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Only in Khartoum

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Al Siir, Khartoum's best fixer
Al Siir is something of a legend among journalists visiting Khartoum. He has been imprisoned alongside a Financial Times reporter and been the subject of a feature in Newsweek. As far as I am concerned he is the best fixer by far in a city where few taxi drivers speak English and red tape abounds. He has got me out of countless scrapes in the past. But his idiosycratic style - essentially shouting at people until they give in - means he has also got me into almost as many scrapes. And in a city full of bad drivers, he is seriously in need of reviewing his copy of the highway code. Yesterday we (and I should point out that I had little to do with it) drove into a three-foot deep hole. Today we have been buying honey. It is a gift for a contact who is ill. The contact, we hope, will introduce me to a man I am hoping to interview. Al Siir is a proponent of the "honey as panacea" school of medicine. I reckon it's a perfectly decent gift. The Arab way of doing things is to appear with an introduction - rather than turn up on someone's doorstep - and gifts are an important way of getting things moving. However, I have my doubts that a jar of honey will cure typhoid but then stranger things have happened here.


amal | April 1, 2008 10:13 AM | Reply

Hey Rob,

Why is it that whenever foreigners refer to an act

of hospitality by a sudanese person, they refer to it as

'Arab' customs? Another person made a blog named 'Arab

hospitality' about a woman who insisted they must have

lunch in a small Sudanese village. Surely, the blog title

should have been 'African hospitality, its Africa after all.

Its as if Africans are not as hospitable as Arabs and as if

Sudanese people are Arab and not Africans.

kizzie | April 10, 2008 7:49 PM | Reply

I'm sure Sudanese hospitality is not an Arab trait. Even the Sudanese who don't have much to offer will share it with you in all cases. This happens in Ghana not Syria.

Shashank | April 11, 2008 3:29 PM | Reply

Ahh, al-Sir. There are the young, flashy Sudanese recently
returned from the UK who can get you around town in an
air-conditioned car for for $200/day, but dollar for dollar
I agree that your man is the best fixer in the city. Please
remind him that he has my shirt.

Anonymous | April 22, 2008 1:11 PM | Reply

Al Siir said you had his pants

Anonymous | April 22, 2008 1:36 PM | Reply

And Amal, why we refer to "Arab customs"? Because try as we might, journalists occasionally blunder into using lazy cliches. Point taken.

What do you think?