Author: Muhammad

Muhammad was born and raised in Sudan.

He is a cyclist, an engineer, a graphic designer and a traveller. He is studying MSc Sustainable Energy Systems at The University of Edinburgh and passionate about providing energy access to those who lack it. Moving from Sudan to Scotland and becoming a MasterCard Foundation scholar were milestones in his personal and academic journey. Before coming to Edinburgh, and always loving to try something new, he was trying a different career path in a graduate programme at DAL Group, a leading company in Sudan, for 2 years, where he worked in business development and strategic planning and was also involved in many corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaigns.

He is a social activist and loves to create short films; he is one of the co-founders of "Ne7na Group", in Sudan, which aims to portrait main issues in Sudan (racism, sexism, violence, etc.) and to raise awareness about them through short films and sketches.

Also, he loves to walk, listen to music, smile, and mostly, to discuss everything.

Firbush – 2016

A year ago, Jo took this photo.

It was chilly and cold but cosy for a reason I couldn’t tell. Few early birds were flying to start their daily journey, and water was moving so slow that it seemed to not have woken up yet. It was a bit foggy that you can’t see far, but you could clearly see the snow at the tip of the mountains, timidly covering them, is if it was kissing them, fearing to leave them as soon as the sun comes up.

I woke up early to watch the sunrise, as it was one of the things I’ve always wanted to do, to watch the sunrise at such sincere place, away from all the city noise.

I remember it well because it was one of the mornings when I got a chance to reflect on what I’m doing, to think about where I’m heading and why I’m doing everything I was doing. And the tea I was having was so good as well.

I was lucky to join Jo for tea that morning, didn’t expect anyone would wake up this early. But, she was there, even before me I guess. I managed to have a lovely chat that I’ll always remember.

I’m writing this now as a reminder to myself first, and to you all as well. Make your journey in Edinburgh a memorable one. Create as many memories as you can. Do as many new things as you can; volunteer; learn something new; do something different; start a new habit; etc. Try to never regret not doing something, to never regret missing a chance.

Also, most importantly, always assess yourself, think about how is everything is going until today, and what would you want to do differently with rest of your journey to come.

You won’t regret it, and you’d definitely be pleased with yourself once this is all over.
Because, for me, I’m definitely happy with my year in Edinburgh, and luckily, I don’t regret something I didn’t do.

Photo credit for Jo for sure.
Best tea companion I could ask for in such beautiful place.

After winter comes spring

Everything around her is dim, she feels as if she is gliding in a space that knows no dimension. Yet, she feels safe. She is familiar with the warmth granted to her from that place, she is happy wherever she is, now.
Her days resemble night and noon. She stopped counting her Thursdays, her Saturdays. Time passes by, she is caught up in a tangle of thoughts and questions. Is she alone in this world? Why isn’t she afraid floating in unexplainable space with no purpose?
One day while she was grasping the core of her thoughts, questioning her own existence, a foreign yet soft sound startled her silence.

“Hello, Lola” Mike said with loving eyes.
“Good morning love” Lola softly replied.
“Today is the day” he noted.
“I hope so” she said.
They kept on talking and headed to their four wheel vehicle. He rushed gracefully to open the door to her seat, the way he always does, she smiled and thanked him, he got to his seat and started driving.

Their conversation continued, getting deeper and deeper. He told her he still doesn’t believe that she is his wife, that sometimes he thinks all of this is just a beautiful dream and that when he wakes up in the morning he keeps his eyelids closed a little longer from the fear that she might have disappeared from beside him.

She was astonished, it didn’t occur to her that she could hear or see anything but silence and darkness.
Lights suddenly emerged extracting her from wherever she is, getting brighter by the second. She tried to repel it with all of her strength, there is nothing she can hang on to, she felt helpless as the light grew stronger until it swallowed her.

She laid on the hospital’s bed terrified and shivering, the moment the doctor appeared to examine her she went into labor. The doctor called out for the nurses immediately and then called Mike.
He gripped her hand and said to her “at last, God is granting us the gift we both so longed for, a baby”
-“Push!” The nurse cried-
“Push my love” said Mike.

“Why is the light closing in on me? Why is it pulling me? Is it the end? Is it my end? I don’t wish to leave this place.“ But then the light captured her. She closed her eyes, assured that it was over, there was no escape.
She opened her eyes and found a weird creature clenching on her “Leave me go! Leave me!” she screamed. “Take me back to where I belong.”

“It’s a girl” the nurse said holding the little infant. As soon as she said that the baby started crying. Marking its own existence in this world. Mike smiled and held her between his hands “she looks like you.”
Lola grinned and stretched her arms to her daughter. She held her as gently as anything fragile is held and stared at her rapturously with love.
“She has your eyes “ Mike chuckled.
She didn’t answer him, he looked at her and found her eyes closed and her head tilting to her right.
He screamed yelling for the doctor to come help. He found himself outside the operation room all of a sudden holding his baby girl worried and looking at his wife across the glass window unaware of what was happening.
“I’m sorry sir, we did all we could to save her, but she’s gone.Sorry for your loss”
He couldn’t believe what the nurse told him, he kept on looking at the image in front of him–Lola, his life partner, laying there without any life in her with a faint smile on her lips.

