Khartoum, Sudan Report of what it's like to live there - 10/20/16
Personal Experiences from Khartoum, Sudan
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
This was my fourth overseas tour.
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
I love my house. Diplomatic housing is generally great in Khartoum.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Almost everything is available. Some things are far more expensive than in the U.S. What I miss: sushi, blue cheese dressing (but blue cheese is available to make your own), Herdez green salsa, liquid Tide, my hairdresser.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Blue cheese dressing, Herdez green salsa, liquid Tide, more sunscreen.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Khartoum has very good restaurants (Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Turkish, Mexican, Chinese, American, etc.). Delivery options include at least: pizza, fried chicken, fish restaurants. I doubt there are comparable options outside the capital.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants are a problem. I imagine rats and snakes could be a problem for non-diplomatic housing.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Through diplomatic mail.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
It is very easy to find housekeepers, gardeners, cooks, dog walkers, etc. and prices are very reasonable.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Diplomats have ready access to good gyms, pools, tennis courts. There are also multiple sports leagues, rugby, basketball, soccer, yoga, horse-riding, hiking, Red Sea diving;
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
No U.S. credit cards. We do not use ATMs.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is at least one Catholic church in Khartoum that offers English services. I'm unaware of any Jewish services at all.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Non-diplomats need a fair amount of Arabic for daily living. Local classes and tutors are available and affordable.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Buses, vans and tuk-tuks are very affordable and relatively safe, but U.S. diplomats are prohibited from using them.
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes. 1-2 weeks.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I use my U.S. iPhone with a local provider's chip. I put my home plan on standby when I'm not in the U.S.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
There are a handful of good vets in Khartoum, but for serious non-emergency issues you can fly your pets to visit expert vets in Dubai or Nairobi.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
NGO workers, teachers.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Dress is very conservative for women (medium to long sleeves/skirts/pants), although Sudanese are less concerned about what foreigners wear than what Sudanese women wear.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes, for diplomats there are still ample security restrictions. Non-diplomat women who must travel alone should practice good self-awareness and personal security.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria is a concern. There are at least two officially approved hospitals in Khartoum. I don't know what is available outside the capital.
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
It is very hot and dry, but there is not really any pollution other than dust/sand. Seasonal sandstorms (haboobs) can be very disruptive, but don't happen that often. Temperatures fluctuate throughout the year.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Dust/sand. It is difficult to find gluten-free or other specialized foodstuffs. There are several vegetarians & vegans here who do fine.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Not that I can think of.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It is very hot and dry, with some seasonal flooding.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are a handful of outstanding international schools, and some very high-quality local private schools.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I believe the two best-known international schools are ADA-approved, but I would recommend confirming this. Sudanese law requires schools to accept all special-needs students, but facilities do not often include ramps or other necessary upgrades.
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
I'd estimate a few hundred to 1000 expats in Khartoum. Morale is generally very good.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
There are plenty of parties, dinners, cooking competitions, dances, movie nights, game nights, and other social events to keep you busy. I have to schedule "at home" nights to re-charge my batteries sometimes. If you're bored here, you're not trying.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes to all.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
No. Sudanese law/custom is very conservative in this regard, prohibiting anything but heterosexual activity.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes, ethnic, tribal, and religious prejudices are at the heart of Sudan's multiple armed conflicts. There is no gender equality, but this is more troubling for Sudanese women than foreigners.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Sudanese people are incredibly friendly and hospitable. Trips to Darfur, visits to pyramids, and Red Sea snorkeling have all been fantastic.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Great sports leagues, yoga, horse-riding, hiking, archaeological/historical sites, Red Sea diving; Good restaurants (Italian, Indian, Lebanese, Turkish, Mexican, Chinese, American-ish, etc.); Sudanese dinners, weddings & other social events. Visits to the souk (market), dancing dervishes, Nubian wrestling, hip hop festivals, film festivals, gallery showings.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are some nice baskets, textiles, and handmade furniture, as well as art (paintings, etc.), but this is not a "shopping post," like Pakistan or Thailand.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It is a peaceful, relatively quiet city. People take care of each other and strangers are helpful.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I read a lot before coming here, but I was very pleasantly surprised by the availability of goods, the pro-foreigner hospitality, and the progressiveness of the youth.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Shorts and mini-skirts. Rush to judgment.
4. But don't forget your:
Feminist literature. Sunscreen. Patience. Sense of humor.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Emma's War, A Poisonous Thorn in Our Hearts, Season of Migration to the North, Wedding of Zain. (https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/sudan)
6. Do you have any other comments?
Living in Sudan is so much better than I expected it to be. It certainly can be a challenge, but it is absolutely worth it.