Khartoum, the capital of Sudan and located where the blue and white Niles greet each other and travel northwards towards Egypt and the Mediterranean.  With a population of over 5 million the city is friendly and very manageable.

Khartoum traffic chaos
Khartoum traffic chaos

I spent Christmas and New year in Khartoum. One Friday I decided to do some siteseeing. First stop was to be Osama Bin Ladens old home.

Osama Bin Ladens old home.
Osama Bin Ladens old home.

Located in the wealthy Khartoum district of Al Riyadh, Bin Laden lived here between 1991 and 1996. He lived here with his four wives, four sons and one daughter. It is said whilst Bin Laden was in Sudan, he was involved in experimental farming. Apparently, Bin Ladens farms employed thousands of people. The farms grew white corn, sesame, soybeans, sorghum, and peanuts and also cattle and horses. After investing millions into Sudan and building roads, apparently Bin Laden left the country due to his dismay with the political developments of the country.

The land of the Al Shifa factory bombed by the U.S in 1998
The land of the Al Shifa factory bombed by the U.S in 1998

My next stop on the Khartoum unofficial tourist trail was the Al Shifa medical factory that was bombed in August 1998 on the orders of Bill Clinton. At the time of the bombing, the factory was producing anti-malaria drugs and not nerve gas that Clinton claimed it was producing. There was no evidence of chemical warfare production when 14  cruise missiles destroyed the factory and killed hundreds of innocent people.

The confluence of the white and blue Niles- Khartoum
The confluence of the white and blue Niles- Khartoum

Next stop was the confluence of the two Niles, white and blue. The taxi took me to Tuti Island where I walked to the islands northern tip, passing through fields and boys making mud bricks.

Boy making mud bricks
Boy making mud bricks

Leaving Tuti Island I headed over to Omdurman to watch some Sufi dancing, the highlight of Sudan for me.

Sufi dancing Khartoum
Sufi dancing Khartoum

Outside the Hamid Al-Nil mosque, a crowd of around 400 people with a few western tourists, gathered to watch the dervishes of Sufism perform the ritual of zikr.

Sufi dancing - Every Friday in Omdurman
Sufi dancing – Every Friday in Omdurman

Drums beat, feet stomp, the air grows thick as the hum of the chanting grows steadily louder.

A Sufi practitioner - Sudan
A Sufi practitioner – Sudan

Dust begins to rise along with clouds of incense smoke as the practitioners dressed in patchwork robes of green, red and gold begin to swirl into the night.

Sufi dancing - Sudan
Sufi dancing – Sudan

The followers of Sufism are known for there tranquility and a desire to avoid confrontation.  The al-Qadiriya al-Arkiya sect of Sufism based here in Khartoum believe that Sufism is a philosophical discipline that governs all aspects of life, with its  principal foundation coming from Islam.

A Sufi man wearing a patchwork robe
A Sufi man wearing a patchwork robe

The spectacle starts around 4pm every Friday and ends with the sun setting by which time many of the participants are in a trance like state. The ritual performance felt like a blend of African and Arab cultures and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Khartoum.

Sufi man from Khartoum
Sufi man from Khartoum

I spent another week in Khartoum doing lots of stretching exercises and eating good food. Due to the current situation in Syria, many of the restaurants I frequented were run by Syrians. They were very friendly and the food was tasty and cheap.

Men gathering at the YHA to sing to the sound of the Oud instrument
Men gathering at the YHA to sing to the sound of the Oud instrument

Every Saturday at the YHA, a group of local men gather to play and sing along to the sound of the Oud instrument.

Sudan man playing the Oud
Sudan man playing the Oud

In the Arab world, the Oud is considered the ‘king of instruments’. The instrument has a pear shaped body with a fretless neck. Most Western stringed instruments descend from the Oud.

The roots of the Oud date back 3500 years to Persia where is was called a Barbat
The roots of the Oud date back 3500 years to Persia where it was called a Barbat

My last Friday in Khartoum, I decided I would visit the Nuba wrestling on the other side of the city. I went with a lovely couple from Malaysia who are travelling the world on a BMW motorbike. They are both retired and mad as a box of frogs. My kind of people.

