Friday, 9 July 2010

Escorted by the police - the story

I had an encounter with the police this morning... 

It is my final weekend in Khartoum as I leave next Friday, back to Europe for the summer before my next destination, which is not back here despite it being what my heart cries out for, but that's another story. Not as early as I had planned, I left the hotel to take some of the photos I have been meaning to but hadn't. Sticking with my policy I adopted when I arrived (here) I still have not taken those "picturesque" "interesting" poverty shots, but still wanted to capture the essence of the city. I walked around several of the blocks near the hotel, which being Friday are quieter than normal, as I wanted to capture some of the buildings.

Although it was already quite hot, high 30s I guess, I continued across the railway. I find the railway fascinating as the old station is still there (below), but nowadays there are not passenger trains out of Khartoum, just very slow freight. Crossing the road, I'd intended to investigate some buildings a block over, which I have spied from the road, but got distracted by the abandoned passenger carriages. I took one photo and was about to take some gorgeous blue carriages next, when there were shouts from in-front and behind me.
Ahead was a man who had been sitting by the grey train, whilst behind me was a policeman. He wanted my permit to take photos. This document I had asked for on arrival 4 months ago, to be informed that it wasn't necessary. hmm. My Arabic is still non-existent and the policeman no English, although I managed 'isme Susan' and he 'my name Nadil'. I was walked back to the road and a man in a car then worked as a translator, although I have no idea who he was as he was dressed in a jelabiah and had 3 kids scrambling around inside.A second policeman arrived, with his shirt covered with insignia, so I guess he was of higher rank than Nadil. I was asked who I work for, and then where was my ID. Oops I had swoped purses because my bag was heavy and didn't have even my driver's licence on me (I don't normally carry my passport as I'm scared it will get lost).

I was still only 2 blocks from my hotel, and I understood I was to go with them to get my passport. However, they started walking across the road in a different direction. Momentary panic, until I understood the word for a vehicle, but it was at this point I decided to call someone from work. The higher-ranked policeman got in the driver's side of a truck, and I scrambled into the passenger side, Nadil then got in beside me and I was sandwiched between them. Gulp. At the main junction they waved at the traffic police, who was astonished to see a Westerner with them. Arriving back at the hotel, the first words from reception were 'what have you done?' as the two policemen walked me in. Reception gave the policemen something in Arabic with my name on it, and I showed them my visas, and everything was okay. The policemen even offered me a lift back, but I thought I'd had enough excitement and said goodbye. Cheekily I asked if I could take their photo, which I think Nadil would have liked, but the officer said no.
The offending photo is above - they didn't make me delete it even though I offered too. The other photos are here on my other blog and on flickr.

Please remember all photos are © and all rights reserved by Sue Pownall.
Contact me if you wish to use any images, thank you.