For a few moments Feversham could see nothing. Then his eyes began to adapt themselves to the gloom, and he distinguished a tall, bearded man, who sat upon an angareb, the native bedstead of the Soudan, and two others, who squatted beside him on the ground. The man on the angareb was the Emir.
“I don’t think you can have any idea,” said Willoughby, severely, “of what captivity in Omdurman implies. If you had, however much you disliked the captive, you would feel some pity.”
Thoughts from Khartoum 2008: four beds in a small cement room on the top floor of a decrepit hotel near Omdurman, face stung from the wind and torn from days spent on the roof tops of various buses in the Nubian Sahara. The heat as unbelievably hot as to be expected, experienced in the Eastern Saharan capital of the Sahel itself. A single sheet covering my body and packs of desert vermin enjoying the US Aid that spills out of a nap sack in the corner of the room. The man next to me looks dead, he has not moved in over six hours and it is mid afternoon. You wonder what his story is, he looks like he has traveled far, very far, it is not the look a general Sudanese business man has when visiting from the neighboring countries, the Saudi brokers dressed in white galabias, dark aviators and Red khafiyahs, Emiratis and their small fortunes and four wives, or Libyans from Qaddafi’s expanding ‘pan-African’ empire. No man of material wealth has come to stay here in this hotel, no business man as we traditionally imagine in the West. My roommates have come from Asmara, Ogaden, Sana’a, Juba, the Nuba Mountains and N’Djamena, though they are here also on business, so to speak, as they try to sell cut up recycled magazines that have been made into ornaments, second hand cell-phones, fruit, zalabea, the twenty somali camels, which are tied up below, for meat at 200 dollars a beast, and the clothes off their back.
Now I sit beneath the blazing sun, trying to combine our worlds and I will be here for a while. I am sharing a room here now and for an unknown amount of time, I feel alive and I feel lucky, I am amongst the strongest on Earth. I have no contact with the outside world, I am supposedly on vacation from school but I am not on any kind of holiday, I experience hostility and the effects of one of the poorest countries on Earth, everyday, people look at Mexico, they need to look again, in sheer numbers of those suffering from famine and war and curable disease. More than 2 million have died throughout the longest running civil war in Africa and here I am amongst them as the current second peace agreement has come into effect. There are signs of the conflict everywhere, under my own bed a rusted-out Kalashnikov is housed. The only khawaja, ‘tourist’, American nonetheless, seen for face value in the capital, save the occasional fully tinted, air conditioned and armored SUVs from the UN and various relief agencies traveling through to spend more money in a day than these people do in a year, with little to no actual development, the amount spent on all-wheel drive vehicles would be better spent on paving a road for the rest of the country.