Wong and his wife travelling the world on a BMW motorbike
Wong and his wife travelling the world on a BMW motorbike

Enroute to the wrestling, we noticed a group had gathered by the side of the road. Women were dancing and wearing lovely colourful dresses and a handful of men were playing instruments.

Local drum - Sudan
Local drum – Sudan

We walked over and were informed a wedding was taking place.

Sudanese bridesmaids
Sudanese bridesmaids

The locals warmed towards us, encouraging us to take photos. The women clapped and swayed to the beat, as the men, dressed in white, danced in a circle.

The bride - Khartoum wedding
The bride – Khartoum wedding

At different times, individual women would step forward and do a kind of Bez dance from the Happy Mondays.

A Sudan woman dancing at a wedding - Khartoum
A Sudan woman dancing at a wedding – Khartoum

It was all very vibrant and friendly.  No airs or graces, no fancy food nor big stretch limos. Everyone was having a ball.

Good luck to the bride!!
Good luck to the bride!!

From the wedding,  a nice man kindly offered to take us the remaining 2km to the Nuba wrestling stadium.

Nuba wrestling - Khartoum
Nuba wrestling – Khartoum

We arrived at the stadium and it was packed to the rafters. We paid a 15sdp entrance fee and granted a front row view.

Sudan men watching the wrestling
Sudan men watching the wrestling

Nuba wrestling is the national sport of Sudan. Big Nuba men covered in ash and dust, circle each other with the aim of toppling his opponent. It didn’t happen often in the many bouts I witnessed, but when a wrestler was successful, the crowd went crazy.

Nuba wrestlers. One is known as ‘Fat Tiger’ another is known as ‘influenza’ and is 7ft tall
Nuba wrestlers. One is known as ‘Fat Tiger’ another is known as ‘influenza’ and is 7ft tall

Each bout lasted approximately 4 minutes. In some bouts the wrestlers did nothing more than look each other. When a wrestler did manage to flex his muscles and win a bout, a member from the crowd adored the champion with bank notes.

A young Sudanese wrestling fan
A young Sudanese wrestling fan

Even though the sport is popular in the country, outside the ring, a dark reality exists for the Nuba people. The Nuba Mountains, 500km south of Khartoum have been at the centre of a civil war between the Sudan Arab government and Nubian Rebels.

Nubian wrestler - Khartoum
Nubian wrestler – Khartoum

The Sudan government have been accused of ethnic cleansing the Nuba people by bombing hospitals, schools, homes and markets. Many of the Nuba tribe have fled to South Sudan and Ethiopia. The Nubians who have remained in Khartoum believe they are treated as second class citizens and suffer from racial prejudices by the lighter skinned Arab establishment.

Wrestling fanatics - Khartoum
Wrestling fanatics – Khartoum

For centuries,  the dark skinned Nuba people served as slaves for the Arabs in Sudan.   Over time, in this unnatural modern complex hierarchy society we live in today, the Nuba people find themselves at the bottom of the ladder.

Sudanese
Sudanese

From Wadi Halfa to Khartoum it is 900km of desert cycling. Every kilometre there is a marker counting down the kms, physcological warfare.

The road to Khartoum from Wadi Halfa
The road to Khartoum from Wadi Halfa

The road is in good condition. Not much traffic and facilities are sparse.

Lots of dead cows lined the road
Lots of dead cows lined the road

The landscape was rocky with sandy dunes drifting as far as the eye could see, unforgiving  for most of the journey.

Quiet desert road, Northern Sudan
Quiet desert road, Northern Sudan

This area of Sudan receives virtually no rainfall and the locals survive by living on a strip of habitable land that is no more than two kilometres wide along either side of the River Nile.

Ful beans - Sudan’s favourite dish
Ful beans – Sudan’s favourite dish

The most common meal I found on my journey to Khartoum was Ful. An uncomplicated meal of brown beans stewed in a large metal cauldron pot for hours on end.  Sprinkled with spices, a squirt of oil and some bread it was bland and not very inspiring.

Desert landscape - North Sudan
Desert landscape – North Sudan

Falafel or as it is called in Sudan Taamiya can be found in some roadside establishments. Served in bread rolls without salad  or yoghurt, I found it a bit dry but it was, once again, a safe option.

