From hieroglyphs to selfies - Sudan continued.
There is so much that we do not know
Can you believe this?!? As it is, I'm already not very happy about writing these blogs, because I do it on a tablet or on a smartphone. And the entire process of getting a blog online with the writing, editing, uploading photos and more takes anywhere between 6-11 hours!! And a few hours ago I just finished writing the entire blog (3 hours), and then it disappeared?!? PUFF! Whaaaat? Please kick me when I'm lying down... anyway: here we go again:
According to genetic and fossil evidence Homo sapiens first appeared about 180,000 years ago. That is a really long time ago! And that has me wondering? But first let me tell you about a few of Sudans ancient kingdoms and dynasties. You may have heard about the Nubians? "Nubian" is Egyptian for "gold" and the Egyptians and the Nubians weren't always the best of friends with their kingdoms bordering each other. The first Nubian kingdoms saw their beginnings about 5,500 years ago and were dominant in terms of technology, knowledge and art. About 4,500 years ago the Kingdom of Kush rose to power and established its dynasty across Sudan and throughout Egypt.
Sudan remains mysterious to the world with many unlocked secrets just below its surface. As an example astronomical instruments have now been uncovered in the north which are at least 2,000 years older than Stonehenge. Therefore it is perhaps no great surprise that the Kush discovered steel before the Egyptians. As I remember the story, the Egyptians were lined up against the Kush. It was about to become a bloody battle as so often before. Only this time it would be remarkably one sided! The Kush had forged swords of steel while the Egyptians went into battle with the more conventional iron bladed swords. So as the steel blades struck the iron blades they were cut in half. Can you picture a surprised Egyptian warrior standing on the battlefield with only half a sword across from a pumped up Kush warrior? Game over!
There has probably always been conflict and battle in the world. And it's almost always due to the few while the masses are indifferent. Eritrea is putting up a bureaucratic fight with me because I'm Danish. I don't have anything against Eritrea and I doubt that anyone there has anything against me. However there is no Danish diplomatic mission inside Eritrea and some men in fancy suits are unhappy about something. So while I couldn't imagine that the average Eritrean spends much time thinking about the average Dane, and vice versa, I'm simply stuck doing silly paperwork. At the Eritrean embassy I was asked to provide a recommendation from the Danish embassy in Sudan. But there isn't one so I asked if it would be okay to arrange for a recommendation letter from the Danish embassy in Ethiopia? The answer was no. That's how I got in touch with Salah Elamin who is the Honarary Consul General of the Royal Danish Consulate Sudan. And Salah is very likable! He almost immediately said something outspoken to me which didn't offend me the slightest. Then he immediately apologized by saying that he is very open and honest and that I should know that about him. He had me laughing a lot and promised to help me however he could.
In my experience you usually become an Honorary Consul when you are a well respected businessman with ties to both countries. Salah happens to be a well connected businessman who also runs the Lisamin Safari Lodge (http://lisaminsafari.com/). The Safari Lodge might by the way be your best choice for value in Khartoum. Check out the webpage and you'll see what I mean. Salah is the holder of a Danish passport and is Danish although you'd never guess it from speaking with him. But then he suddenly switched to Danish which is one of the many languages he knows. You'd still guess that his first language isn't Danish - but in his defense it's a hard language and he is living in Sudan. I also met his son who on the other hand spoke Danish with a real Copenhagen city accent :)
Salah told me that recent discoveries point towards that the first humans may have come from what is today Sudan. So we are all Sudanese! :) Anyway this brings me back to my thoughts from earlier: If we appeared about 180,000 years ago and we today are baffled by ancient civilizations that are "only" 5-10,000 years old, then which kingdoms and empires could have gone lost 50-150,000 years ago, and are still unknown to us. And will we ever know about them? And did they ever exists?
I've never seen meat presented like this in Denmark :)
Sudan is a really peaceful country for the most part. It's somehow embedded in the Sudanese culture which makes them one of the most hospitable countries in the world. The capital (Khartoum) boasts around 5,000,000 citizens and yet there's no detectable threat other than crossing the road. I think I might have mentioned this last week, but I spoke with some Canadian and US American expats who said that Khartoum was the safest city they have ever been to. In fact they had never been harassed, attacked or heard stories of anyone who had, which is truly unique. Could you say the same for Paris or New York?
That's good because my fiancée is due to arrive tomorrow (Saturday) and I have been busy preparing. This is an Islamic country and I had to find out what precautions there might be. Also what kind of stuff will we be doing? When it's just me then it's just me and I'm pretty much on autopilot by now. But what happens when you throw a woman into the equation? What about clothing? Can we stay in the same room? Must she cover her hair? Can we hold hands in public? Is she allowed to smoke shisha (water pipe) in public? What about bathing in the Red Sea? Ah women! You can't live with them you can't live without them! ;) It turns out that she needs to cover her legs to below the knees and she also needs to cover her shoulders. She doesn't need to cover her hair, we can hold hands and we can kiss. However it's always wise to feel out your surroundings as people might see it differently near certain government buildings and mosques. She can smoke shisha and we can stay in a hotel room together. But the locals must present a valid marriage license to do the same which creates a parallel society. And I'm not too fond of that. In other words Sudan is a country where it benefits you to be a foreigner.
