It was one of te reasons to come the long way to Kassala: we had read that the markets are worth visiting, partly because of its proximity to the border with Eritrea, which ensures various ethnicities on the streets. Our taxi driver in Khartoum is very optimistic: when asked about the length of the bus trip, he says, it is around 600km, so it will take around 4 hours. We ended up taking more than 10 hours, and arrive when the night has already fallen over the town eastern town of Sudan. It is a little difficult to find a place to sleep, but when we are finally settled, we are located in a very good location: walking distance from the markets and the main bus station. Our first glimpse of the famous Taka Mountains is the next morning, but we first want to explore the city.
We first have some tea and coffee on a terrace overlooking the main bus station, and realize that while we have seen various parts of Sudan now, Kassala is completely different. One of the reasons is that there are various ethnicities, like the Rashaida and the Beja, and then, many people from Eritrean descent as well. We start walking around the markets, and when we ask someone where we can have the typical zalabia, the friendly guy takes us to another section of the market where we sit down on very low stools and try the donut-like breakfast food, liberally sprinkled with sugar, and take some coffee and tea, too. We end up sitting there for a long time, chatting with the invariably male customers of the tea joint, and watching the passers-by. Apart from the many locals with very different looks, we see quite a few donkeys and horses. There are the curious bikes, with a small front wheel under a platform on which heavy stuff can be loaded, and a heavy stand that can be folded and tied to the frame. It is very stable, and we even see a guy with four jerrycans of petrol, which provides the fuel for the minivans at the main bus station.
When we finally manage to stand up and walk away, we head for the fruit market, which is a great place to wander around, since the region around Kassala is supposedly the best for fruits in Sudan. From there, we walk the length of the market area. We quickly learn that it is divided into sections, which of course is quite common, but this even goes for food items. So, if you want zalabia, you have to go to one place, if you want falafel, there is another area, if you want fruit juice, you can get it at the main bus station, etcetera. There are seemingly endless streets with all kinds of food items, with clothes, with kitchenware, the specific tin coffee cans. There is a special ladies market where you can find henna, and a special wood (talih) with which women purify themselves at the eve of their wedding - and much, much more. Everywhere, you can find tea stalls where people sit down, have a tea, and chat. One of the most remarkable items for sale, are the metre-long and richly decorated Beja swords, which can be found at stalls, and occasionally worn by Beja men, too. We are often invited to have tea, and one of the nice things is that even as a foreigner, you can walk around, without ever being bothered by vendors desperately trying to sell you something. We spend much of our two days in Kassala walking around the markets, sitting down and just people-watching, and talking - and we could easily have spend more time in this pleasant town.
Around the World in 80 Clicks
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Kassala Markets (Sudan). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Kassala Markets. Read more about this site.