(Day 35) Day of Leisure in Khartoum – 4 May 2011
Today we had a day of rest and got a chance to do some repairs to the bikes. Stelios took his bike to a local dealer and they cleaned the bikes carburetor. He is now a different man with no more stress with a bike that cuts out in the heat with traffic hooting and people shouting at you.
Based on average annual temperatures, Khartoum is quite possibly the hottest major city on the planet. Temperatures may exceed 53 °C in mid-summer. Its average annual high temperature is 38 °C with seven months of the year seeing an average monthly high temperature of at least 38 °C. The City has a thriving economy. In recent years Khartoum has seen significant development, driven by Sudan’s oil wealth.
Sudan is divided by the world’s longest river, the Nile, into the east and west. The country is the largest, yet one of the least visited, countries in Africa. Visitors invariably agree that the Sudanese are among the friendliest and most hospitable people on earth.
The people of Sudan have a long history extending from antiquity which is intertwined with the history of Egypt, with which it was united politically over several periods. After gaining independence from Egypt and the United Kingdom in 1956, Sudan suffered seventeen years of civil war during the First Sudanese Civil War (1955–1972) followed by ethnic, religious and economic conflicts between the Northern Sudanese (with Arab and Nubian roots), and the Christian and animist Nilotes of Southern Sudan. This led to the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1983, and because of continuing political and military struggles. The war went on for more than twenty years which has cost more than two million lives and has displaced more than four million people. It is estimated that as many as 200,000 people had been taken into slavery during that war; the slaves are mostly Dinka people.
During the 1990’s they reached out to Islamic fundamentalist groups, as well as allowing them to operate out of Sudan, even personally inviting Osama bin Laden to the country. The United States subsequently listed Sudan as a state sponsor of terrorism and U.S. firms were barred from doing business in Sudan.
In January 2011, in a referendum agreed to by the central government, Southern Sudanese voters overwhelmingly voted in favour of independence from Sudan; the region is set to become independent on 9 July 2011.
Sudan has extensive economic relations with China. China gets ten percent of its oil from Sudan, and, according to a former Sudanese government minister, China is Sudan’s largest supplier of arms.