Port Sudan, the Red Sea refuge for many fleeing Sudan's violence

People fleeing Khartoum are finding respite in Port Sudan – whether they choose to ultimately leave Sudan or stay.

People seek shade in makeshift camps in Port Sudan
People seek shade in makeshift camps in Port Sudan [Ahmad Mahmoud/Al Jazeera]
People seek shade where they are camped in Port Sudan [Ahmad Mahmoud/Al Jazeera]

Port Sudan, Sudan - With the ease of someone who has done this many times, Mohamed stacks falafel, fresh-cut vegetables, then french fries onto pita bread, adding sauces and a sprinkle of salt before swiftly wrapping it all in white parchment paper.

The Red Sea glimmers blue behind him, and Mohamed, who did not want to share his last name, assembles the sandwiches with a smile, despite the heat and his circumstances.

The Syrian man fled Sudan’s capital Khartoum in recent days with his wife and children, just two years after the family fled their hometown of Hama, a west-central city in Syria.

Mohamed left behind an air conditioning shop in Khartoum to retreat to the safety of Port Sudan after fighting broke out between the Sudanese army and its rival paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in Khartoum on April 15.

Despite past broken truces, the warring sides have agreed to a weeklong ceasefire starting on Thursday, in efforts to ease the deadly conflict that has so far killed some 550 people, injured another 4,926, and displaced some 330,000.

As Port Sudan swells with Sudanese and foreigners hoping to escape the conflict-struck country, Mohamed is selling falafel to be able to afford the city’s soaring rents.

“This job I’m doing now is just something to make sure we have food on the table,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Daily rent is 20,000 [Sudanese] pounds (about $34) - no one can pay that,” Mohamed added. “So we had to start working.”

Still, Mohamed serves anyone who wants his sandwiches, even if they don’t have money.

Other Syrian refugees are making money by offering services such as haircuts or selling cigarettes.

Syrian refugees in Sudan cut hair in Port Sudan to make money
Syrian refugees in Sudan cut hair in Port Sudan to make money [Ahmad Mahmoud/Al Jazeera]

Unlike many who have travelled to Port Sudan to be evacuated out of the country by boat, Mohamed doesn’t want to leave Sudan – and certainly not for Syria.

About 200 Syrians have been evacuated since the crisis began, including 35 on Friday on a vessel bound for Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

“I have to wait and just pray that things calm down in Sudan so we can go back [to Khartoum]. Or I’ll stay here and open an air conditioning shop in Port Sudan,” he said.

Source: Al Jazeera