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Mostafa Badri’s Striking Portraits Capture the Harrowing Exodus of Sudanese Families Escaping a War-Ravaged Nation

Images worth a thousand words.

One month ago, fighting erupted in Sudan’s capital Khartoum– the culmination of soaring tensions between rival military leaders. This war has killed thousands and prompted one million more to flee their homes. 

29-year-old photographer Mostafa Badri, speaks of his journey from Khartoum to Cairo, a harrowing 10 day exodus depicting just one out of many displaced families. 

April 21 2023: We left our home in Khartoum, Sudan 

May 1 2023: We made it to Cairo

I arrived at my house in Sudan the day before the first attack, exactly one month ago. I went out with my friends, it was a regular day and I went home thinking I was going to wake up to just another regular morning. My father came and woke me up at around 9:00 a.m. and he told me there are intense gunshots and there is chaos happening outside. Keep in mind that it was still Ramadan, and there was no water or electricity, our street was filled with smoke, and we live right next to the airport in Khartoum. 

The bus from Khartoum to Omdurman.

It was horrifying, after the first day of attack we spent 10 days at home with no electricity or water— it would come and go but some people didn’t even have anything from the very first day everything started. I was stuck at home and I was so scared to leave. I would do the bare minimum, but thank God we had some stuff at home to survive. But to just get a loaf of bread it was petrifying.

We would see people getting beaten up on the streets,  and there were constant gunshots from day-to-night around the house. A few of the houses next to us are completely destroyed, they also demolished a bunch of schools and universities in our area. 

Bahry, Sudan. One of the biggest factories in Sudan set on fire.

Then, Eid came. This was the first time I had seen the mosque this empty. After we prayed we went back home and started to think about what we are going to do. My friends and I went on a hunt to find buses to get our families out of this. We had initially planned with a bus that he was going to come to our house and pick everyone up from there, but instead, the organizers sent us a micro-bus, which accommodated around 11 people per bus, and there were only two, and we were around 50 people. 

We filled up the first two buses with people and we stayed behind, and that was when we got attacked by a sniper– not knowing where it came from, we ran home and stayed there for around three hours until we found another bus, which took us from my house to Omdurman through Bahry. A trip that would usually take little time took hours, but we finally got to Omdurman and the bus that we were supposed to take from there, left.

Just outside of Khartoum, I came across this little girl.

We were a group of around 14 people. We had some friends in Omdurman  so we stayed at their house, and the next day we went to the bus stop to search for another bus. We finally found one at around 3:00 p.m. and we started moving towards Halfa. The journey to Halfa took us around 18-hours.

We arrived at Halfa around sunrise. They told us right away that we had to start processing our visas immediately. Each person was given out numbers, I was lucky and I was number two in line, however some people I know are still there trying to get their visas. I got my visa the next day, but I had to stay in Halfa for another four days because we couldn’t find any mode of transportation to take us to Egypt. And when I did find something, the prices for the buses were ridiculous.

On the bus from Khartoum to Halfa– passing around water for equal distribution due to the lack of it.

We ended up paying $1000 each for a bus ride, and we are a family of five— that’s $5000, plus my friends, the total bus ride was $11,000 just to take us to Egypt. In any regular situation the whole trip from Khartoum to Cairo with everyone would have cost us $1000. 

After four-days we started to move out of Halfa. Getting out of Sudan was smooth, however, the Egyptian border was extremely crowded as there was an abundance of people and the border security had to check each and every single passenger. We spent a day and a bit at the Egyptian border before we started to move towards Aswan, which took us six hours. From Aswan to Cairo was another 12 hours. The trip in total was 10 days. 10 very hard days. Ironically, I’m originally from Halfa. I’ve always wanted to go, I just never thought it would be under these circumstances. 

At the border between Sudan and Egypt, where we spent 15 hours with no food, no water, and not even bathrooms.

Surprisingly, whilst we were in Halfa, I bumped into so many people I knew. One of them was a friend that I haven’t seen since 2010, when we took our last exam. I would also like to point out how caring people were with each other. Once you arrive in Halfa, you’ll get asked three questions by everyone: Who are you with? Are your papers alright? Are you okay?  

A dukkan in Halfa.

I have a house that I’ve been renting since I had already been living in Egypt, but there are so many people arriving that are starting from scratch. They don’t know where they are going to live or how they are going to eat. We left everything we have in Sudan and came here, we have nothing in Egypt. It’s just the apartment I’ve been renting and that’s it. 

Now, we’re all looking for jobs. Me, my brother, and my father. My dad was thinking of going back to Sudan, but his office was destroyed, and everything in it got stolen.  

Everyone waiting in anticipation for their names to be called out for their visa approvals.

Egypt feels weird and foreign to me, although I have been here for a few years now. I used to be able to navigate my way around the city and its people, but this time around— I’m coming from a warzone where I was surrounded by constant gunshots, violence, and theft. Then I came here and people are just going about their days normally. I can’t help but think, how? I feel weird. As the days go by, I’m slowly trying to get back into living normally, but it’s hard.

May 1, 2023. We made it to Cairo.

I still have a lot of family back home, from aunts and uncles, and my grandpa– We still don’t know what’s going to happen to them. I just want all of this to stop, so we can go back to amending the damage that has been done in Sudan. So everything can go back to the way that it was.

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