Sudan - Confluence

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Sat 13 Dec
One of my objectives, and one of the few things I had set my heart on seeing in Sudan, was the confluence of the Blue and White Niles. I had once had the privilege of seeing this from the cockpit of an airliner at 10,000m and from that height there was clearly a difference in their colours. The obvious bridge was out of bounds for photography so I took a taxi north and walked across the next bridge, the first one over the Nile proper. This was principally a dual carriageway about a 2km long and as a pedestrian I already felt conspicuous. I wasn't sure if the photography ban applied here to I took a few snaps as discretely and as quickly as I could. The colours didnít look much different to me but I could see distinct currents. I found this elating, having sailed across Lake Victoria (the source of the White Nile) and Lake Tana (the source of the Blue Nile), now finally to see them coming together was very satisfying.

In the afternoon I popped down to the Hilton hotel hoping to get a good view of the confluence maybe from the rooftop. As I stepped in I was quite shocked. Possibly it was the stark numbness devoid of local colour or character, or possibly it was the abundance of western dressed people many of whom were westerners (I had got used to being the only foreigner walking around the streets and markets). But more than anything I was stunned at hearing the piped music playing "Silver Bells" and the dangling cardboard Father Christmases in the foyer. I realised I had become so immersed in this land of scorching sun, of minarets and mosques that I hadn't given the baby Jesus or his encroaching birthday much thought. There was no rooftop viewpoint and my cheeky charm didn't quite stretch to knocking on a bedroom door, so I left the hotel and set off for the Omdurman Bridge; the one from which my photo permit insists "thou shalt not take pictures".

The soldiers guarding the bridge were very keen to tell me that photography was not possible. I tried to persuade them to let me go down (under the bridge) to the riverbank. I offered to leave my camera with them, which they declined. I suggested they came with me to which they eventually agreed so together we scrambled down the bank and walked along the last 500m of the White Nile to the confluence. The sun was beginning to drop and the light was beautifully soft. The water flowed keenly, heavy with silt and occasionally bobbed with debris. I think the two soldiers enjoyed their excursion, it had to be better than watching an endless stream of commuter traffic. Their English was not so extensive or confident but still we chatted and laughed, and they patiently watched with me and waited for me to take it all in. Of course my reflex was to reach for my camera but I knew only too well that would be the end of our happy friendship.


Sudan - Confluence

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