From Colonial Times
Much of the architecture of the University of Khartoum resembles a Sudanese take on an Oxford college, having been built by the British under their colonial rule in 1902.
It seemed slightly ironic that I, as a subject of Her Majesty, should be here in the University of Khartoum now speaking the Gallic language to a group of its students.
Hidden in a wing of one of the smaller libraries are some books that date from the British rule; I couldn’t help but wonder if people knew exactly what was amongst the stacks here. Would titles such as Romance in India be now banned? And surely, some of these historical pieces would fetch several guineas now, such as old illustrations from the Bonaparte era.
Skimming through some titles pertaining to the Middle East, the world has changed quite a bit since Wilber’s Iran, Past and Present, and the Earl of Cromer’s Modern Egypt makes no mention of Mubarak.
Upstairs in the main library, I had a more modern cultural lesson. The library is split into two wings, males segregated from females, presumably to prevent any improper thoughts or temptations. As I sat working amongst the studious menfolk, a wrap at the barred window made me look up. A veiled girl stood outside, beckoning me over. She slipped me a note, told me to read it, to call her, and promptly disappeared.
Esfahani memories of Iranian dating initiation flooded my mind, whereby a girl discretely slips her number to a guy she likes the look of whilst leaving a café. The onus is then on the aforementioned subject of this wooing to phone her and arrange a sequestered rendezvous.
Was this note, which ostensibly showed an interest in my mother tongue* from a purely linguistic point of view, hiding such covert connotations? Only a phone-call would tell…
* And how did she know I was English?