Letters from Darfur: Khartoum’s best-kept secret

2010-11-30 12:35

Beyond Khartoum’s frayed architectural facades and scars, there’s a chilled eatery that serves the best milkshakes in the world.

I discover Papa Costa restaurant on Al-Amarat Street in the heart of Khartoum. This is where the city’s culture vultures and fundis go to find respite from the troubles of the land they call home.

The joint is run by a man known simply as Omar. He could easily pass for a guy from the Cape, except for his mysterious aura, and a slight Arabic accent and manner.

Papa Costa has an unstated subversive edge, which makes it a liberal pilgrim’s rest of sorts among foreigners who make regular visits to the Sudan, a strict Muslim country.

The architecture mixes a Mediterranean pitch with the labyrinthine turns of the Arabian experience. The outside sitting area is the popular space. This is where patrons can enjoy the cool air of Khartoum’s evenings. This, after all, is a city with one of the hottest climates in the world. Temperatures here are known to reach 40ºC.

Having elected to sit outside, my colleagues are served by lovely waitresses who seem of Ethiopian-Sudanese extraction. To consecrate our visit, the dish is decidedly of a native Sudanese flavour. It is pita bread with baba ganoush and tahina. These are side dishes made from brinjals and sesame seed, respectively.

These starters are accompanied by a platter that includes rice, salads and shish, a roasted chicken kebab, plus some goat meat, kusda.

But before these could arrive, a dousing intervention was required. In Sudan, travellers are known to carry thirsts comparable only to proverbial famished buffaloes. And here is where the greatest discovery is made: Sudan’s best-kept secret and contender for the best milkshake in our world.

Say all you like about the shabby touches of this town, when it comes to this creamy beverage, they don’t cut corners and employ no fake flavourants.

Only fresh fruit, milk and other exotic ingredients are used to produce this heavenly treat. And so it’s alight to go bananas!

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