If you got here after having read all the stories about Sudan, it will not come as a surprise to read how I feel about this country and specifically about its people. Many of you who are up to date with the news might find it confusing though, after all pretty much the only things you hear about Sudan are bad at best. The Media in general, and especially that one from United States, don't hesitate to include Sudan within a big sack of murdering Muslim terrorists, to feed a campaign of hatred and fear in order to eventually help achieve the agenda of a few. Its conflicts are almost exclusively the only news that are spread, like the recent prosecution and condemnation of a Christian woman for having left Islam, or in the past the Darfur crisis. No, Sudan is definitely not perfect, it has it quota of problems and a long way ahead to correct them, as it happens with every country in the world.
Like many other African nations, the country has been controlled by a tyrant stuck in power for the last 25 years and his gang, who make use of the military power and the bad use of religion for the exclusive benefit of their own club of friends. They rule with an iron fist, and together with the endemic corruption, they corrode the structures of the country, hurting its people and damaging their image, thus feeding the evil speech of others and ultimately making it easier for them to justify their claims. In addition, the recent independence of South Sudan, where the vast oil fields that have traditionally constituted the country's main source of wealth remained, has sent the country into an economic crisis that seems to have neither a solution nor an end, and it might probably don't have any. Trapped between an evil government, the lack of resources and a world embargo promoted as usual by the United States, hundreds of thousands of Sudanese must find the way to make their living outside of their own country which is a very painful thing for most families. It is extremely unusual to find a family that doesn't have one or several relatives living abroad.
While wandering around the district of luxurious governmental buildings of the military and police powers in Khartoum, our dear Mohammed, an average middle-aged Sudanese citizen, gaze at them and tells us: “all these buildings should be universities, schools, hospitals” (all of which are falling apart). The more I travel the world, the more I have this growing feeling that the kinder the people of a country are the more brutal its government is. Could it be ever possible that the selfless kindness of a society and/or a culture serve best those few obsessed with power to undertake their own personal perversity? When Tibet was still a country, the Tibetans welcomed Mao's invading Red Army with both curiosity and intrigue but first and foremost with affection. In Burma, it took several decades of oppression for the people to start revolting against its brutal military junta. In Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, their dictators can freely make use and abuse of power not only because they have the weapons to do it but also for the intrinsically pacific spirit of their people. There are plenty of other examples and Sudan is just one more of them. Countries where people are predominantly peaceful and naturally non-violent and yet they suffer cruel governments.
However, If there is anything that it is absolutely true about Sudan, and only the few people who visit the country get to fully experience, is that the Sudanese are indeed terrorists. Their weapon is hospitality and it is so powerful that it has the ability to embrace the soul of whoever is visiting them, it is an infallible weapon as it leaves no place for resistance. They disarm you, they accept you and they make you part of their own family regardless of where you may come from. You are a human being first and foremost, you are a guest and you are a blessing. It is true that good people can be found all over the world, but in Sudan abound. There is something in them that makes them stick out of the rest, you can feel it in every step you take in the country, in their sincere smiles, their humbleness, their simplicity. It is worth mentioning as well, that they are not only nice to visitors, as it is the case in so many other places, they are also nice between themselves. You can tell this in everyday life situations, you can feel it in the air. Violence pretty much doesn't exist. People respond peacefully to the never-ending “conflicts” that arise every day, silly conflicts that in countries like mine would at least end up in a catharsis of personal insults and aggravations, followed by a beating.
The Sudanese have also built their own parameters of time. Time in Sudan seems to not be measured by hours, minutes and seconds but by the quality of the encounters that you hold, rendering any measuring unit irrelevant. Punctuality is reduced to the coldness of a calculating culture; it doesn't matter at what time you are meeting, the important thing is that when the meeting finally happens, it is an auspicious moment, valuable for the heart of all the parties involved and contributes to the happiness of your day. Who cares about the time and its duration? For those of us who come from a culture that cultivates technical efficiency and productivity (ultimately economical) at any cost and the optimization of time and processes, Sudan is seriously disconcerting! If you tell me you are coming back in 20 minutes, why did you come back in 5 hours?. If you say you come to pick me up in one hour, why do you show up 3 hours later?. If you told me it would be ready for tomorrow, why have I been waiting for 2 weeks already?. We are so programmed for the arduous task of running for the irrelevant, that we forget that it is more important to savour an encounter, make it special and unique whatever it may last, rather than constantly be worrying about at what time the next event of our life will be taking place. The Sudanese force us to unchain ourselves from the clock and reconnect with that intrinsic quality of ours that we are essentially social beings, and remind us that without those social connections we wouldn't even be able to survive. Breaking the ties to a life determined by the time measured by a clock is one of the most valuable lessons that I will leave with from here. While the culture of accumulation of stuff becomes globalized firmly more and more every day, while stepping over the values that contribute the most towards a healthier society on the way, it is in the countries and regions more isolated from this process where the values that should really be globalised survive.
I take with me families, friends and acquaintances that have enriched me as a person. They have taught me through acts, the immense value of living in a society where hospitality is widely (and wildly) spread, of giving for the mere act of giving without necessarily expecting something in return, because ultimately, the major benefit of making others happy is that it makes us happy. Sudan might not be perfect, but the least I can do is to try to convey in the most objective possible way the side of the country that you will most likely never see in the sinister Media. It is the vast majority of this country, not the tiny portion of it that they show on TV, the one who go out of its way to selflessly serve others. Today, a part of me has become Sudanese and it is a very nice feeling. Sudan has grown in me, Sudan is my house, Sudan are my friends. Sudan is the inconsistent country of sand with consistently kind people that I will always come back to....Insha'Allah!