Waiting for a Saturday that never came

March 14, 2024

A year into the conflict, Sudan has one of the largest displacement crises in the world. Some 10 million people have been forced to flee their homes

Photo: Postcards from Khartoum/Ala Kheir

The taxi driver jokes, “Did you manage to bring along any of your expensive jewelry?”

“No, I left with nothing,” I reply.

“Only a few pieces of clothes?”

“I left with nothing.”

“Not even your important documents? Birth certificate?”

“No,” I repeat. “I came with nothing but my passport.”

He continues to laugh.


“I was running for my life.”

There are days I can make light of the situation, laugh along about how I have not spent more than two months in one place for a year –  make light because there are places to be and a life to be rebuilt. 

Today was not one of them. Today was my second week in the fifth country I found myself in with no familiar face, only a shared continent to remind me that we too, came from a place before.

Displaced families gather near the border between Sudan and South Sudan.

Photo: Postcards from Khartoum/Ammar Yassir

Today, Ramadan is here again.

It’s here, and I find it hard to wrap my head around it. How is it Ramadan when we are still mentally trapped in Ramadan of last year? When I am still under a table for cover and away from the windows, waiting for a Saturday that never came? 

What was once spent as time preparing for this holy month to arrive was instead spent by millions in fear and uncertainty of what the future holds.

Millions who when the sun sets, will not gather and break their fast with loved ones this time. Instead, some will mourn who they’ve lost, others will spend it looking for hospitals to take them in as the health system all but collapses. Some will not afford their meals, others will spend it by a border. 

And some, will simply not make it until then.

Photo: Jood Ahmed

Today, I think of how my family is scattered across continents. I think of my father, who spent six decades in foreign lands, swallowing every “go back to your own country” so he could one day return to his own land. How it would all be worth it to someday look around at what he built – to finally rest. 

I think of how he now has nothing to show for it but the lines on his face.

I think of the house my grandfather built with his own hands. How it stood tall for over 60 years. I think of the night the walls shook, how I wanted to send my friend a lifetime worth of words, but all my fingers could muster was an “I don’t know if we’ll make it.”

I think of the day the bullets made their way inside and we knew it was time to leave. 

I think of my mother, tears on her face, tracing the walls with her hands as we left, and I wonder if my grandfather whispered to her from his grave that this would be the last time she sees it. 

I think of the look on her face and how in that moment my mother was no longer my mother, but my grandparents’ little daughter. How naive it was to rush her and reduce that look to terror when it was the eyes of someone bidding their childhood away and trying to eulogize a sense of belonging – as if you could rush a lifetime out the door. 

A Sudanese man stands in what is left of his home

Photo: Postcards from Khartoum/Faiz Abubakr

Today, I think of how I’m one of the lucky ones. I think of the millions still trying to escape or make ends meet. I think of the ones who choose to stay because to leave all that they know and worked for kills them in ways more painful than a bullet will.

There are now over 10 million displaced Sudanese people. That’s 10 million of us who have had to uproot our lives. 10 million who now carry the weight of rebuilding a life in impossible circumstances.

Every minute, 17 people are displaced. 


Every day, I read that my country is now home to the largest internal displacement crisis in the world. Every day, I also read that it is now a “Forgotten War” – to have these two simultaneously true is not a contradiction that is lost on me. If a crisis of this magnitude is failing to be heard, then the world has immensely failed us.

I urge the world to keep eyes on Sudan. With the recent Telecom restrictions, this is now more important than ever. People are unable to reach loved ones, unable to access banking and mobile money – unable to tell the rest of the world what’s happening. We have to speak on their behalf. We have to make sure the world doesn’t turn its eye.

We need humanitarian support to keep those on the brink of death alive. We need development support to rebuild all that was destroyed. Working in this field, I am aware of the limitations. I know that support can’t reach those it is meant for without provision of safe corridors, and ultimately, without an end to the conflict.

One of the last remaining hospitals in Khartoum

Photo: Postcards from Khartoum/Islam Bushra

We have the will, and we have the determination, but we can’t do this alone.

The people of Sudan need the international community to get behind us, to push for an end to the conflict, and support us to start again. 

As Ramadan arrives again, I find it hard to believe that what we thought would last for a few days has gone on for so long. There is an unbearable void now stitched in all of us. One we are all struggling to articulate. It is impossible loss. It is grief for what has been and what will come. Much has been written about war and the pains of leaving a homeland – it is both all these words and none at all. 

Even in the darkest days, I know the day will come when we will rebuild it all. We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again. We are revolutionaries at heart and have always been masters of resilience. And when that time comes we will need people who see us beyond numbers. We are more than statistics and headlines.

Until that time comes, we need the world to listen and to get behind us.