While visiting places like Sai Island and Soleb, we stayed as guests in the home of a Nubian family.
They’re a busy family, but they’re a very friendly family… That’s right, he is on two mobile phones at the same time:
Have you noticed a Sudanese investment theme yet?
It isn’t just this family either. Everyone we met that had a mobile phone was constantly chirping away on it. Our driver, Ramadan, told us that Sudatel is the mobile phone network in Sudan.
Ramadan continued by informing us that telecommunications businesses are the biggest companies in Sudan. Construction is handled by local contractors and from what I saw Volvo and Caterpillar seem to dominate the large construction equipment sector. Only 600 – 700,000 barrels of oil a day is produced in Sudan and so oil companies are not that large.
The Khartoum Refinery Co. is controlled by Malaysia and China and is staffed by workers from those two countries. Hundreds of fuel trucks wait outside the gates to truck oil into Ethiopia since Ethiopia no longer has a coastline.
A pipeline also runs from the refinery in Khartoum to Port Sudan which is 1200 kilometers away. The pipeline was constructed by an Indian and Chinese consortium and consists of three lines for oil and one for natural gas.
Ahhhh, getting off the topic at hand there… Back to the family:
I have no idea who these guys were. They were around all the time and didn’t do any work, but they weren’t related to the Nubian family:
This is the exterior of the home:
And this was the interior:
For dinner on the day we arrived, the family brought an elaborate setup of trays, dishes and silverware into our room for just the two of us. Eleonora scored serious points with the family though by insisting that none of this was necessary and that we would be happy to eat with them. They were stunned, but delighted that we were joining them and eating in the traditional Sudanese fashion. Our driver told us that no Westerners he had taken to visit before had ever eaten with the family:
Eleonora and I liked to walk around the small town in the evenings and when we did, this boy would always accompany us. Neither of us spoke a word of the other’s language, but he always made sure we saw interesting things and brought us to interesting people. And if there was food around, he would always grab some for us:
On one evening this intense game of soccer in the sand was taking place:
We were more interested in the friendly donkey though:
I think the boy will have a great future. Connections, this is what matters the most. :)
The donkey is adorable. He looks like he was more interested in the soccer game than you were! I assume he belonged to someone in the game? Maybe he likes his owner. He looked well fed and alert. I love that you wanted to eat with the family…mealtime is a great way to share our fellow humanity. Too many travelers act like the locals should serve them; you had the good sense to ask to be included instead of excluded from their home and community. The little boy DID speak your language…he was fluent in courtesy.
Thank you for your comment, Laurie. Not sure whom the donkey belonged to – there are many animals that just seem to be wandering around such villages or out in the countryside. I never figured out how the Sudanese determine which animal belongs to whom.
It’s a shame, but far too many Westerners treat the locals as mere servants or toys to take a quick picture of and then ignore again. In this case, they just assumed that because we were Westerners we would not want to join them and expected to be waited upon. They hadn’t even considered the idea that we might wish to join them which, unfortunately, tells you a lot about their prior interactions with the West.
As a Nubian I assure you, whenever a guy like you come to our area we try to help & serve considering you a guest who is away from his own land & who will give a favorable account about us , after all we are the descendant of those great Nubian kings.
Of course we wish you join us in our meals , but we know that even in your homes you eat alone so we don’t want to force our habits on you.