KHARTOUM (Sudanow) - Many families (past and present) choose to build their own homes in squatters around big cities to avoid high house rents. But these illegally built homes are always likely to be bulldozed by the authorities and the dwellers are obliged to move away to give room for legal residential quarters.
This forced removal of shanty towns often engenders tragedies and some amusing stories.
The hero of this story had returned from Libya after thirty years of absence to find it impossible to find his home and his family because the residents were forcibly evacuated. In place of the squatter where his family lived, he found a well planned residential area. He started a hectic and long search but he could find no trace of his family. The desperate man then returned to Libya empty handed.
Hajja Fatima Abdelgadir Ahmed, a dweller of such removed shanty towns, has narrated to Sudanow the story:
The man’s family had originally moved from a village in today’s Nahr Elneel State and settled down in Khartoum in the early 1970s. They rented a house in one of the City of Omdurman’s old quarters. And when squatters started to emerge at the City’s western outskirts, they joined the tide and built an illegal home in the shanty town of Zagaloana, for the hope that it might one day be legalized.
Then the young man, like many youths of his age, migrated to Libya in search of a greener pasture where he can thrive better and help his family. He was just 20 then. He used to communicate with his family members through letters, as the only means available at that time. Years passed and his parents died and, because of problems he faced, he lost contact with the rest of his family members. He espoused a foreigner, fathered a number of daughters and sons and settled down in Libya. But the love and nostalgia for his country continued to weigh on him. After thirty years of absence he decided to travel back to Sudan with his family. On the way back home his emotions and expectations were high that he would at last see his family members once again. Arriving at Khartoum Airport, he rushed to Zagaloana shanty town where his family used to live. Arriving at the place, he was stunned to see that the mud homes and shacks he had left behind thirty years ago were replaced with high-rise buildings and paved and electricity-lit roads. Perplexed by the scene around him he started to knock at the doors one after the other for the hope of finding his family. A dweller came out and told him the squatter was removed and the land was distributed to government employees. He told him that eligible squatter dwellers were compensated with land plots in other places around the city.
Disgruntled by what had occurred to him, he took his family to a hotel and kept a month-long search for his family or any of his relatives, but to no avail. Thirty years had changed Khartoum too much. Families were dispersed and most houses had changed dwellers. He traveled to his home village and found that most of the elders had died and the youngsters could not recognize him. The only answer he could get was that all his brothers and sisters had got married and sought other places to live in. Nobody could give him even a single address.
The desperate man then took his decision and returned to Libya with his family. After sometime, he found a lucrative job in a construction company in one of the Gulf states. At the company he came across a fellow Sudanese engineer who welcomed and befriended him. They started to exchange home visits. Little by little his friend, the engineer, started to show some unease when he visited them, because he noticed that he used to fixedly look at his wife. He also noticed that his wife (the engineer’s), also used to fixedly look at the man. But the engineer never doubted his friend’s manners, because he was a solemn and a pious man. By that he managed to drive away any doubt about his friend. But his wife had always kept asking about the man, requesting her husband to ask him to come visit them with his family. This had used to increase his doubts about what was going on between his friend and his wife.
One day the two of them were alone at the workplace and talked about how they were longing to be back in the Sudan. Each of them talked about his family and his home area. When the engineer knew that his friend was from the Kaboashiyya village, he told him that his wife also hailed from that area. He requested him to ask his wife who her family was. The engineer told him that this required a bigger conversation and asked him to visit them with his wife at the week end “when you can take your time and know each other at your ease.”
And he did. Everybody sat down and he asked her about who her parents were and she told him. She said her parents had died a long time ago. He then asked her about her brothers. And here came the surprise that dumbfounded everybody. She told him about one of her brothers who traveled to Libya and never came back. She gave him the name. Here he had no choice but to fetch his ID and put it in his friend’s (the engineer’s) hand and rush towards the woman and take her in his arms, to the surprise of all present, including his wife. Looking at the ID, the engineer noticed the congruence in the names of his friend and his wife. The engineer then started to recall his wife’s tales about her absent brother, whom she had never seen because she was born after he had left for Libya. Everybody broke into tears. After all present calmed down, she told him that all her brothers were fine and had married and made their own families. Some of them had left to live abroad while others chose to stay in the Sudan. She showed him pictures of his brothers and he could remember them all, by their names.
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