Taking shade - North Sudan
Water pots and taking shade – North Sudan

Being so hot in the desert, local water, pumped straight from the Nile can be found in clay pots every so often along the route. The locals drink this water, but with flies swimming or washing in the water I didn’t taste it. Sometimes I would wash or use this water to cool my head. Midday temperatures where off the scale and I would rest for a few hours each day in the shade.

The landscape was beautiful at times - North Sudan
The landscape was beautiful at times – North Sudan

From Wadi Halfa to Delgo the wind came at me from the side. From Delgo I had a tailwind like I’ve never experienced before. Some days I had ridden 100km before 11am. Sand was being blown across the road making it dangerous at times.

Truck driver - North Sudan
Truck driver – North Sudan

I met plenty of locals on the road and in the villages. Mining for gold and iron ore is big in this area of Sudan and you can see the prospectors hard at work from the roadside.

Nubian desert tree
Nubian desert tree

Before Sudan gained its Independence in 1956, Sudan was invaded, colonised and divided by the British. The imperialists named this region of Sudan the ‘country of metal’.

The road to Khartoum
The road to Khartoum

It took 8 days to reach Khartoum aided by a strong tailwind.

Sudanese man
Sudanese man

I camped, stayed at roadside restaurants, one hotel and slept a night at a police station.

Night at a police station
Night at a police station

At the police station, the cops were charging the inmates 20 sudan pounds per cigarette, a packet of ten cost 6sdp. I watched these interactions from my bed in the police compound.

Sudanese women
Sudanese women

I arrived in Khartoum via Omdurman. Traffic was horrendous for the last 15km into Khartoum proper. I stayed a night at the Blue Nile Sailing Club before moving on to the YHA which is cheaper and more people for company.

Sudan man handing a drink
Sudan man handing a drink

18th December 2017

I paid 325ep for the ferry from Aswan to Sudan. I purchased my ticket from the Nile River Transport Corporation located near the tourist police station. The ferry runs on Sundays once a week. It was a 15km cycle from Aswan to the port.

Aswan ferry to Wadi Haifa, Sudan
Aswan ferry to Wadi Haifa, Sudan

I was at the port for 10am. I paid 50ep to leave Egypt and an extra 50ep to take the bicycle on the boat. We set sail just after 5pm.

Aswan boat to Wadi Haifa, Sudan
Aswan boat to Wadi Haifa, Sudan

There was 90 people on aboard. In the past, the ferry has carried 800 people plus the kitchen sink. There was plenty of room.

Prayers at sunset
Prayers at sunset

Food was basic but included in the price of the ticket. You could buy drinks on board if needed.

Sudanese feet on the prayer mat
Sudanese feet on the prayer mat

As we began to set off, the Muslims on board began to pray. It was quite funny. They began there prayers facing east towards Mecca. But then the boat pulled out of the harbour. Prayers stopped and they all jumped up. It took twenty minutes for them to decide which way was east. Mats where realigned, and prayers commmenced.

Top deck. Muslims praying
Top deck. Muslims praying

I slept on the top deck of the ferry. The sky was fantastic. Shooting stars, amazing. The following morning the ferry passed Abu Simbel and the views were great.

Abu Simbel - Egypt
Abu Simbel – Egypt

We arrived at the port in Wadi Haifa around noon. All passport formalities were taken care of onboard the ferry.

Wadi Haifa port, Sudan
Wadi Haifa port, Sudan

Through Sudan immigration without any problems. It was a 10 minute cycle from the port to the centre of Wadi Haifa.

Nubian man, Wadi Haifa, Sudan
Nubian man, Wadi Haifa, Sudan

The journey took 21 hours. Myself and Edward from Switzerland were the only foreigners on board.

Edward from Switzerland changing money 1ep equals 1.45 Sudanese pound
Edward from Switzerland changing money 1ep equals 1.45 Sudanese pound

I cycled the 5km into Wadi Haifa and met Edward at the El Harem hotel. We took a room for 150 Sudanese pounds shared between us. The hotel owner exchanged our dollars. 1 US dollar = 25 Sudanese pounds. The hotel has WiFi. Not as fast as it is in Egypt.

