My experience after spending a week in Sudan, and a comparison to media reports of what's happening in Khartoum during the same time
Its 5 a.m, my Alarm rings, and I get up from bed. My coach will call 30 minutes later, to remind me to do what I’m supposed to do (dress up and wait at the road). Within an hour, we shall set off for Entebbe airport, and feast on drug-priced snacks in the airport cafeteria as we await our delayed flight.
We arrived in Sudan at 5 pm on Tuesday and Jibril escorted us to our hotel (5 star). One of the biggest musings was the TV screen. I loved it, it was y window to the culture and news happening around me. Do you know how I love listening to French music event when I don’t understand French? Yes, We can bet I was watching Arabic movies in the same spirit. They say doing it grows the brain.
> TV in Sudan is still broadcast in Analog but there were some English movie channels that were clear enough to watch 500 days of Summer again. we also watched some UEFA Champions league football live!
If I was hired to not make you crave Sudanese food, this is the part I would leave out. Our hotel served us with a daily brief cousine of exoticised Sudanese dishes, juices I don't comprehend up to now and a selection of fresh fruits to desert on. The breakfast menu hardly did differ from lunch and supper in any way though.
My team experienced some stomach upsets but all was well with me as long as there was hummus on the menu. Meals were mostly fish, fish, fish ;), some big sized beans, spaghetti, rice, camel meat, some potato chips and the usual suspect; bread. In general, Sudanese eat bread and fish as their main course and this was the case even when we feasted at a traditional restaurant on our last day.
>My adventurous side enjoyed the meals though I limited myself in fear of going past 72.5Kg at the weigh-in.
There are no alcoholic drinks within easy reach in this city though.
The weather in Khartoum was so friendly. Its just a little bit hotter than Kampala but the air is dryer. You will need lip-balm for that reason. Air conditioning in our rooms and bottled water were availed by our hotel though. Areas around the rowing centre were very windy on our last 3 days though.
When I talk about water, I’m talking about the one we row on. We rowed on the White Nile. The water is clean but it gets wavy when winds increase.
Khartoum National Rowing centre
The Sudanese training facility is located on nile-view street, just next to the Sudanese Navy centre. Just by the road side. It has proper boat shades, new WinTech racing shells and a quiet environment. Even though we have no dock in kampala, the dock here is more damaging that useful at this point. It is the leading reason for boat damage and its hard for athletes to get onto and from the boats.
I have never been so broke!
Have you ever had money that you can’t spend? That's how broke I was in Khartoum.
> There are no Visa / Mastercard ATMs in Sudan.
You are advised to go with hard US dollar cash and exchange it for Local currency on arrival. I walked around the city to look for ATMs in a big to buy some camel bone necklaces and Python skin wallets but all in vain.
The race course is generally good, properly wide and balanced. The upper side tends to have less waves than the nile-street bank so it produced a lot of winners. We were umpired by a team of fresh umpiring course graduates who did well tough the finish line was not permanently set. I won 2 of my races, came second in one and fourth in the single sculls.
Peace or violence:
We enjoyed a lot of peace while in Sudan. Some people boldly tell you that they hate their president but they are not as rowdy as portrayed by the media. The city is usually calm and we saw no demonstrations at all. There is a good sense of security and busy-ness.
Hospitality and the Friendly people:
I bet the Sudanese are rivalling our Ugandan hospitality record. Never have I met people so welcoming, calm friendly in another country as the people in Khartoum. The only barrier you will face is language! but other than that, we held many conversations, played cards, swam and enjoyed the decorated taxis of this city together. I could feel the spirit of African brotherhood around me always. The Somali team was also present and they were also fun people.
The Sudan Rowing Federation executive team is arguably the best I have met to this date. The Hamzas, Hamato, Jibril and the athletes are but great people. They were always helpful, so caring and warm. On some days, the athlete themselves drove us back to our hotel. The president of the federation is my hero, he saved us on the very last day when Sudanese Immigration requested that we pay “Registration fees” for a green sticker in our passports; He actually paid that money for us, it was a great relief that he collected us and escorted us to the airport. May Allah reward him and all his team.
I did not get to zoom around as I do when I visit a place due to having no available cash to spend. I missed visiting the museums for this reason. In my search for Visa ATMs, we visited Al-Waha mall with Isaac, my LMx2-mate. Its a beautiful one but we were blown away when we visited Afra-Mall and played some bowling. We really loved that experience. More thanks to Hamza and the Federation Vice president for this!
We were also treated to a Sudanese traditional meal lunch at the “spiced-fish” restaurant. We loved it, even though we had eaten lunch just moments ago.
We are glad to have been in the company of FASA technical director Faysal Soula. He always held morning classroom training sessions in morning which were followed by on-water sessions after lunch. I loved the capsize drill training the most and Faysal is an amazing coach and manager. We all learnt a lot from him.
Advice for travellers:
Carry closed clothing. Full cover if you are a lady and trousers for men. Short are allowed but you will not blend in well.
Carry some cash for your planned expenditure.
Enjoy Sudan, visit the Rowing centre too. It's a pleasant experience.
For now, I can’t wait to see my profile on FISA’s website after participating in my first official WR event. Find out more about Rowing here: http://www.worldrowing.com
About me: I’m Edison Abahurire, A Machine Learning Engineer (Making a transition from Backend Engineering). I’m also deep learning scholar at Udacity and Co-Lead of DevCKampala and a professional athlete.
My website: http://simicode.github.io