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What Happened to Sudan and the People? (Part One)

05-09-2014, 03:47 PM
Abdellatif Ahmed
<aAbdellatif Ahmed
Registered: 04-29-2014
Total Posts: 6

مكتبة الفساد

من اقوالهم
(مكتبة مفتوحة للتحديث)





What Happened to Sudan and the People? (Part One)

    In the 70's when Yugoslavia not only still existed, but its economical and political might and international fame were at their highest peak, the agricultural expo in my hometown of Novi Sad was the second most important exhibition event of its kind in Europe.

    My mother was working as an official interpreter for the Hungarian delegation during the exhibition, so we would daily accompany her with my uncle; and every day I would hardly wait to cross the gates, and leaving the two grownups behind separate my way from them and rush to the Africa Hall. And every day I would enter the Africa Hall with the same excitement, as if I was seing it for the first time; the kind of excitement only the 7-8 year-olds can feel. Even if blindfolded I would have found my way to the Sudanese booth.

    And there I was already expected, just as one would expect the arrival of a British train with minutely precision. Expected by Sudanese whom I previously knew and knew not: my father's fellows since their days at university from some decade ago, or so; Sudanese officials from the embassy, and the members of the delegation which brought the exhibition material from the fatherland; and of course those who came just to attend for fun and pleasure, the Sudanese studying and working all over Europe, who would gather in Novi Sad for this occasion. The European Union did not exist yet, but travelling all across Europe was easy those days for the Sudanese, their passport was highly respected, just as their country was; visas - if required at all - were easily obtained at the border crossings, as one was travelling.

    The Sudanese booth, beside the standard semi-processed and processed agricultural and food items, was fully packed with colourful, and for the European eyes exotic produce: raw cotton, arabic gum, sesame, raw husked peanuts, mangoes, pineapple, hibiscus, myriad of spices, sandalwood, and all those hides and skins: lion, tiger, crocodile, snakes, antelope, zebra... A kid's heaven! How proud I was as I kept observing the astonishment, amusement and admiration in the eyes of the local and from faraway visitors. For many of them it was the first time to see and to be able to touch most of these goods. How lucky and privileged I felt for belonging to both worlds: of the host and the exhibitor.

    There was a small but well organized Sudanese community in Novi Sad, of students and mainly doctors who remained after completing their studies. And they were highly regarded by the local population, which rightfully considered them as kind, well educated people who are perfectly clean, not implying to the immaculate personal hygiene and appearance rather than the internal qualities: honest, straight-forward, helpful and generous. And it was so easy to communicate with the Sudanese: all of them friendly, easy going; those living there for some time spoke fluently Serbian or Croatian, the newcomers had very good command of English.

    For many years to come the exhibition and the embassy were my only links to the fatherland, other than my father and his small, ever-reducing circle of friends who remained there. Speaking of the embassy... Situated in the most luxurious area of the capital Belgrade, a palace that only the embassies of the UK, Germany, US and the USSR could compete with.

    Then in the 80s, as I grew into a teenager, all of the sudden the Sudanese booth disappeared from the expo. In the following year the embassy was gone too... In the next two decades I've interacted with many Sudanese, mostly with expatriate family members, colleagues and friends in the UAE, but it is that early picture of Sudan and the Sudanese people that was imprinted in my brain as an adolescent, that remained of prevailing influence. So when I set my foot into Sudan for the first time in my life, it was that idealistic picture that I have compared everything to.

    As we were approaching Khartoum, it was long after midnight when the airplane began descending, and my senses were telling me that something is not right. The year was 2004.

    - to be continued -
                  

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