When you tell people that you are going to Sudan to teach on a drowning prevention programme, they look at you like you are crazy. They picture a war-torn desert country where if a terror cell doesn’t kidnap you, the Nile crocodiles will. I knew better than to expect that but I was still expecting a conservative Muslim society in a developing country. Having been in Khartoum for a few days, I can see that my own perceptions of the country are as wrong as other people’s.
Whilst everything here quickly gets covered in a fine layer of dust, the banks of the Nile as it flows through Khartoum are very green. The water is surprisingly clean and refreshing as it flows through this massive city and there is not a crocodile in sight!
All of the people that I have met have been extremely friendly and are eager to find out what you think of their country. The level of development here is greater than I expected. The vast majority of roads in Khartoum are well paved and populated with some very nice cars, alongside a multitude of tuk-tuks. Everyone appears to have a slick smartphone and phone credit is practically used as a second currency.
Society is also more liberal than I was anticipating. Men and women are separated but, whereas in other Muslim countries that I have been to the women are almost exclusively cloaked in black, here they are modestly covered to their ankles and wrists but in every colour under the sun. I have heard endless stories of strong Sudanese women from the men that I have met and I cannot wait to meet the women who will be involved in the second week of the programme.
Sudan is a wonderful country, that the Sudanese are rightly proud of, and I feel lucky to be finding out more and more about what the real Sudan is like firsthand every day that I am here.