Since coming back to Khartoum, I’ve been meaning to pay a visit to this new Egyptian-owned cafe that has opened up just next to our old place – Star Cafe, its called – and this evening I finally persuaded a Sudanese friend of mine to join me. He brought along a lady friend of his, too.

Having finished our coffee, we decided to order a sheesha waterpipe, requesting that the flavoured tobacco be a mix of grape and mint (which sounded decidedly peculiar to me).

The waitress disappeared off to fetch one, but was shortly replaced by a stern-looking man who informed us that it was not permitted for women to smoke in this establishment.

Mohammed, my friend, later told me that the place could have problems if the police saw a woman smoking sheesha on the premises.

Although I have lived in Sudan now for over a year, and am fairly familiar with its customs, this kind of segregation still surprises me.

Mohammed, who had invited the woman for a sheesha, was terribly apologetic and embarrassed by the whole thing.


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