Tuesday, February 20, 2007


So, what can I say about Khartoum? The weather is really nice right now, hovering in the low- to mid- 30s during the day (according to the thermometer thing in our car). That sounds hot, but it doesn’t feel too bad, since there’s usually a breeze that makes it feel quite nice (although the breeze also often carries sand and grit with it – not so nice). I do understand that April, May and June are the hottest months, with temperatures often in the high 40s. I won’t get to experience that on this trip, but I rarely meet anyone who has lived through a summer here that doesn’t immediately mention the heat when they find out I’ve just arrived.

The driving is mad! There are everything from motorcycles to buses (including these motorized rickshaws, which I haven’t had a chance to ride in yet) all vying for space on the roads. It doesn’t have as much traffic as Cairo, but its close at times, and the general strategy is pretty much to edge yourself into traffic far enough so that somebody has to stop, and then you get to go. There aren’t very many traffic lights, and people don’t always follow the ones there are. Also, there are a number of one way streets, which only complicate matters.

There is an amazing amount of commerce going on. All along the edges of main streets there are fruit and vegetable sellers, bread sellers, even little tea stands that are nothing more than someone with a kettle and a few very short stools. At most intersections there are people selling perfume, cigarettes or candy. Yesterday, I even saw someone hawking a drill set to cars waiting at a light.

This can be an expensive place to live, although it really depends on what you want to buy. A 12 pack of 500 ml bottled water (produced locally) is $3 USD, and something like a 350 g box of Special K (which is far better in the Middle East than it is in Canada, imho) is $8.50 USD.

The weekend here is Friday and Saturday for us, although many offices are open on Saturday as well. The office hours are generally shorter in that case, from 8am to 2:30 or so. I have to admit that the change of schedule is hard to get used to, only because I keep saying the wrong date because I still assume that I start work on Monday.

And the best part so far is all the people I’ve met. I’ve been busy every evening with things to do. I even went to a Valentine’s dance at the International Club on Wednesday night with some people I was introduced to through a friend back home. It was a nice, low-key evening.

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