Getting out of Khartoum

In Kenya, South Sudan, Sudan, Travel on July 6, 2013 at 6:09 am

I’m on a trip to Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya.  All Capital cities only, 3 weeks.  This is something I got down about the Khartoum airport.  Had to vent on it.

The Khartoum airport…

When I travel, I’ve learned to go to a zen place when the usual travel annoyances come at me – long lines, slow or incompetent gate or security people – you just have to be friendly and on time, and know that you’ll get there if you are trying to follow the local methods of getting the hell out of town. So I was working very hard to get into this zen place in the middle of the sleepless travel night I was having my last night in Khartoum.

The Khartoum airport was pre-tty bad.  When I was there, in a kind of delirious under-rested state, I wrote… “This is a very weird airport.  You queue up at the front gate and only can even enter the airport when your flight is ready to start letting people check in.  It’s chaotic as everyone is pushing and jostling with their giant, overloaded luggage carts.  In the airport itself, they won’t tell you which gate the flight will be.  I went through security and made it to the gate, but had to go back out when it became clear they hadn’t even designated a gate for my flight.  I’m at least checked in all the way to Juba. ”

It got worse after that.  My flight was scheduled for 3:50am departure (for Nairobi and connecting to Juba).  Boarding was supposed to be at 3:05am,  so at about 3am the line for security was long, so I got in assuming I’d be ready at the gate and on time.  It was a long line, I noticed after a while that they maintained two lines, one for women and one for men.  I was pretty much the only westerner around, maybe 5-7 other euro looking people came through the evening I was there.  A whole soccer team from Kenya was there, and for all of them it was likely one of their first international flights.

I get to the front of the security line and the guy checks my boarding pass… “eez no time yet,” he says. OK, so I stand just back with other people who seem to all be waiting to go to Kenya. I stand there with my leaden American treasure chest Timbuk2 bag, slung, with a shitload of valuable stuff in it that I don’t like to be too far away from me, over my shoulder, watching things.  I notice more of the annoying chauvinist bullshit, moving women to the other line which has to be re-staffed and restarted to get the women through security so they don’t sully the man line, which starts to get to me after a while.  My mind wanders to this issue for a while and I struggled to control my outward reactions (facial expressions, mumbled castigations, etc.)  At least it was distracting me slightly from the anxiety of missing my flight.

3:30 goes by, 3:45, 3:50, what the hell is going on?  I finally pop my head into the ultra exclusive first class lounge (which is about as nice as a 1960’s Reno casino buffet) and ask if the guy knows anything about the Kenya flight, he says it’s delayed 30 minutes.  No one has announced this – there’s no screen, no announcement (in English anyway) and no way of knowing.

I wasn’t concerned with getting on my flight, I was concerned with connecting to Juba; I had a tight connection.  So at this point my blood pressure was getting up there. Finally at about 4:30 we get through security, and eventually on the plane, where the soccer team subverts all plane boarding convention and hoards into the bus and the aisles of the plane.  I get my seat and at least, happily, the middle seat is free and I can spread a little.  I bust out the noise cancellation and chill groove music I need to buy more of, and tried to rest.  In the end, I made it to Nairobi about 2 hours late, and got on a flight 3 hours later to Juba, there are thankfully three flights a day.  It all worked out, even the checked bag was fine.

So that was my Khartoum Airport experience…

  1. Scott, You totally nailed it! We used to live in Khartoum and travelled in and out regularly, The Airport was always the “unknown element” of the trip – and we were usually guaranteed to miss our connecting flight. I feel your pain! All the best, Terri


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