Things I Learned While in Sudan
– Talking to some Sudanese friends, I asked them how they expected the referendum to go. They, of course, all agreed that it would end in secession. I asked if they were disappointed in southerners for choosing separation over unity and their answer was “The southerners are not doing something exceptional. Everybody here hates the government so much, that if the northerners had the choice to leave this government behind, they would make that choice as well”.
– I asked them about their sentiments regarding the ICC’s warrant for al-Bashir, and they told me that although they hate him and his regime, and think he is a despotic and corrupt ruler, they resent the ICC’s actions against him on grounds that they have serious doubts about the ICC’s impartiality. I’m sure this opinion will be reinforced with the recent Wikileaks revelation that Moreno-Okampo discussed the case with diplomats, which he isn’t supposed to do to ensure a fair trial.
– Many kind of view the celebrity status of the Darfur crisis with an ironic eye. The war has been going on in the South for decades, but they never heard George Clooney talking about it, and they never saw the foreign aid flood in. The Darfur crisis, unlike the civil war in the South, suddenly became popular, downright fashionable. It left many wondering: what do we have to do to get some attention around here?
– I thought that Egyptians were the most aggressive and “anything goes”-type drivers in the world. It turns out the Sudanese have beat us!
– Several non-Egyptian friends who have spent some time in Egypt have commented on a particular type of behavior they noticed in Egypt: When Egyptians fight (which often happens during traffic jams) they never hit each other, they just shout and yell and insult each other, maybe wave their arms around a little, and when it gets really heated (which doesn’t happen often) they lunge at each other and start sort of wrestling without ever punching or hitting the other. One American friend from New York found this very odd. The Sudanese, it turns out, are more in line with the New Yorkers on this one. A Sudanese friend who spends a lot of time in Egypt was pointing this out and told me a story to exemplify: Once while she was in Egypt and driving with a relative, they bumped into the car in front of them and, as is custom, both drivers stopped in the middle of the street and stepped out of their vehicles to begin the traditional argument. The Egyptian driver started insulting the Sudanese driver who, being unused to this behaviour, reciprocated by punching the Egyptian driver in the face. The shocked Egyptian driver’s response: “What’s wrong with you? You haven’t even insulted me yet!”.
– The Sudanese, like the Saudi Arabians, eat with their fingers. And they serve their tea/coffee with a side of incense (so the fumes seep into the drink), and popcorn.