Weeks passed, Mike loss interest in sleep. Whenever he remembers her he gets stuck in a lasting hurricane of sadness. Sometimes he sobs himself to sleep, but his daughter Ann’s cries wake him up. Ann, the name they both agreed on. It feels like she’s telling him no more sleep after today.
Every time he looks at his daughter he is showered with these frightening and scary emotions, accusing her of killing her mother, but then again he can’t deny that she is all that is left from her mother he sees her soul within her little eyes.

Here I am darkness, again, but why isn’t it making me feel safe? Why does feel so.. lonely? I’m bored.
She cried for anyone to come and play with her and Mike came holding her wandering with his gazes at her.
“Why are your eyes full of tears? Yet you smile at me? What is the matter?”

One day Mike sat in his office at home looking at a picture taken of him and Lola on their honeymoon. Their photos usually show one of them posing at the camera while the one of them looks towards the other. In this photo Lola was looking at him.
After staring for hours at the photo he decided to write. After all, he heard that writing helps with soothing any pain a person endures.
“Dear Lola,
Forty-three days have passed since you’ve been gone, I still can’t believe that you aren’t here. I believed that we’d live in our world forever, grow grey together until none of us is capable of moving without the other. Here I am writing, setting the pain aside, freeing pieces of it from me, pieces in exchange for some sleep. I haven’t rested since that dreadful day.
My noon is night, I don’t care anymore. I’m still caught up with the fact that you’re gone. Gone? Even the word is heavy for me to speak, yet alone think.
I went to visit the Pope at church. Yes, I know how weird this may sound; me at the church although refusing to go there many times with you. He told me that even if time takes forever, souls will reunite someday.
I didn’t believe him but I kept on visiting him every day. Hearing I might meet you again eases the ache in my heart.
I’ve thought numerous times of ending my life even if we may not meet again I cannot bear another day without you.

Every day I place my head on your pillow I smell the scent of your hair, I start remembering the day we first met, I remember it perfectly, do you remember? In college? We met spontaneously, I remember smiling for no reason when my eyes first laid sight upon you. Days passed and I tried to get to know you, doing so I was sure it was you I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Five years passed and we would meet everyday. Yes, we’ve had our differences, but we would always make it right for the both of us and we finished college together.. Remember when you had to leave the country with your family? I prayed to God your family will somehow find a reason to stay here.
I still remember the day you called to tell me you were not leaving.
I cried out of joy that day, then months passed and we had our wedding on your birthday. You said you wanted it to be the most beautiful gift I could ever give you and here I am looking at our photo at the beach…”
Mike stopped writing when he heard Ann cry He rushed to her room, opened the door and held her gently looking at her crying. It felt as if he was looking at Lola. He realized that it was Ann that was keeping him from committing suicide.

The last memory of his wife, she shouldn’t be blamed, she only met her mother for a few minutes, she shouldn’t lose her father as well. He embraced his little girl to his chest and his tears filled his face.
__

One Tuesday, when the sun was tickling the tops of trees behind the clouds, and the trees bend with every woof of a breeze…
Winter is conquering every place without snow, December is the coldest of all seasons..
A little girl wearing a red scarf and a pair of red boots with a red coat around her, she looks gorgeous!
A man in his forties is carrying her on his shoulders near his head that seems to have a little grey on it.

She is playing with his ears, holding a drawing beneath her arm. They stopped and he placed her from his shoulders to the ground…
He stood still for a while, staring at what was in front of him. They left the drawing on top of a grave full of fading flowers. The father smiled to his young daughter telling her it’s time to go.
“Ok papa” she said.
They both directed towards the car. His steps uneven not sure if he wanted to leave the place yet, her small hands holding her father. Suddenly she let go of him and ran to the grave kissing the small arch built on it with her mother’s name
“Hello Mama, I’ve missed you. Today papa and I came to you with a drawing that has all three of us in it. Papa has a copy of it in his room. He told me he very much loves it, so we brought it for you as well.”

“I love you Mama.. Goodbye.”

Edinburgh 101

Spending 3 months here I feel that I know my ways around, and I can consider this my city.
So let me give you few pieces of advice on how to settle in here.

