Ahmed steps out of the house, straightening his attire and rubbing his shoes, each in turn, against the back of his trouser-legs in a desperate effort to make them shine. He breathes in the fresh morning air and looks around him at his fellow early risers; the birds twittering together among the tree branches; a couple of dogs stretching the sleep out of their lean bodies, morose looking school children standing half-asleep against lamp posts waiting for their transport, and other men and women trudging forlornly along in varying degrees of shabbiness and misery. The day is but 7 hours old, and already the young and hopeful have set out to seek their different fortunes.
Alas, if Ahmed wants to get where he’s getting on time, he should pick up his pace. Walking down the street, he sometimes greets and sometimes ignores other pedestrians, in a variable range of attire, all walking in the same direction. As he approaches the top of the main road, more people flock into view, adding volume to the gathering masses; like pilgrims gathering at the doors of Mecca waiting for it to open and for blessings to rain down on them from the heavens. Everyone seems to be looking in the same direction while ignoring the presence of others. A tense aura befalls them. Despite their different mentalities and backgrounds, they are extremely alike in this crucial hour, as they take part in an ancient and traditional act.
The minutes tick by, as the numbers increase and the tension becomes almost palpable in the morning sun. Ahmed, a 26 year old security guard for a fancy petroleum company, has always taken pride in himself and his belongings. He was just an average Sudanese guy from an average Sudanese neighbourhood. No fancy upbringing, no expensive car and no valuable education. He’d grown up like most of the other boys his age; attending public schools, getting results that are just enough to see him from high school into some random college. Well, it’s the certificate that counts, really, isn’t it? And, like most of the other boys his age – older and younger – due to the poor a job market, had been forced to either sit around in front of shops all day or get a job doing whatever and confine the sitting-in-front-of-shops to night times. No big dreams, no far-fetched hopes and no ambitious plans. Like most other boys his age, he was lucky enough to have access to a satellite TV; at least he now knows what he lacks;
money-wise if not otherwise. He was, after all, an average Sudanese guy from an average Sudanese neighbourhood.
As the crowd’s highly refined hearing nerves have picked it up even before the thing has appeared over the horizon; the bus approaches.
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