Traffic in Souq Omdurman (Photo: anhonestmom.wordpress.com)
Since moving to Sudan, I have developed a severe case of road rage. More often than not, I am fighting the urge to make lewd gestures with my hands and yell obscenities. This is not simply because of the average nuisances one faces while driving- such as people cutting you off and then slowing down or not signalling before turning, although those do deserve a honk or two and if I can manage it, a dirty look. The problem lies in the fact that people- more specifically men, are willing to go the extra mile in order to make driving in the streets of Khartoum torture for a woman like me.
Why do I hate driving in Khartoum? There are several reasons. I hate it when you don’t signal, even more when you cut me off. I hate it when I let you pass, and you decide to stop. I hate it when a Toyota Hiace stops suddenly in the middle of the road and a truck blocks the street to unload. I hate when motorcyclist zigzag around and between cars, and when pedestrians choose the most inopportune moment to cross. I especially hate it when buses try and intimidate me in my tiny Hyundai. Mostly, I hate that male drivers have a fear of coming in last.
Logically, if a car is going at 30 km/hour and the road is free and clear in front of you, you overtake it. If you are a woman and the driver of the vehicle in front of you is a man then you should avoid this at all costs or you risk the possibility of this man following you to wherever you may be going just to teach you some discipline. If you are lucky, they realize you are woman before you overtake them and then speed up just to spite you. Whatever happened to courtesy? Why do you speed up when you see me signal to turn left? And more importantly, why won’t you let me pass or merge? You shouldn’t stop being a gentleman because you are in a car.
In most other cases, I enjoy driving. I enjoy singing in my car and the convenience and comfort of a personal vehicle as opposed to public transportation. Public transportation in Sudan is not a viable option due to the physical and verbal harassment women face, not the mention the attack on one’s sense of smell and the lack of personal space. Walking is also out of the question because of the extreme weather conditions, the barrage of inappropriate comments by both underage boys and old men alike, and let us not forget the very real possibility of getting run over by a crazy driver. So that leaves driving as the lesser of three evils.
It’s probably best if I allow myself double the amount of time it takes to get anywhere, that way I can relax, take my time and not go crazy when I have to wait at a red light because the guy in the Hyundai Sonata in front of me is too busy talking to his girlfriend instead of pushing the pedal. Unfortunately, being Sudanese, I am always late, so it’s better to hope I get used to it – after all, this is Sudan.
I love this. You summed up all what I’m feeling in there.
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