I looked at the man standing in the same queue behind me, he showed his sour face to me because I let the lady jumped the queue. In my heart I said to myself: "Haiya brother! What do you want me to do, man? Do you want me to throw out that lady like a WWF wrestler always does in the wrestling ring?". Come on! You do not do that to a lady. Do you?
Jumping queue or not, I must say with a certain degree of certainty that if you want to find the most beautiful 'body-design' and the sexiest body-curve lady in the world, you will definitely find it in Khartoum, not in London, not in Paris, not in Kuala Lumpur, not in Tehran, and of course certainly not in Mongolia!
Salam, Permisi, Khoda Hafez, Pamitan, Bye For Now..
(My next posting will be my story accidentally bumping into a group of Malaysians in my Khartoum neighbourhood; two Malaysian military colonels and five majors who are here under the United Nation peace mission)