Sudan - Khartoum I
The office issuing photo permits was finally located only with assistance from the Public Relations Officer from the German Embassy (don't ask). The photo permit was free, and as the office was just closing they asked if I could get a photocopy elsewhere and drop it in on Saturday or Sunday. As with the roadblock ledgers I wondered whether anyone anywhere actually needed all this paperwork.
The officer who served me then asked where I was planning to stay so I told him of the budget places mentioned in my guidebook. He and his colleague listed about half a dozen more and there followed lots of scribbling on the complimentary map they had just given me. The helpfulness continued when they decided that as they were closing (the Muslim "weekend" starts Thursday afternoon) they would walk with me and help me find somewhere. I thought this was probably taking their Ministry of Tourism duties a little too far but I didn't mind and in any case they were so hospitable I don't think I could stop them.
I put my weighty rucsac back on my shoulders and stepped out into the scorching heat of the Khartoum streets. Of course the first hotel we called on was too expensive, I didn't feel I needed satellite TV, and so my delightful guides led me from one possibility to another. After an hour or so I was wishing I had left my rucsac and my walking stick somewhere to be collected later; They really didn't need to be lugged all around town. We had seen many hotels, mostly with no vacancies and one or two that seemed grossly overpriced for what they offered (perhaps I was spoilt in Ethiopia?). In desperation, my guides called in on a friendly tour operator to see if he had any suggestions. Between us we came up with the best idea of all; which was to borrow a tent and camp in the riverside garden of the Blue Nile Sailing club.
The sailing club is on the leafy side of town and as you would expect has river frontage. The sailing club "office" is General Kitchener's abandoned gunship, now planted in the gardens. It was strange having to put up a tent for myself, I realised that in recent years with supported camps I've have not done this for quite a while.
Later I attempted to walk the length of the road alongside Blue Nile but as I reached the presidentís palace was told I could only enter the "royal park" by car. Conveniently the soldier stopped the first Toyota pick-up and told him to take me. I had a lovely fish supper at an outdoor restaurant on the riverside. It cost about four times what I would have paid in Ethiopia and there was no beer to wash it down with.
Fri 12 Dec
A rest day but I managed to get salad and fruit before the market shut for Friday prayers. I checked out where I could get a CD burnt when the time comes. The central market area seems to be full of photocopiers and un-networked PCs. Boxes of A4 paper are delivered by the barrow load. Toner and ink cartridges are widely available. Skilled typists provided a service to the keyboard illiterate for official forms, business reports and school homework.
Back at the tent I made a lovely salad and then sat in the shade for the hottest hours of the day.
Sudan - Khartoum I