A young Dutch woman (1966) travels to the capital city of Sudan in 1995, after she had worked a short time at the Dutch embassy in the Egyptian capital Cairo. After her studies in Near Eastern languages and cultures at a Dutch university she is now ready for her next job. She will work at the office of UNICEF in Khartum. From that moment on her life is divided two, maybe even three parts.

One part is her life at the office and her journeys to other parts of the country, even to the most southern parts of it. Areas that were involved in a civil war. In the midst of violence and political rivalries she tries to help in emergency situations. Trying to help local teachers, trying to get funds for school buildings, trying to move pencils from warehouses to classrooms, trying to get on with her colleguaes and politicians in far flung areas.

The second part of her life is located in the capital city. Her she meets people from other organizations, people who work at international companies, who work at embassies. She moves form one cocktail party to another lunch or diner. The next moment you will find her at the swimming pool, where she realizes the enormous gap between her job and her out-of-office hours. People try get postings at better places than Khartum. This town is just a stepping stone in a career.

The third part is her love life. At the beginning of this book she is engaged to Benjamin, who studies in London. He comes to visit her, but she notices that they have drifted apart, but still they get on to get married. It is as if Khartum stands between Benjamin and Miriam. There has grown a culture gap. When Miriam decides to prolong her stint in this country, it becomes clear that the end of their marriage is near. During her partying and lunching and dining she meets an Italian diplomat, named Lino. Now Miriam and Lino get on very well, and in the end Miriam gets pregnant, and in late 1997 they get married.

The book has been written in a style that makes reading this book easy. Do not expect a thorough literary style, but a style that shows a western woman in a different culture and one who tries to survive in a different world.

The title of this autobiography reads like ‘Longing for Khartum. By the time of publication she lived in Italy with her husband and son and she worked as a translator.

Miriam Meekels
Verlangen naar Khartoem.
Leven en liefde van een hulpverleenster in Soedan
uitgeverij Arena 2002

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I enjoy reading about Africa. New books. Old books. By African writers. By non-African writers. Novel. History. Travel. Biographies. Autobiographies. Politics. Colonialism. Poetry.

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