Only in Khartoum

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.