Sudanese man smoking the shesha pipe, Wadi Haifa
Sudanese man smoking the shesha pipe, Wadi Haifa

Once we had booked into our room. We tried to register at the police station, which is located near the bus station. The sergeant had already finished work. We were told to return in the morning. I’m heading out tomorrow so will register in Dongola, 4 days cycling.

Wadi Haifa food, Sudan
Wadi Haifa food, Sudan

We went out for a feed. 1 omelette, potatoes and bread cost 15 Sudanese pounds. Coffee cost 5 Sudanese pounds. The Sudanese are very friendly and seem genuine. A good start to Sudan.

Sudanese visa Aswan December 12th 2017

Sudan visa in Aswan
Sudan visa in Aswan

Required

2 x passport photos

$50 US dollars

photocopy of passport and Egyptian visa

The Sudan consulate is closed Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Opening hours 9.30am to 12.30pm. The Sudan consulate is past the football stadium and is next to Radwan mosque. It costs 2ep from the centre of Aswan in a pickup bus.

I went to the consulate on a Tuesday at 9.30am. I filled in the application form, paid my $50 dollars and was told to come back on Thursday, 2 days. I returned on the Thursday and collected my visa.

 

 

 

 

 

Africa, the second largest continent on earth and the second largest population. According to paleoanthropologists, Eastern Africa is the oldest inhabited place on Earth and the birthplace of the human species.  The earliest human evidence being found in Ethiopia’s Omo Kibish area with fossil finds dated to some 200,000 years ago. According to the United Nations, there are 54 countries in Africa. Nigeria being the most populous and the Seychelles the least.

I start this leg of the trip in Cairo, Egypt.  A sprawling city with a population in excess of 16 million, it is one of the most densely populated cities in the world. The city looks like a building site. Skyscrapers half finished, major roads full of sand and everything else you can imagine. However, it is not as chaotic as say New Dehli or Tehran.

Cairo -Egypt. Population over 16 million.

I’m currently staying in the Maadi district. It’s on the edge of Cairo, mainly home to expats and wealthy Egyptians. It’s a very peaceful neighbourhood and the road outside my accommodation leads directly south.  They build the housing blocks right on top of the next one, with little gaps and then left half finished. I counted one tower block, 45 storeys.

Maadi district of Cairo.
Maadi district of Cairo.

Today I visited the world famous Pyramids of Giza.

Pyramids of Giza, Egypt
Pyramids of Giza, Egypt

Situated on the Giza Plateau, the Pyramids rise above Cairo. Some might find the views from the Pyramids less than ideal, expecting expanses of desert and that certainly isn’t the case.

Temple of the Sphinx
Temple of the Sphinx

I paid 120 Egyptian Pounds for my ticket to enter the complex and the first monument you come across is the Sphinx, the human headed lion. At this point, the hawkers are out in force offering camel and horse rides.

Great Pyramid of Khufu
Great Pyramid of Khufu

From the Sphinx you walk up a gentle rocky slope and the Khufu Pyramid greets you.  Standing over 137m high and constructed using 2 million stone rocks, it’s some structure.

The Great Pyramid of Khufu
The Great Pyramid of Khufu

I then ambled about trying to dodge the attention of camel hawkers. To be fair I didn’t get as much hassle as I was expecting.

Pyramid of Khafre with the Great Pyramid in the background
Pyramid of Khafre with the Great Pyramid in the background
Camel rides for the tourists -Giza Pyramids
Camel rides for the tourists -Giza Pyramids

I stayed at the site for about 4 hours before making my way over to Tahrir Square.

The Great Pyramid with the Pyramid of Menkaure in the background
The Great Pyramid with the Pyramid of Menkaure in the background

Tahrir square (liberation square) is also known as ‘Martyr Square’ and has been the focal point of many demonstrations in Cairo. In 2011, 50,000 protestors gathered in Tahrir Square to protests against the former president, Hosni Mubarak. Unfortunately, Tahrir Square has also been the scene of sexual assaults against women.

The Mogamma government building, Tahrir Square
The Mogamma government building, Tahrir Square

Basically, Tahrir Square is a traffic roundabout. The Mogamma government building above, has been used in Egyptian cinema as a symbol of all that is wrong with Egyptian society with all its unbearable bureaucracy, I can relate to that.

Street Art, Cairo
Street Art, Cairo

 

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