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Friday, May 16, 2008

Sudan now; 1st Impressions

Now in Khartoum, Sudan, staying at Al Nakhil Hotel in Downtown. Arrived here a few hours ago.
Khartoum is a city of great contrasts. The airport is very modern and chic mobile ads everywhere. There is even free internet and WIFI at the airport. For a country with a longstanding civil conflict, immigration clearance was surprisingly fast and efficient. No questions asked. I changed money and found a booth belonging to Zain Celtel, the pan-African mobile operator. I added value to my Celtel Uganda mobile phone which works in a total of 12 African countries including Sudan. You can also reach me by my M1 mobile.
Khartoum's airport is only 6km from the city centre. Hotel Al-Nakhil is very basic (US$20) but it has satellite TV (BBC included) and air-con. Air con is absolutely necessary. The temperature was 33'C when the plane landed at 4:45am !!! Probably 45'C now.
I had a shower and short nap after checking in. Walked around briefly. Very dusty and sandy city full of one or two storey buildings. But huge changes are taking place. The huge oil revenue that has come in last 2 years meant a new middle class and lots of cash floating around. Huge blocks in the centre are being torn down and one could see many skyscrapers and shopping malls are being built not far away. I heard there is even an area with Dubai-like modern buildings in imaginative shapes. I must find out where they are.
I haven't taken many photos. Tourists have to register with the Police's Aliens Registration Office and those who want to take photos must get photography permits from the Ministry of Tourism. Today is Friday and none of the offices are open. I must be careful and not too obvious when I take photos.
I asked locals about the rebel attack last weekend. All of them laughed and said it was no big deal. They said maybe they are used to wars.
Malaysia's Petronas has gas station everywhere in Khartoum.

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