An Ever Diminishing Wardrobe
I had been given a t-shirt in Jordan bearing a green English oak. In the West Bank, people saw it and shouted out “Lubnaan”; the resemblance to the green cedar of Lebanon’s national emblem was slight, but sufficient.
Wearing it on the ferry from Egypt, some Sudanese had commented on it, but what they said was lost on me. When I arrived in Wadi Halfa, the campaign posters for the up-coming election were everywhere, practically all for the National Congress Party (NCP), for which the incumbent president, Omar al-Bashir, is head. The increasing comments about this green tree on my chest suddenly became clear. “Bashir!” they shouted. In the corner of these party posters was printed a logo of a green, bushy tree. I was inadvertently supporting the president.
As I passed from office to office as part of the grinding immigration process, collecting stamps, and forms, signatures, and inspections, the government-employed staff showed approval of my attire. Out in the market, people were keener to criticise. As soon as I got back to my room, this t-shirt would be relegated to the bottom of my backpack. My supply of clothes was already limited, but in this political climate, I was keen to avoid any extra attention than my khawaaja status already granted me.
That evening, I met a couple of travellers coming north from Khartoum where, they explained, they had heard that somebody had been killed a few days previously for wearing a t-shirt supporting al-Bashir. My English oak would stay firmly put at the bottom of my bag…