In Khartoum, we were lucky enough to stay with an amazing host – Sanosi – and his family. Here, we also got to witness fascinating cultural events such as the Sudanese Whirling Dervishes. After a few days in the desert, coming home to a cosy guest room and taking a much needed shower was exactly what we needed. They fed us a large meal and served enough tea and coffee for us to be completely satisfied. Arriving at his place was magic and they immediately made us feel at home. He taught us a new phrase: aggressive hospitality. Sudan is known for their aggressive hospitality and Sanosi and his family certainly demonstrated that!
He gave us a lift to the Ethiopian embassy the next morning to sort out our visas. We had raced through to Khartoum to get our visas on Thursday but instead, we ended up standing in line for 3 hours and were eventually told ‘Khalas’, come back on Sunday!
In the meantime, Sanosi already had made plans for us! He posted our picture on a Facebook group, where we got 30 wedding invitations for the next day! The government of Sudan is paranoid that every foreigner in the country could be watching them. This might have led one person to comment, “be careful – they may be spies!” The immediate reply was, “are you retarded or just flippen stupid? Do you really think they are coming to spy on YOU?!”
The wedding was enormous. Over 800 people, which is apparently normal! Sanosi told us that some people have over 4,000 guests…!! The women’s tobs (traditional dresses) were intricate, beautifully coloured and elegant. Some were lace with detailed, beaded designs. I really wished I was wearing one of them instead of my grubby cycling clothes!
The live singer and 10 man band was superb. The type of music that makes your hair stand on edge. It was hard to keep rooted to the seat and all I wanted to do was jump up and side step my way to the dance floor… and that’s exactly what I did. We both found ourselves surrounded by colours, big smiles and shoulders shifting left and right to the melodic beats and sweet harmonies. The floor was full! Everyone was having a good time. This was clear from the amount of finger clicking – a gesture the Sudanese use to express joy.
We got to see another famous event in Khartoum, the Sudanese Whirling Dervishes. We had seen a real worship ceremony by the Whirling Dervishes in Istanbul (not the tourist kind), so we had an idea of what to expect. This form of Islam was brought to Sudan from Turkey. Even so, the two ceremonies had nothing in common. In Turkey, the ceremony was solemn, contemplative, with quiet instruments and soft melodies in the background. The only colours we saw were white and black.
This one, here in Khartoum, was from another world. It full of colour, completely chaotic and a lot of crazy with bursts of loud drumming rhythms, shouts to each other, machine guns spinning around and noises we have never even heard before. You could join in the fun if you were crazy enough… no one would bat an eye lid here.
Ordering non-meat dishes in Khartoum was almost as comical as it was frustrating. When we asked if a restaurant had vegetarian food, a waiter would reply, “do you want vegetarian chicken?”. Sanosi’s uncle also called him up and invited us to his home… where they offered to slaughter a goat for us. Sanosi had to shout, “don’t do that! They don’t eat meat!”. Nice of them, though, I suppose. Fortunately, for most of Egypt and Sudan we have been able to buy a lot of vegan street food.. mainly foul and falafel.
Walking down the streets of Khartoum, some humorous names pop up. Instead of Starbucks, they have Starbox. Why call it Zara, when Zara One sounds better and who needs Uber, when you have Ober? Although the names might have been a ripoff, the prices certainly were not. The city, and the country for that matter, is an affordable place to travel. Although, we might be biased. We hardly paid for anything in Khartoum thanks to Sanosi and his ‘aggressive hospitality’.