Khartoum, Sudan Report of what it's like to live there - 04/11/14
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?
Lived in Darmstadt, Stuttgart, and York.
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?
DC - 24 to 36 hours. All European carriers have pulled out of Sudan so getting home or even to your R&R point is a long trip. You can go via Istanbul-Paris-DC; Cairo-Frankfurt-DC; Doha-DC (there are a few other routes). Flights always leave at night or early morning (11pm through 3am).
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
U.S. Embassy assignment.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Most people live in huge villas on a large compound. These are nice at first glance but sat vacant for nearly 10 years so they required a lot of work. GSO folks in Khartoum have worked very hard on the housing and even in the short time I was there, I could see significant improvements. There's a great clubhouse and pool area at the villas as well. There are nice townhomes in another compound, again with a great pool area. Another townhome compound has huge townhomes but no pool. There are also some apartments around town that are very spacious and within walking distance to coffee shops, grocery stores, etc. Commute, depending on traffic, could be anywhere from 15-30 minutes.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Things like cleaning supplies are very expensive as are standard Western fare like Doritos or cereal. You can get meat very cheaply and it's very fresh (an entire beef tenderloin is under US$25 and it was probably mooing the day before). Local fruits and veggies are inexpensive. Use your consumables shipment. Netgrocer and Amazon help a lot too.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More consumables, particularly cleaning supplies.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is no such thing as fast food. It's always cooked to order and cooked fresh, even at the burger joints and KFC knock-off place. Meals can range from US$5 a person to US$10 at the cheaper places, nicer places and places with a large expat clientele are more expensive, US$15 to US$20 per person.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Mosquitoes, flies, and ants. I didn't have any bug problems in my apartment but other people had major ant problems.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Affordable but always increasing. You have to pay in US dollars. It's about US$250 a month to have someone clean twice a week and depending on the size of your house, you will need it. The dust gathers quickly. Domestic help are very diligent and efficient and do a great job.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The clubhouse at the villas has a very nice gym as does the Embassy. The local hotels also have gyms and pools but they are very expensive, like US$150 a month.
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?
You can't use them in Sudan.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Not sure, I don't attend any religious services. There is a Catholic church I believe has English services.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Minimal, most people speak English but learning how to say "hello," "how are you," "please," and "thank you" go a long way.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, most roads are dirt with huge potholes, sidewalks are dodgy at best and often non-existent. Housing is not suitable for those with disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Affordable, yes. Safe, no. Employees are not permitted to use 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?
No POVs are allowed.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Zain, the internet company claims to have high speed service. When it works you're lucky to get 3-5 mbps. It is slow. Forget about being able to Skype with your family reliably, do any online gaming or streaming.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Embassy provides a basic phone.
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?
I don't have pets and I am glad. Getting them in and out is stressful to the pet because of the long trip and multiple stops. Kennels are not available; there are a couple good vets that even do house calls from what I hear.
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?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Many! There are charities, women's groups, morale committees, etc.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes, for U.S. Embassy folks this is an unaccompanied assignment, dependents over 21 years are allowed only if they are employed at the Embassy. There are occasional riots, one which included an attack on the Embassy in 2012, there is the threat of kidnapping, terrorist attacks, etc. It was pretty calm while I was there and I never felt threatened but travel is still in armored motorpool vehicles for all personnel.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
You will get sick sooner or later. Usually stomach bugs. It's a tight community so someone is always willing to run out and get you some ginger ale or pepto from the pharmacy. Basic care is available at the Embassy. Anything serious is pretty much an automatic medevac. Malaria is a problem, take your pills!
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 varies; some days are really gorgeous but there's always dust. Dust storms happen in the fall.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot. Even in the winter it's in the upper 80s F (60s F in the early morning). Summer is extremely hot. Very dry, bring lots of lotion.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Khartoum International School has a great reputation but dependents under 21 are not allowed at post.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
Morale varies, most people didn't want to get assigned there, lots of entry level. I loved it and was happy there. Some people need a lot of social activities and there's always something going on, there are plenty of extroverts there too that need occasional social activities but were perfectly happy working on their own, reading and relaxing at home, doing their own thing alone. If you can't cope without standard U.S. stuff like Target, microwave meals, Starbucks and drive-throughs, it is not the place for you.
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?
Pool parties, pot lucks, cocktail parties, happy hour, game nights, movie nights, roof top parties.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
For families - no - since you can't bring kids. Singles, it depends. If you aren't looking for a good dating scene or clubbing, then it's ok. There are always parties that include people from other embassies, NGOs, etc. Best for couples perhaps.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
It is an Islamic country but foreigners are not expected to cover up. Outside of Khartoum there is a lot of ethnic violence and gender prejudice is definitely a thing.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Seeing the Nubian pyramids, exploring the local cuisine.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Camping in the desert, visiting ancient ruins, the pyramids are stunning, pool parties, dining out.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Local art (ask the LES staff to show you the hidden gems, don't go to the main overpriced places).
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Gorgeous blue skies nearly every day, great winters, camel treks, Nubian pyramids, inexpensive restaurants, camping in the desert, saving money.
10. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How truly atrocious the internet is.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter coat and UGGs.
4. But don't forget your:
Light cotton and linen clothing, favorite cleaning supplies, favorite lotions, sunscreen.