Sudan: In Yer Face!


People keep asking me why on earth I came back to Sudan. And by people, I mean every single person who comes across this piece of information. People who don’t even know me (which is never a deterrent for Sudanese people). I find it tiresome, trying to convince them that this was a choice I made with a sane mind and not on a whim, and that I have no regrets about it. Everyone is so up into this idea that Sudan is not a place that anyone would voluntarily stay in, let alone leave a stable life and job in the Gulf to come back to it, especially with everyone flying in the opposite direction. But like it or not, Sudan is the only place in the world we actually belong to. You could change your nationality, your hometown, your colour, but you’ll still have extended family with the name of 7aja Bakheeta and 7aj Alnijoumi, people you would rather forget you’re related to but people who will show up in weddings and funerals and run the show. Your ancestry will not be traced back to George Washington or King Fahad no matter how hard you try to attach yourself to those people and call them your family. Your parents will still have childhood memories of riding a donkey to school or swimming in the Nile. And you will always feel a pang of irritation and shame every time you see Omar Albashir giving a ridiculous speech followed by the never ending chicken dance, because, like it or not, he’s still YOUR president.
So please, let’s get over this whole ‘I don’t belong to this country and I want nothing to do with it’ act. Sudan has always been the way it is, and it’s not changing anytime soon. Driving is still like a destruction derby, the heat is always the closest one can imagine Hell to be like and the dust and dirt everywhere is what gives the country its authentic look. Any procedure that involves a governmental facility will always take 3 days longer than you think, and you will be charged 5 times what it should. Any event that involves the healthcare system will always end up as a story that should be broadcasted in ‘Infamous criminals of all time’. People cut in line even if there are only 2 of you standing. Everything costs a hundred times more than anywhere else in the world, and you can expect the price to double tomorrow morning.
So once you understand that these things are normal, and therefore expected, you can then proceed to look at the good things, and actually consider this country as a place to spend a part of, or all, your life. This is the one place where you will not be banned from education or employment because you’re ‘an expatriate’. You could be banned because you’re not a koz, because you don’t have friends and family in high places, because you don’t fit the look. But not because nas albalad are the only ones allowed. You don’t need permission to travel, buy a car or go to Hajj. No one can ever attempt to walk all over you because they’re a ‘citizen’ and you’re not. You could have 1, 2 or 10 jobs simultaneously without someone telling you that they technically own you and therefore you can only work for them. You stand in line at the airport with the citizens, not pushed to the side with all the ‘trash’ because of the colour of your passport. There are weddings to go to, all the family gossip reaches you fresh from the oven, and you run into old classmates wherever you go. The things that you read in the newspapers actually concern you. Come Ramadan, or any time of the year, you see hundreds of opportunities to give to people who will really appreciate it, and it feels so different because these people are a part of you. The food and Pepsi taste better, the fruits are sweeter and you don’t have to spend a single evening at home if you don’t want to. And best of all: everyone looks just like you, so no one will look you up and down and call you ‘ya zol’, and people will actually sit next to you on the bus without looking like they’re sitting next to a ticking bomb. And for entertainment, there's something for everyone: arts and photography exhibitions, music and dancing classes (samba, zulu and ragees 3aroos!), museums and parks, restaurants for all tastes and pockets, aerobics and karate, swimming and Nile cruises, horse riding, writing groups and concerts.
I came back home because this country is my country, and no one can convince me otherwise. I will not spend my youth a slave to someone else, unable to enjoy or relax, and not even saving money to make it worth the trouble. I admit that I have many more advantages than hundreds of people my age: a stable and beautiful house that we own so no rent to worry about; a healthy family who are financially secure and therefore no one dependent; stable means of transport, and a job even if it doesn’t pay me as much as I would like. Sudan isn’t going anywhere, so you might as well get used to that fact and try and divert the effort you make running away from it to making it a more enjoyable experience. When I announced my decision to move back home, a friend told me that Sudan is what you make of it, and that is so true. It’s been only 5 months since I moved back, and I have never been happier. In fact, I sometimes wish I had made this decision sooner, although maybe I wouldn’t have appreciated this place as much if I had. This major efflux of young men and women, especially doctors, is unavoidable, and I can’t say I blame them because almost everyone has a financial gain, especially men. But if money is not you’re one and only priority, then I think people should step back for a while, and actually consider living in Sudan, if only temporarily. Get to know the place and get to know your family. Get a job, no matter how meagre the pay. Try and give back and help pull this place out of the dirt, because no one else is going to. This is where our families built their lives and where they will eventually come back to rest, so we owe them and the country that much. And if everyone keeps on running away, then who will be left to fix what’s broken and build this place into what it should be? It’s not just about the money, and it’s not just about me, me, me.
Alsudan warak warak, 7at6eer mino wein ya3ni!


  1. Amazing analysis and 100% true. I came back of my own will but need to leave now for my children, which makes my heart hurt, coz these are my streets, the only place I've ever known (Bon Jovi).

  2. Great analysis.Great that your adjusting well. I went back to Sudan for awhile and really enjoyed some aspects of it.I only wish that ones expertise and skills were more appreciated in Khartoum and that one had a chance to do something there. However, its all about who you know and how much you have in your bank account. If you have money and connections, Sudan is the right place for you.

