On the television fitted to a corner in the ceiling, a mundane advertisement went to such seamy lengths as to feature an Egyptian actor with makeup to darken his skin, all with less tact than the worst no-budget B-film. The people eating below the flashing television muttered words like “colonialism” in between the quick Sudanese Arabic accent, laughing in staccato bursts with throaty exasperation. At tea, that dark and sugary concoction that followed after every meal, conversation, smoke and ten minutes was a collective refuge under the sunstroke exposure of Egyptian watch.
Hours would then pass, as African time set in with cool indifference. If one thing was done in any given twenty-four hours, the day could be said to have been productive. Julia, the tea-seller, was a heavy-set woman, and poured tea, and ginger-spiked coffee with a constant charm. She was like a schoolyard friend, eliciting necessary calm amid quick jokes with each pour. Through glowing white teeth, her oversized figure moved lightly, sharing music and quips with a lively step. Soon after, she passed away from a heart condition.
Abdel Rahman would invariably start into dizzying political diatribes on the human rights controversy that had followed him throughout his term as a forced migrant, leading him to the very worst place for a Sudanese asylum seeker, the unthinkably inhospitable host state of Egypt. His views rose into the smog-lit streets, founded in the truth that his identity and experience as a refugee remains part of a complex decision he was once forced to make, the courageous act to leave his country, as had nearly 3 million others displaced from Darfur since 2003.