December 15, 2008

I Actually Have Faith In Humanity

Beer is returning to Sudan.

Entrepreneurs on bicycles would ride the rutted roads to Uganda, bringing back as many crates of alcohol as they could carry. Today restaurants in Juba offer wines, beers and spirits.

Finding alcohol in northern Sudan, however, remains difficult, though not impossible. In colonial times, British officers would sip pink gins or mugs of Camel beer in Khartoum's network of members-only clubs.

These, along with the British-built Blue Nile Brewery that produced Camel in Khartoum, dried up with the arrival of Sharia.

In recent years one restaurant in Khartoum became famous for serving beer in teapots — one just had to know to order the “special tea”.

Another establishment offered imported Tusker lager from Kenya; waiters would discreetly ask whether any Sudanese would be joining the table, before placing an empty bottle of alcohol-free lager on the table next to a full glass of the real thing.

Even these places have gone dry in the past two years and Westerners now have to rely on contacts at embassies or the UN, who are legally entitled to bring alcohol into the country.

The new brewery in Juba is expected to be up and running by February, taking water from the White Nile and producing soft drinks as well as the first Sudanese beer for many years.

David Raad, an advisor to SAB Miller, said: “The recipe is still being worked on but the market here prefers a lighter, crisper beer — a lager.”

South Sudan was left chronically underdeveloped by the civil war. Three years of peace has begun to change that, with new schools, hospitals and roads, but much of Juba is still given over to tent cities, where aid workers, businessmen and diplomats live and work while waiting for more permanent structures to be built.

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