Karen Dabrowska

SUDAN VISIT 4th - 16th December, 2017

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Monday, 4th December

I arrived in Khartuom transferred to the Khartoum Palace hotel, in the heart of Sudan’s legendary capital city. It felt like stepping back into history and being back in the 1950s. Met Ibrahim the son of my bosses sister and gave him a suitcase of clothes lovingly packed by his mother. Lunch at the hotel took a long time to arrive. My first introduction to Sudanese time.

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Tuesday, 5th December

Early morning departure in an air-conditioned vehicle north from Khartoum along the bin Laden Highway to the ancient centre of Naga'a, which houses the Meroitic Temple of Amun, ‎the Roman Chapel, and the Lion Temple. We then proceeded to Musawarat ‎as-Sufra, an extensive temple complex where we saw rare depictions of elephants from thousands of years ago. ‎After a traditional Sudanese lunch enjoyed together with our guides at a nearby oasis, we continue on to the small town of Shendi and eventually to ‎Meroe to visit the largest pyramid cemetery in the Nile Valley, the Meroe Pyramids. We slept in the newly built hotel. Excellent accommodation apart from the fact that the lights went out at midnight and it was pitch black.

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Wednesday, 6th December

We watched the desert sun rise over the windswept dunes to the east. The sun bathed the pyramids in the early morning light, which was perfect for taking photos and videos of these magnificent structures. There were no other tourists in the area. An enthusiastic camel owner was eager for us to ride his camel – for a fee of course. During the afternoon, we drove to El Damer, crossing the Nile to Umm Tuyur on the west bank, and moving into the Bayouda Desert, where we visited a cemetery ‎containing the pyramids of the 26th Dynasty, including that of Pharaoh ‎Taharqa. We then crossed the Nile once again to visit the necropolis of el-Kurru and raced the sun to Jebel Barkal, where we were able to catch the beautiful sunset from atop this ancient, sacred mountain. We stay overnight in the northern city of Karima in a hotel complex which was probably built by the British.

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Thursday, 7th December

Short morning drive to Jebel Barkal, where we visited the Great Temple of Amun of Napata, which dates back to the 12th century B.C. The ‎temple was the most important religious centre of the Kingdom of Kush and we saw the ancient stele and sculptures still standing today. We stopped at various points along the way for lunch and snacks, experienced a “truck stop” coffee and tea with locals. Dinner was at the Syrian restaurant near the hotel. Sudan is the only country to which Syrians can travel without a visa. Many are engaged in the catering trade and in the professions.

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Friday, 8th December

In the afternoon we ventured across the Nile to Omdurman to visit the Hamid el-Nil Cemetery, where groups of Sufis come together each week to hear stories about the prophet, and to pray and dance together in an inclusive ceremony open to all faiths. This once-in-a-lifetime experience allowed us to observe (and even participate in!) a traditional religious ceremony. The chanting was powerful and the Sufis were not always peaceful. A man tried to join in the dancing and was driven away with a stick.

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Saturday, 9th December

This was the day of the tour of Khartoum and Omdurman. including visits to Sudan’s National Museum, the convergence of the Blue and White Nile, the Mahdi’s Tomb and Khalifa’s House, and the Old Souq of Omdurman for lunch and shopping. The Ethnographic and Republican Palace Museums were closed. The Corinthia Hotel was an experience. Known as ‘Gaddafi’s Egg’ because construction of the hotel was funded by Libya’s leader decades ago, the hotel offered panoramic views of Khartoum from the 17th floor along with cold refreshments and a restaurant offering a wide variety of dishes. In the Old Souq I bought a rug for which 15 rabbits were sacrificed. There were a lot of ivory products and interesting carvings.

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Sunday, 10th December

On my free free day in Khartoum I caught up with my boss El Hadi Ibrahim and his charming lawyer Tamadur Ali who treated us to a magnificent lunch in a Lebanese restaurant. Also caught up with Yassin Sidiq who I met in London and saw how the wealthy Sudanese live in the up market Riyadh district. He showed me a hotel he is renting to Chinese workers. It is up for sale for $15m – maybe a bit pricey for five floors with four rooms on each floor.

Monday, 11th December

Took an internal flight from Khartoum to Port Sudan where I stayed in the Palace Hotel. A charming Syrian engineer, Hateem took me to my hotel. Walked around Port Sudan and for the first time saw children. They were trying it on.

Tuesday, 12th December. Return from Suakin.

Took an early morning taxi ride to Suakin, the crumbling Ottoman Port. Spent two hours walking among the ruins reminded about my own morality and the inevitable passage of time; fascinating experience.

Suakin Muhafisa

Wednesday, 13th December

Spent most of the day in my room, reading and trying to connect to the internet. The Wahda supermarket has two lovely coffee bars and some clothes shops full of Turkish clothes.

Thursday, 14th December

Interview with Rashid Diab one of Sudan’s leading artists. He has a fascinating gallery and arts centre. Have to admire him for returning to Sudan and trying to do something about its unsavoury reputation.

Friday, 15th December

Quiet day before flying home.

Saturday, 16th December

The flight was meant to leave at 2am. It did not leave till 3am. Missed the connecting flight in Istanbul but spent an interesting six hours with a charming Sudanese who works in customer services in the south of England.