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HAHAHAHA...nightlife in Kassala?!!! You must be joking! Well, actually, that's not quite true, but there isn't much to do if you don't know anyone. One option is the open-air cinema, which shows heavily-edited Bollywood films subtitled in Arabic...obviously if you cannot read Arabic quick enough and your Hindi needs brushing up, the film itself will be of limited enjoyment, but watching the audience is quite amusing...they boo and cheer at all the right moments, and when the film is cut at that vital moment, all sorts of obscenities and gestures are aimed at the projector! Hindi films tend to be long...count on three hours at least, a long time to sit on metal chairs (although there are a few more comfy chairs in the balcony, you'll still get ridges on your bottom). Apart form the cinema, you cna drink coffee in the market, or go to one of the clubs...you are supposed to be a member, but usually a foreign guest is welcomed without question. Of course all of this is for men only, as any good woman should be firmly tucked away in the kitchen or the bedroom after sunset...but as a foreign woman, you'll have a bit of tolerance, even if you might not feel all that comfortable in the cinema as the only woman in sight. STOP PRESS: The cinema has now been repaired, and still shows Indian films every night (look out for the billboards in the bus station to find out what's showing). Good news for female travellers is that Kassala's first mixed cinema has opened in the Osman Digna park...again, only Indian films are shown, but you can't have everything...
Dress Code: Wear whatever you want to (not too outrageous), but in certain months you'll regret it if you forget your mosquito repellent.
Updated Sep 12, 2004
Favorite thing: There used to be internet access at Fayed Technology (look out for the bright lights atop one of the buildings in the bus station, the entrance is between a barbershop and a coffee stall up some rickety stairs), charging a reasonable S£3000 for an excruciatingly slow connection. As the only place in Kassala, this used to get extremely busy, and often we would spend over an hour waiting, only to give up and try again the next night. The problem was that it only ever opened to the public after 8pm, and as buses stop around 9.30, this wasn't exactly practical, especially for women.
Kassala used to share Gedarif's server, but then the national internet company Sudatel decided Kassala should get its own, so increased the charges...Fayed Technology were forced to put their prices up to an astronomical S£18,000 an hour! Of course no one could afford this, so they stopped offering internet altogether. The government of Kassala thought about getting their own server, but they decided in the end that there just wasn't enough demand, so internet stopped altogether.
Fondest memory: Just before the floods however, and organization called Plan Sudan opened an education centre with six high-speed computers, all with internet access! After initial teething problems, the cafe is now up and running, charging S£3000 an hour, with a discounted rate of S£1500 for teachers or students...we have considerable difficulty persuading the owners that we are in fact teachers on a Sudanese wage, and that no, we don't get paid in dollars, but they haven't "seen the light" yet! Plan Sudan gets crowded, especially in the evening, but if you go, you will often meet international aid workers and several of my students, who may just use the opportunity to have a chat in English...don't hold your breath, but stranger things have happened!
Plan Sudan is inconveniently located far enough from the bus station to warrant taking a bus...take buses heading to Murabba'at or Sharia' al-Wali, and get off after the Police Station and the University of Juba, just past a major turning off to the left. Plan Sudan is on the corner on the right and is open all day long...they don't always have connection to the internet though, so it may be worth finding out their phone number and calling in advance.
Written Oct 30, 2003