I have been told that once we approach Port Sudan at the Red Sea everything becomes even more relaxed. This means that we can go swimming/snorkeling without her worrying about covering shoulders and knees. So that's all pretty good. I've been doing other stuff as well. I was able to find my tetanus shot at the Royal Care Hospital but they didn't have typhus. When I asked I was told that they can treat typhus but that nationally they do not prevent it - so I might get that one in Egypt and then my vaccines are up to date again. I also applied for and received my Egyptian visa which took only 4 hours. I wish all visas were like that. Please other countries: be like Egypt! :) The main thing which has been taking my time has been the Red Cross. As a goodwill ambassador of the Danish Red Cross I was tasked with writing an "always present" story from each of the 190 countries, where you find the Red Cross or Red Crescent today. That's effectively 190 stories I need to write about the same organization. It's not as easy as it might sound. My approach has been to visit the individual national societies for each country and gather enough information to write a story, that can promote their efforts and invite more volunteers and donations. It happens that I fall behind with my writing as I try to come up with a new and different angle. So I've recently written stories for Kenya Red Cross, Ethiopia Red Cross, Somalia Red Crescent and Djibouti Red Crescent, which brings me up to date.
I have yet to visit a perfect country. But what is perfection anyway?
This was my USD 0.50 lunch :)
Because of USA sanctions it's not possible to use American credit cards in Sudan. And you'll quickly notice that a lot of them are: MasterCard, Visa etc... So you can bring USD and then exchange them to SDG. However I hear the sanctions have been lifted recently. Anyway: how much should we budget spending for the week my fiancée is in Sudan? Well my first though was that Sudan is pretty cheap. But then I slowly realized that I didn't really know what most things costs in Sudan? The case being that shortly after I reached Khartoum I met Hatem and Marwan.
Sky News interview: http://www.skynewsarabia.com/web/video/921053/رحالة-دنماركي-ينشر-السلام-بالخرطوم
In this project we like to say that a stranger is a friend you've never met before. And that's great because it gets proven over and over again. Both Hatem and Marwan are lawyers although Hatem now works for GSS as their HSE manager. Hatem is Egyptian and Marwan is of Nubian decent (Sudan). And if you remember the brief little introduction to Egyptian/Nubian history in the beginning, then you can see that it all worked out fine. Because Hatem and Marwan are great friends. And they have both become friends of mine too. They have been chauffeuring me around between all my meetings, they have been taking me to restaurants and clubs, they have introduced me to people and have organized for, and helped me, on a daily basis. Furthermore they have basically paid everything. But I fixed a leaky toilet in Hatem's apartment the other day so we are pretty equal. NO! We are far from equal! :) I'm so much into their debt that it's ridiculous, but they don't see it like that at all. In fact whenever I have tried to pay I have been risking a severe and violent beating from the two of them. This is their culture and I am a guest. Ergo: I do not pay. Besides they also see it as a contribution to the Saga. To top it all off I have been staying in Hatem's apartment almost since I arrived 10 days ago.
Nubians and Egyptians after all those years ;)
Okay, let's end this blog with a funny story. Because a few days ago Hatem had a bunch of friends over and we were sitting in the living room when a guy named Adil said: "You're not going to believe this!" Adil works at a company, but has been attending classes lately regarding business and management. For this a Canadian in his mid 60s has flown in to give a series of lectures. This was the 10 day and the Canadian was complaining (only slightly because he was Canadian) about the heat. This is when the class learned that the Canadian had been wearing a BULLETPROOF VEST under his clothes for the past 10 days?!? The students were baffled?!? But apparently the Canadian had been advised to do so before he left home?
Khartoum University saw its beginning in 1902.
Now here's what I think about that: Fair game. He's Canadian and pretty much every other country in the world can be perceived less friendly than his :) But somehow he should have been aware about his surroundings. I mean: This was his 10th day! He should have been aware how ridiculous it was already on his second day. Then on the other hand I did once meet a guy who proclaimed that we have a day in Denmark each year where everyone is naked? I guess I have missed out on that somehow throughout my childhood, adolescence, career etc...people are just people (and some of them are weird).
Khartoum University was my 8th public talk in Sudan. And I haven't needed a bulletproof vest once ;)
Oh?! Let's really, really end this blog with this! Have you heard that we recently discovered 7 earth sized planets in a solar system only 40 light years from earth?!! 3 of them are firmly within the habitable zone which means that there could be water and almost certainly life as we know it! In theory there could be life on all 7 planets! Now all we need to do is work out how we could travel with the speed of light and then put aside 40 years to get there. I sense something coming up: Once Upon A Saga 2 ;)
Al Sunut forest - and some plastic.
Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - stuck but moving
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga