Not only was Kassala the first Sudanese university to elect its own Students' Union, it was also the first to set up an inter-departmental football league, something which only started this year. Matches take place during the second semester, starting around 5pm (which explains why the 4-6 lecture slot had poor attendance this semester!). It started as something officially frowned upon by staff, and I was told on more than one occasion that i really shouldn't sit with the students and support my team (Tarraba)...but by the end of it, we had the cup final which was attended by many members of staff including the Vice Chancellor himself, and camera crews from Kassala TV. So if you feel like watching Tarraba (Education) take on Tibb (Medicine), or Iqtisaad (Economics) slaughtering Zira'a (Agriculture) then feel free to come along to the pitch in the Faculty of Education. And yes, the girls were cheering as loudly as the boys!
Watch a football match!
Not being a football fan, this is maybe an odd thing for me to recommend, but in Sudan you go to watch the crowd more than the players! Kassala's stadium is home to two teams...Mirghani and Taka, bitter rivals and nationally fairly good. The football stadium is possibly the only place where I have seen orderly queues...not to buy tickets, as that operates on a whoever shouts the loudest basis, but the queues form when entering the stadium to get past the police. Armed police attend every game, although it is hard to imagine trouble ever happening at a local match...the lack of alcohol certainly helps keep tempers under control! The crowd like to be noisy, and spontaneous bands form in the crowd, surrounded by dancers and clappers and singers...quite a raucous occasion. All this with a backdrop of those mountains again! Even if football is not your thing, try to attend a match at sometime during your stay...but unfortunately this is yet another of those male-only activities!
Running in Kassala is possible, but not an easy pursuit. For a start, the weather is just too hot most of the time. Then there is all the attention you'll get...it is bad enough walking in the street as a foreigner, so you can imagine how people will react if you run past them! Sudanese don't often walk...or at least, not if they don't have to...so for someone to choose to run is considered most odd. That said, if you are determined to run, there are one or two locations where you can run in relative peace, if not comfort.
The most obvious place, if you visit in the dry season, is the dry river bed of the Gash. It is easily accessible, stretches for miles in either direction, and the only other people you'll see will be students, old men with donkeys and other sports enthusiasts (it is a popular place for football and karate in the evening, and once or twice I have seen Sudanese joggers here). The downside is the terrain...very soft sand, which is bl**dy hard work! Take water, you'll need it!
If the rains have come, you can run along the sandy paths on either side of the Gash, although in the evening, these can be very crowded, especially close to the bridges.
Road running is not a good idea unless you are deaf. The only possible route is from the bridge down the tarmac road to Sawagi Janubiyya...I've ran and walked this route a few times, and you rarely see cars or people en route, except in the small villages. Oh, and if you get tired, you can always hop on a bus back to the market! (don't forget to bring enough change!!)
Equipment: What to wear? Well, women don't run...it is as simple as that. Sudanese men get away with shorts when they play sport, but if your legs are illuminous white like mine, you might feel more comfortable wearing tracksuit trousers.