Before you get here you need to secure an accommodation as not to spend your first days here hustling around looking for flats and dorms, I’d strongly suggest you get a room in Holyrood North. Although many argue that it’s best to get a flat on your own as you would have bigger room/space, yet Uni accommodation has a lot to offer. Starting with all bills included: Gas, Electricity and WiFi, to the weekly cleaning (bathroom only) to the other facilities they offer. But, I would specifically recommend Holyrood North, as it’s quite new, although the room is averagely small (bigger room would be much much appreciated but it’s relatively okay compared with other accommodations, it has HUGE common room (2 to be more accurate) and a huge shared kitchen, but most importantly, you can always meet someone new and chat. Over 400 students live there. It’s located in the central area, basically near to everything. And btw, each floor has its own common room, and yes, btw again, there are 3 music rooms!

So, you’ve settled down and have a room, you need to have a way to move around the city, for me, I got a bike as I love cycling, and the city is cycling-friendly. But the main advice is: YOU CAN ALWAYS WALK. Nothing is quite far in the central area around the uni so if you wanna stay healthy walk, and if you want to be healthy AND cool; get a bike.
If you are lazy and don’t want to walk a lot, don’t worry, the busses are everywhere! It cost £1.6 per journey or £4 per day, and if you are planning to move a lot or take the buses on daily basis, you can get a monthly pass for £40 a month, quite a good deal, ha?
Also, £30 can get you a train card which gives you 30% discount on every train ticket you get for 1 year! Make sure to get it if you want to travel around the UK.
Oh yes, remember, Google maps is your best friend here. It knows everything and can give you bus times, let you know whether the place you are heading to is open or closed, and the best route to use.

Now you need to open a bank account, to be able to buy stuff! Your accommodation will give you a letter to prove your address and you have lots of options to go to, the closest one will be Santander as it’s located in George Sq. but I’d recommend using Bank of Scotland (not the royal bank). Why? Because they basically don’t charge you for the account and they give you a contactless visa card (Santander won’t give you this) and you can use it for Android Pay and Apple Pay (Santander will charge you for this).
You’ll need your: Passport, BRP, Bank letter from Accommodation (these 3 you should always have them with you whenever you want to open something or buy something with contract)

Then you need a sim card! True, WiFis are everywhere but you still need the data connection, for google maps maybe? For myself I believe “Three” give a quite good deal but they are all the same, just think of what you want to do with the sim (Data? Calls? Texts?) remember you can always use WhatsApp for calls and text, so look for the cheapest operator that offers good data plan. Remember to take your bank card along with the stuff mentioned above.
On a later stage, you’ve sorted out all of the above, you need to go shopping! You need lots of winter jackets, thermals, boots, ..etc and the place to go to is….? PRIMARK. Located on Prince street, the cheapest store you can find, they have everything, literally, everything with very competitive prices, so if the brand doesn’t matter a lot for you, you just need something that looks nice and does the job, that’s the place to go to.

Now, you are officially settled down and spending your money well (not so well maybe) you can finally enjoy the city and move around! lots of places to see and go to, I’ll mention the free ones: Arthur seat is a must (sunrise or sunset?), Calton Hill, Portobello beach, The Royal Mile and all of the museums (90% of them are free entry). Just remember there is always something new to see/do in Edinburgh.

That’s the end of this post! Remember to have fun, and yes, study from time to time.

Dreams do come true

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You might be wondering what does this photo says, so let me translate for you. It says: “For each hard-worker a share.”

A year ago, I wouldn’t believe that I’ll be here today. Busy working on the end of year reports, deadlines approaching for scholarships with no time to apply, got frustrated from the tonnes of rejection emails I received since I graduated telling me how competitive the selection process is and wishing me good luck.

But, here I’m. One step closer to achieving my dream.

I still remember the day that Johanna called me, 23rd of June 2016, 5:33 p.m., I was preparing for a phone interview with many A4 papers in my hand as I wrote down some question and answers I thought that I’ll be asked! I anxiously answered the phone, “Hello”, “Hiii! is this Muhammad?” asked Jo, “Yes!” I replied, “How are you?” “I’m good alHamdulillah” I was so nervous that I didn’t even realised that I replied with an Arabic word! then she said: “I just called you to tell you that you have been accepted in the MasterCard Foundation scholarship! and we hope to see you next September”. Time froze at that moment and too many questions and thoughts were in my head, did she just say that I was accepted? Am I dreaming? Is this happening? and to be honest, I can’t remember exactly what I said or she said, but I think she repeated her words to confirm! then after saying thank you! she hanged up!

I didn’t tell my family right away, I needed to confirm what happened by receiving an official email from Jo!

It was Ramadan back then, and I was fasting, so when we gathered up to eat at night, I finally told my family, haha! after confirming with Jo’s email and offer letter.

When I look back in time, I’m actually happy for all the rejection emails I got. They only made me more determinant in what I want to study, and how to prove that I deserve a chance ti study it. And it also taught me that good things happen to those who work hard for them! that you can’t just quit after 1,2 or 5 tries. You need to keep trying, which is really widened my perspective and gave me the courage to fight any difficulty that I might face. Because, after all, Dreams do come true.