  3. What you said is mostly true. It's a shame that more people don't think that way, especially those who are coming from abroad. I also think its sad how Sudanese disassociate themselves from Sudan, because they wouldn't be able to live the "stylish" and comfortable lifestyle that they live overseas, which is why everyone must think you're crazy for deciding to come back to Sudan. What they don't realize is that they'll always be considered a second class citizen anywhere else. I also 100% agree with what you said about "pulling this place out of the dirt" - this generation, OUR generation, is really the only hope for this country. OK so we can't control the government or legislation here, but there is SO much room for opportunities and initiatives to develop that could actually make a change in this community. Scholars in the west, working professionals, and all the diaspora should feel the responsibility of coming back and contributing to Sudan and giving back the education and knowledge that they have gained to share this with their own people.

  4. Your post is scripted with total sense of patriotism, and I admire you for that. However, if I am allowed the opinion, I would like to share a concern that agitates deep within.

    To me, what really hurts is that we, the people of this country, have been alienated by a small group of “supposedly” fellow citizens, who took total advantage of our kindness – or I would rather say “naivety” – to satiate their own endless greed. The different flavors of discrimination a Sudanese “expatriate” may taste abroad form a small subset of what the domestic menu has to offer. But you know, every single item in our local menu is still digestible – ma3a showayat moya – and will eventually be turned into a joke, wanasat bait bika, or “hopefully” an opinion encoded in black and white and then posted online or published in a newspaper after passing “certain tests of scrutiny”. However – to me – there is a red line. When the wave of corruption is immensely stronger than what I can stand, when I am sunk to head in doubts of whether my earning will be legitimate, and when I lose night sleep on fear of losing akherati had I bent down; at that point my desire to return home simply evaporates.

    As you have outlined, Sudan is and will continue to be the place we all call home. I am so very optimistic that one day – quite sooner than what we ALL expect – our self-made conundrum will be put to rest, that we as a nation will change course and begin the long journey in which we rebuild the cities, roads and bridges; farm the land; educate our children and re-educate our own washed brains, and that – most importantly – we will resurrect our deceased Sudanese core values, which were based upon justice, respect and generosity; and which I believe are the true genius of our Sudanese identity. However, until I can contribute in a way that I am confident will have a tangential impact (soon en shaa Allah), I would rather save akharati even if it is at the price of living away from my beloved Sudan.

  5. Dear Anonymous: that's the last anonymous on the list (if everyone would just write their names instead of 'anonymous' this would be a whole lot easier =D). Your concern is one that I think a lot of people living abroad feel, and I can't say that it's completely lost on me. At one point you always end up wondering if you really are doing that much good sticking around after all. However, I am a firm believer that what I do be niyat rida Allah SWT is just simply that, and no one can take that away from me, even if they tried to choke me on mal al7aram they're all swimming around in. Inshallah Rabana yitqabal mina jamee3an. Also, I think you will never be 100% confident that you are ready to come back and make a difference. That was my initial plan, to build myself as much as I can. But after looking at things on the ground I realize that a) I'm actually better use being young and flexible, and b) it's only by seeing the system from the inside that I know exactly how to build myself and what will be most helpful.
    Hope you manage to end your Diaspora soon.

  6. Dear Reem –
    Thank you for your insight!

    I don’t know whether it is a good thing or not, but would you believe me if I say that, at this point in my life, there is no place on planet Earth I can SINCERELY call home – indeed the only two exceptions are alharamain alshareefain with their unparalleled peacefulness they offer me whenever I am blessed with a short visit. Making it to the ultimate home is what I care about most – I guess. It is not that I am filled with a sense of surrender, but rather a sense of pity – or probably disgust – on humanity, myself is included. You know, sometimes I tend to believe that the concept of nationalism that has been drafted and implemented by colonialism has succeeded in shifting our priorities and redefining our collective identity.

    Never mind, call me Confused!!

  7. Since I'm one of the majority who don't own stable and beautiful house nor a healthy family who are financially secure nor stable means of transport not even a job I can't relate to this post. and I imagine neither can millions-not hundreds- of youth who are striving to make a living in their own country to find that their jobs are being tossed to foreigners instead or to the official's kids. you should also know that arts and photography exhibitions, music and dancing classes parks, restaurants aerobics and karate, swimming and Nile cruises, horse riding, concerts all that is not an option for us it's a luxury we can't afford. So excuse us for thinking that Sudan is a horrible place to live.

  8. I am sure that you mean well, Reem. You do make a valid point about people having to take responsibility for the country they call home. But please remember that you are extremely priviliged and that your piece completely lacks empathy with the millions of young Sudanese who don´t have the most basic necessities of life and who are forced to watch close members of their families, even their children, go hungry or die because they can´t afford medical care. So please, I am begging you to be more sensitive to the plight of others and try to endure the annoyance of people asking you the obvious question of how can you come back to this. The simple answer is really that you can afford to come to a place where you are a first class citizen, while others have to endure the loss of dignity you are describing just to support themselves and their families. Also, by being first class citizens, we are treating lots of other Sudanese as inferiors and inflicting upon them the same kind of treatment we couldn´t accept in the gulf. I saw another one of your posts where you wrote that you could not possibly consider marrying someone who is not from the approved tribes. And why on earth would anyone want to forget about the extended family named hajja Bakheeta etc? Aren´t they one of the main reasons we want to be in Sudan?


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