Coffee and Cake

KHARTOUM: Arriving in Sudan’s capital city after spending a sweat-drenched week in Darfur always brings something of the demob spirit to the tired hack. The traffic is a pain. Especially now during Ramadan. The city’s notoriously aggressive drivers are now also tired, hungry and in no mood for such considerations as traffic lights. But once the wilting traveller has negotiated his way through the roads there is a treat waiting at Ozone.

Arrange a meeting with a charity worker, diplomat or well-to-do businessman and this is where they are likely to suggest – a funky coffee shop on a roundabout, where jazz tinkles gently in the background and a fine, cooling mist descends from a hosepipe overhead. It offers perhaps the finest carrot cake in the whole of East Africa and after a week forcing Nescafe down my throat, its coffee is something to behold. But none of this comes cheap. I may have splurged a little today after spending seven days in Darfur, but $38 for cake, coffee and a milkshake for me and a friend strikes me

No-one seems to mind though. Most of the year the shiny aluminium tables and chairs are packed with foreign aid workers, spending their per diems, or trendy, young Sudanese. At the moment it is quiet. Khartoum is two weeks into Ramadan so the only customers are Kawajas – Arabic for foreigners – tastefully shielded from sensitive eyes by green screens arranged around the open air seating area.

It is difficult as I eat my cake and sip my $4 coffee to remember that Sudan is an international pariah. My Visa card is useless here and earlier this year George W Bush stepped up sanctions against Sudanese companies in an effort to force Khartoum into ending the conflict in Darfur. One of the government’s ministers is wanted by the International Criminal Court and European companies face vigorous campaigns to pull out. But the view from Ozone suggests the supply of carrot cake and coffee is unaffected. See my story here

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