After having my exit stamp application rejected because the signature of the manager of the hotel I was staying was a photocopy and not an original I consoled myself by taking the mini (local) bus to Omdurman. The mini bus stations have been moved to the outskirts of the city from Soug Arabi. The mini buses are a great way to get around the city at 22 –33 piasas (15 – 20 cents). You need to ask someone or have your destination written in Arabic and someone will direct you to the right bus. I always hold out my change to a local passenger and they select the right amount of coins for me to give the money collector. The money collection is signalled with a strong snapping of the fingers.
I wandered around the never ending pathways of the souq in Omdurman and soon felt as if I was in a maze after passing shop after shop of the same merchandise.
On the way out I found a busy restaurant selling double hamburgers with fried egg and a fresh fruit juice for 3.5sp. I asked if there were any smaller burgers and a patron offered to buy me lunch as he thought I did not have enough money.
I then took a mini bus to Mahdi’s tomb but found out I was going in the wrong direction and a passenger got out at the next stop and got me on the right mini bus and when I went to pay I found he had paid the fare. This is the hospitality of Sudan.
As I was taking photos of the exterior of Mahdi’s tomb I was invited into the grounds. The guide book says non muslims are not permitted inside. I decline, la, la, but was encouraged to go inside where the tomb is housed and was given a tour in Arabic of the artifacts and the Arabic inscriptions. I was wearing a calf length skirt and tunic top rolled up to the elbows and a hat with my blonde hair sticking out –so their was no mistaking me for a muslim.
On the way back to the souq I was invited to join a group of five men who were going by rickshaw to the mosque where Mahdi’s family is buried. After seeing the area I was taken to the women’s prayer area in time for Friday afternoon prayers. Lucky I had a scarf with me to cover my head. After prayers warm greetings were offered by the women. And all this was happening with me speaking no Arabic and minimal English from any of the others. From here one of the five men escorted me to the Shiekh Garballah mosque where another sect of sufi dances and drums. The founder of this sect is Proffesor Hassan El Fatih. I was introduced to Mr B. Monawar who was educated in Europe and very knowledgeable about the writings. I had promised to come bak after seeing the dirvished at Hamed el Mil mosque/cemetary but by 7pm I was exhausted. It had been a long day and the 40 plus temperatures can really wear one down.
The man who came with me and negotiated about 6 mini buses to get to the mosque showed me where to catch the mini bus to soug Arabi which is the area where my hotel was located.
As I was heading out I was invited by Waleed for tea. He had worked extensively in UAE in project management and I was enjoying an english conversation with someone who had extensive english language skills. After a lengthy conversation about Sudan, politics, foreign investment Waleed offered to give me a ride to souq Arabi as it was on his way home. Bu 9pm my head was full and whirlig for everything I had experiences in a 12 hour period.