When I first visited Sudan, in September 2021, there was wide-scale optimism. The country was en route to democratic elections, and with planned debt relief from the I.M.F., the economy was poised to open to the world. Sudan had been lifted off the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism and had also signed the Abraham Accords, a cooperation pledge with Israel, whose signatories also included Bahrain, the U.A.E., and Morocco. This was a big deal after 30 years of sanctions and Islamist rule. A month later, all that crumbled overnight when the military took power, shattering the illusions of peace and potential prosperity.

A prominent, nonpolitically affiliated businessman had offered me an opportunity to build something in the private sector that was in line with my studies and my interests, and I decided to take it. I had majored in African studies and political economy in college, and after leaving my hedge-fund job in New York, I consulted for primarily African companies.

In early 2022, I moved to a Sudanese neighborhood in Khartoum, rather than to an expat one. I was 27 years old. My social life was split between colleagues from Western-educated Sudanese families and locals who worked on my street, with whom I shared bowls of ful (mashed fava beans) and glasses of tea in the evenings. One, from Darfur, predicted that there would soon be a huge, terrible war between the military and the R.S.F.—the Rapid Support Forces, the paramilitary group that was part of the Sudanese government, and known for their ruthlessness in Darfur in the 2000s.

I never felt in any physical danger as a Westerner in Khartoum. True, there were guns everywhere, and lots of uniforms—military, military intelligence, police, R.S.F. But if you nod and say, “Salaam alaikum” (Peace be upon you), they return the greeting.

My social life was split between colleagues from Western-educated Sudanese families and locals who worked on my street.

A few months later, I moved in with a South American woman I had fallen in love with, who worked for the United Nations. We lived on the top floor of a four-story building and could see the Nile, 300 feet to the east, and the teahouses and coffee shops, which are the backbone of the culture here. She had been in Sudan for four years and had been evacuated before. Unbeknownst to me, when our relationship began to get serious, she registered me with her U.N. organization as her dependent. Her actions very likely saved my life.

In Khartoum, terrified civilians try to flee as the foot soldiers of two rival Sudanese generals fight in the streets.

There was an R.S.F. compound 160 feet from our house. I walked by it every day, tried to act friendly to the soldiers. They have an aura that’s pretty intimidating, lounging on the back of Toyota HiLuxes mounted with 50-caliber machine guns. They wear their scarves tied under the chin. Most are from the desert near Chad.

A few weeks before the war, my girlfriend started to undergo new security training at work. Elsewhere in the country, the situation between the army and the R.S.F. was deteriorating. She was advised to have two weeks’ worth of food, water, and supplies on hand. We were taking some precautions, but in a vague, abstract way. You never expect anything’s actually going to happen, or what it would even look like, or that you would have no time to react, or that you would not be able to get out.

Otherwise, life was eerily peaceful. At the bank where I worked, there were no rumblings of danger at all. In the evenings, after dinner, we took long drives in my black Skoda. During Ramadan, it was quiet on the streets, almost dreamlike. On Friday, April 14, we went to Saha Khadra, a green park and one of my happy places. It was packed with families picnicking, lounging, laughing, kids playing tag and riding tricycles. There was no indication that the country was hours away from full-fledged war.

The next morning, we woke to the sounds of heavy artillery. We kept busy, cooking, watching Al Jazeera, engrossed in news about the airport getting blown up, hoping the story would not reach my parents in the West. Obviously it did, and we both sensed that war had finally been unleashed in Khartoum. We always had the inkling that if it did, it would be catastrophic.

On Sunday, the war came to our street, when the army bombed the R.S.F. compound next door. The air strikes lasted all day, along with the constant pop of AK-47s. The crescendo of fighter jets above our house was almost louder than the explosions themselves. The sound of incoming planes stopped time. We did not know if we were even alive.

I thought about my family, the many conversations I wanted to have with my sister and my mother. I did not permit myself to think about my father and how broken he would be if the worst were to happen. But then I would snap out of it. Allowing my mind to go in that direction would be a capitulation. I reasoned that the stronger I wanted to live, the better my chances were of living.

The sound of incoming planes stopped time. We did not know if we were even alive.

