Internet in El Obeid
Favorite thing: It took me quite some time to find an Internet Cafe in El Obeid. It isn’t advertised at all. People who need it probably know where it is. The one I found is in the street of the Bank of Khartoum under a sign saying “Al Hadi Mohammed Husein Krisnallah & Sons“ in a kind of small shopping mall.
They have ADSL and several computers with headsets. The price is SDG 2 per hour. But don’t expect a fast connection, depending on the time of the day it may be very slow.
Favorite thing: I am fascinated by camels. They look so ungainly and supercilious. They are said to be capable of being mean or bad tempered. But there is something romantic about a herd of camels walking through the desert. Sudan was known, still is probably, for the camel caravans that took 40 days to reach Cairo carrying trade goods. The camels used a well marked route called the Darb el Arbain -the 40 days route.
Apparently in the Western Omdurman Desert , 50 km west of Omdurman overnight camping trips can be arranged.
In Kordofan camels are still a common means of transport, and after the rainy season when pasture is available the camels are fit and healthy.
- Road Trip
Good Russians and Bad Russians!
Favorite thing: Apart from a few Catholic nuns (who get absolutely everywhere!) the only other 'khawajas' in town were Russian pilots flying Antonov planes to the south. The Russians were divided into two groups who couldn't stand the sight of each other!
On the one hand was the group flying humanitarian assistance, who lived in a very basic and cramped house near the city centre, with regular water shortages and power cuts and eight of them sleeping on camp beds in the two bedrooms. Across town, out in the suburbs, another group lived in an enormous luxury mansion with a satellite dish the size of a normal house on the roof! They flew planes dropping bombs and military supplies.
As they literally used to fly out of the airport at the same time the two groups knew each other well. In typical animated Russian style they would spit on the floor and start cursing at the merest mention of the others!
Fondest memory: Fortunately I got introduced to the 'good' Russians first, who lived nearby. Some of my best nights in El Obeid were sat at their house during the frequent power cuts in our neighbourhood, drinking unimaginably strong home-made vodka (well they called it vodka but it tasted like pure alcohol!)
Living in a 'developing' country can make you very sceptical of aid workers and the whole NGO industry, but I must admit it was uplifting to meet these guys. Many of them had left wives and kids back home in Russia and the Ukraine to slum it in a Sudanese desert town. Their job was one of the most dangerous in the world, as the SPLA rebels have no qualms about using their surface-to-air missiles to shoot down planes - even non-military ones. They used to drink their own weight in vodka every night to stave off depression and then fly into warzones the next morning. For sure they were reasonably well paid - most of the money got sent back home - but they could have made a lot more as pilots elsewhere. Fortunately none of them were killed flying, though one of the guys did die of malaria when he got home to Ukraine.
I know this isn't really a travel tip but hey I'm reminiscing! And it reminds me of the complete chaos and insanity of Sudan underneath the placid and sleepy exterior that you'll see when you first arrive.