Letters from Darfur: Sudan keeps its own time

2010-12-17 14:02

Life in Sudan keeps its own time. Here, in a country that has paid host to a conflict older than itself, uncertainty is worked into every promise and plan; from meal times to business meetings.

In fact, the Sudanese conclude every agreement and declaration with a qualification: Insh’allah! This means: God willing. So nothing is really up to anyone here but God.

During the time spent in Elfasher, North Darfur, I learned to be very concerned when the sacred qualification is followed by the Arabic word “Malesh,” meaning both "no worries", and "sorry".

The implication is that things are unlikely to happen or at least not with any particular urgency if they are done at all.

By the way, in case that bit about an old conflict is confusing, consider the following: by the time this country was finally rid of British rule in 1956, the Sudanese were already torn between South and North and they’ve been generally in conflict since.

But, let’s stay with Sudan’s sense of time for now. It was Mustafa, a Khartoum local who blew the top off this thing. He was finalising our travelling plans for the following day when he insisted our departure happen on “Mustafa time! Not Sudan time,” then giggled.

He then explained: “You see, if my Sudanese friend says he’s coming to see me at 1pm, I expect him at 3pm.” Everything carries a three-hour grace period.

So I visit country ruled by Sharia law and learn to be cynical of any promise accompanied by: Insh’allah!

And this place gets stranger. With a reputation for temperatures that rise up to 40° Celsius by 11am; you’d expect it to be teeming with watering holes; especially of an inebriating kind.

But, alas! People here can’t pronounce the word lager. I discovered this fact while gatecrashing a party organised by University of Khartoum graduates.

A lovely scene packed with lads and lasses dancing to what sounded like an Arabic hybrid of reggae-dub.

And for a change the girls weren’t wearing burkas. But soon as he notices my wandering eye, Mustafa leans toward my ear and says: “It’s forbidden!” What a flop!

And as if guarded maidens were not enough, thirsty visitors are also forced to groove without booze. What a travesty!

So, we chose to get back home.

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.