From then on, it never let up. Bullets whizzed past our windows, cracked against our house. The third day, we tried to go to the store, turned the corner, and saw R.S.F. soldiers scattered about the street. The best analogy I can make to seeing an R.S.F. fighter is like seeing a shark in the water. The effort to stay cool takes your breath away. We tried to act normal, as always. The next time I went outside, there were shiny R.S.F. pickup trucks, which looked to be straight from the factory. I gave my water bottle to a soldier who looked to be roasting in the midday sun.

After a few days, the abstract panic of bombs and gunfire became more personal and terrifying, when we heard about fighters infiltrating houses and raping women—both Sudanese and expat. I knew I would defend my girlfriend if that happened, but even our sharpest kitchen knife was pretty dull. I did my best to prepare for the knocks on the door.

Early on, the Americans let us know that non-embassy employees would be ineligible for evacuation. Through my grandparents, I have both American and E.U. passports, and I know people from both embassies. My girlfriend (whose passport is neither U.S. nor E.U.) and I committed to staying together throughout. I had a chance to leave on an E.U. evacuation, but the extraction point was risky for me to access, and there were conflicting signals about whether she could join me.

The best analogy I can make to seeing an R.S.F. fighter is like seeing a shark in the water.

We had no electricity, but we had phone data. I got a lead on a barrel of diesel for our generator, but the R.S.F. would not let me leave my neighborhood. I was calling contacts in Sudan and internationally, gathering information so we could make the best decisions.

Ultimately, I was incredibly lucky (and really thankful) to be included in the U.N. evacuation as my girlfriend’s dependent. We were told to have one small bag ready, and the waiting was tense. We had not slept since the war began, amid the nonstop shelling, gunfire, and air strikes. In the early hours of Saturday, April 22, we assembled at the local UNICEF office not far from our house, and at daybreak on the 23rd, 700 of us left Khartoum in buses and U.N. vehicles.

There are no signs of normal life in Sudan these days.

I felt a huge sense of freedom because the convoy was much bigger than I’d expected, and it was clear that there was going to be strength in numbers. I was also unbearably sad. I could see the destruction. I could see the people left behind, with no hope, watching the buses leave. I wondered what would become of them. I felt and still do feel guilty that I could get out and most of them could not. An acquaintance, an entrepreneurial guy in the neighborhood, was soon opening a gym that I planned to join. He had leveraged his whole life to import all this expensive exercise equipment and was so excited about it. As we were driving out, I saw that his gym had been destroyed.

The U.N. vehicles were marked, and we had heard about dangers on the road—ambushes, lootings, Mad Max scenarios. All of us on the bus were exhausted and on edge, trying to balance the feeling of relief with the fear that, maybe, we were not yet in the clear. It was 110 degrees outside, and we ate mainly biscuits and dates. The first leg from Khartoum to Atbara, on the eastern shore of the Nile, was controlled by R.S.F. We had several checkpoints, but they were relatively quick, and the convoy felt secure. After that, the eastern part of the country was controlled by the military. The whole journey took 32 hours.

We were assigned hotels in Port Sudan on the Red Sea, men separate from women. I looked up a friend, a geologist and really smart guy. The last time I saw him, he had been so hopeful, as I planned to hire his company as a contractor. I gave him all my Sudanese pounds—about $80.

We remained in Port Sudan for four days. U.N. personnel were getting evacuated in batches—women, families, children. As the days passed, there was a creeping sense of desperation. I was nervous that the war could escalate and move east. Evacuees were arriving by the thousands. Khartoum is symbolic, but who cares about the presidential palace? Whoever controls the port controls the lifeblood of Sudan. The first day, I heard heavy gunfire, which turned out not to be the war but massive prison riots. We feared they would release the prisoners like they had in Khartoum.

Exactly two weeks after the war broke out, we finally boarded a crowded ship for the 20-hour crossing to Jeddah. Arriving there, safe at last, we were greeted with flowers, goody bags, embassy personnel, really clean buses. A red carpet was laid out for us.

It’s a huge question, what fate will hold for the Sudanese people. Inflation is rising, fuel is at more than $200 a gallon, and no one is making money. They have been through many ups and downs in their lives. These are dark and violent times. There are 45 million people, and I’m worried sick about the many I care deeply about. I hope to go back one day, finish the work I started, and re-unite over coffee on the Nile.

Peter Mennin is an economic consultant who, until recently, was based in Khartoum