On a bus to Egypt with Mario the pug
Noon Abdelbassit Ibrahim, a 21-year-old medical student, and her family are among thousands to have fled Sudan – they are now safe in the Egyptian capital Cairo after a dangerous two-day journey.
They crowded into a packed bus which left Khartoum in the early hours of 20 April, travelling with friends and neighbours who spent $5,000 (£4,000) hiring the vehicle. Noon’s pug, Mario, was also with them.
But for the first few days of the rapidly escalating conflict Noon’s family hesitated to make a move.
“We thought the borders with neighbouring countries would be closed, and we could get stuck somewhere,” she has told the BBC.
Everything changed on 18 April when her family home was hit by a missile. Noon lives in Burri, the same Khartoum district where the army headquarters is located.
“Everybody just hid in my grandma’s room, so scared that we wouldn’t be that lucky again,” she says. “We all knew we couldn’t stay after that.”
Houses and businesses on Noon’s street have been hit by stray bullets. One of her mother’s acquaintances was gunned down. There has also been widespread disruption to the power and water network, as well as a shortage of food.
The bus was expensive – but worth every dollar.
“That was all the money we had with us but we were actually lucky,” says Noon. “A friend of mine had arranged to hire a bus for $8,000, but at the last minute the owner doubled the price.”
She is now staying at a relative’s apartment in the Egyptian capital and is coming to terms with the anxiety that marked the trip, fuelled by seeing destroyed tanks and dead bodies on the streets of Khartoum.
Thanks to the presence of several children and elderly people on the bus, they navigated army and paramilitary checkpoints around the capital without any problems.
“I am just so relieved we have managed to flee. I never thought we were going to make it,” Noon admits.
Her fears were increased by a scare right at the start of the trip. Her family was preparing to drive to a location where the bus was waiting when a rocket hit a building in a neighbouring street.
“We ran back inside, fearing for our lives. But a few minutes later we made the decision to just get on with the journey.”
At the Egyptian border, one of Noon’s brothers and two uncles had to stay behind to try and arrange a visa. Sudanese women, children and people over 50 do not need a visa to enter Egypt.
When the fighting erupted, Noon had already started her last year in medical school. She hopes to resume her studies at some point and qualify as a doctor. For now, she just wants her country to return to some kind of normality.
“The situation back home is chaotic. People are running out of everything,” she says.
Noon also has a message for the two military leaders driving this confrontation.
“They’ve killed enough innocent lives. There are other ways to solve the issues between them and they should put an immediate stop to this war.”
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