Smouldering in Sudan

Maqsuda Afroz
Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Rainer in Traditional Sudanese outfit, it was too hot to wear anything else

In the last few segments we talked about a country which almost everyone knows due to its rich history and culture.  But there is more to life than just being touristy, after all if it was just a touristic journey we wanted we didn’t need a motorbike to cross Africa, we could just have taken planes to each destination and saved ourselves a lot of time in a sense. But we wanted to see the raw lands the lands people didn’t go to, see it up close and personal.


For this reason exactly here we were in Sudan. We were warned by many of the great dangers and risks involved. But it seemed to me that Sudan was the safest country possible.


Wadi Halfa: The End of the World


Wadi halfa is the name of the village where the ferry comes and stops before one moves onto their next destination.  Oh boy!  Does it seem at the end of the world! It is so far away and laid back that life itself seems to lull you into sluggishness in your steps. After getting off the ferry we looked for a hotel, by now we were a group of 11, the people we had met in Egypt had joined us and we all tagged along following our fixer as he tried to get us a hotel in the heat of 50 degrees, oh yes it was hot hot hot!!!


Mr Magdhi’s Place


Upon finding no hotel we were taken to Mr Magdhi’s (our fixer) place for refreshment, I beautifully structured typical Nubian place with lots of colours and rooms the place was a breath of fresh air. His wife instantly treated us to some traditional tea, mainly made with fresh mint.  As we all sat back to take a breather Mr Magdhi offered us to stay at his place for a very minimal price and we all agreed-all 11 of us.


There actually were 11 beds, felt like being goldilocks for a while only the number of beds were just more lined up, especially where I slept as there were 3 beds lined up and it almost seemed one was big one small and one medium.


Anyways, the food was just great. Mr Magdhi’s wife’s cooking was finger licking.  I also decided to help in the kitchen since cooking is a hobby of mine. The idea was to try to be able to find places so that I end up cooking in every country we go to.


My Photocopy of a Photo


Now that a brief description of the place has been made I would like to share a procedural episode that occurred while here and which I am sure many will find highly amusing and also say “aah a place where things seem even more lax than Bangladesh”


Sudan is a place where one needs permission for everything one can think of. Even to use one’s camera, stay in a hotel etc. you need special permission from someone. So understandably so there was a lot of paperwork to do. So naturally in order to register we needed forms and photos of ourselves.


Now we had a problem for I had no photos with me. Rainer suggested that I cut out the photo from my passport photocopy page. This means a simple A4 sized paper with a very bad almost unrecognizable black and white picture of me since the photocopies were also not very clear.


Now one would obviously think I need a proper photo even if black and white. But Rainer insisted that I try with what I had. So I asked our fixer his opinion as to whether a photocopy cut-out of a photo would work as official documentation for registration in Sudan. He looked sceptical but in the end said there is no harm in trying. The next morning Mr Magdhi left with all our papers. He had all eleven of our papers. I waited, having a bet with Rainer that no way my papers will work. I went as far as to say that Bangladesh is known for things to happen which are just unprofessional and out of the ordinary, even there such a document would not be accepted by any authority, as a photo has some very clearly defined standards. On which Rainer just said a photo is a photo, whether black and white or coloured or given on normal paper.


We waited eagerly at home as did the others to see what would be the outcome. When Mr Magdhi came home he started distributing all the permissions and relevant documents to the people, we waited almost like one waits for the results of the Oscars or some special award.  As my turn came he handed me some papers and to my utter amazement and surprise it had worked!!! The photocopy of a photo cut out from a passport copy had worked. I could not believe it. How was this even possible? But there it was, all the documents I would need for the next few days in Sudan in front of me with my black and white picture attached to it.


Assumptions should never be made


This incident made me realise assumptions should never be made about anything. We often have a habit of making assumptions and judgements and also not trying enough due to this. We think oh no a big bank will never accept me the way I am, for a conference I must be formal or else no one will listen etc. The list goes on. This incident taught me never to think something cannot work. Give it a try, you just never know!


This is part 9 of Maqsuda Afroz’s series on biking through Africa.

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