Tag Archives: Sudan

Our Transafrican Adventure in numbers: four nomads, one Land Rover …. aaaand …

37,521

kilometres alltogether

This might sound a lot ... Actually the distance northern Germany - Cape Town as the crow flies is way shorter than those 37.521 kilometres. But as we zig-zagged through the Balkans and Africa according to our daily feelings and never followed a fixed route, it was of course way longer.

A bridge in the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

At Cape Agulhas in South Africa.

"There are no roads in Sudan", somebody said to us ... they were actually quite good in most places!

Above Fish River Canyon in Namibia.

34,600

kilometres in the Land Rover

And we still love driving in the Landy. From our point of view it was quite comfortable and we enjoyed driving quite a lot as we spent most of the time talking, singing, listening to audiobooks together and at the same time interesting people and landscapes passed by our windows. Sometimes the road traffic was challenging - before we started the trip we had imagined the road conditions being more challenging.

Driving a Land Rover is great fun!

And there's a lot to see next to the roads!

 
 

2,921

kilometres in rental cars

It was strange to drive a "small" rental car after having driven so many kilometres in the Land Rover. It felt like our bums were scratching on the tar actually! Still, if you ship home your Landy, you will definitely  either have to wait without a car or use a rental.

Is it a CAR?

Really!?

905

likes for our Facebook site during the trip

We have never been too much after "Likes" on Facebook but still they were a way people could tell us that they were interested in what we wrote and pictured. This made us happy, we have to admit!

384

days on the road

... and we could have gone on!

290

days spent in Africa

... were definitely NOT enough! Africa is absolutely gripping! It is like a virus you cannot be cured from!

160    

nights spent on campsites

Campsites in Africa vary a lot. You can get everything from being in the absolute wilderness (Okavango Delta) and having a private ablution block, barbeque et cetera in Namibia or South Africa. You will almost never have a German-style campsite (GOOD!). Sometimes we also camped next to restaurants, lodges, in the courtyard of hotels.

Our camp on a farm-campsite in Namibia ("Mesosaurus Camp"). A bit like in the wilderness.

But you do have campsites with your own "house" with all kinds of personal facilities ...

... like a kitchen ...

... and a veranda with a view.

 

Our camp in the Okavango Delta ... no fences and loads of animals. So, elephants, hippos, gazelle, lions and whatever else pass through the camp, mostly at night! Never go to the toilet at night! At least we didn't!

 

127

nights spent in private households (in 21 different households ranging from a 1500 year-old mountain-village-farmhouse in Ethiopia to a big house directly below Table Mountain in South Africa or a Beach House directly at the Indian Ocean)

This we had not imagined. Completely unknown people contacted us before and during the trip to invite us into their homes, just because they found our blog on the internet and somehow must have liked us or at least found us interesting enough to invite us. This actually shows the immense support, blogs and Facebook can provide for any traveller. We also feel that it was a good decision to blog in English, as that way we could reach more and international people. The friendliness and hospitality we were approached with was unimaginably touching. We wish that Europeans and Germans especially were as nice to strangers as Africans and people on the Balkans were to us.

In most cases we felt like being family members from abroad.

Especially with the van der Merwes in Namibia on their small farm "Eisgaubib".

In the Tigrinyan mountain village Zik'allay - Anouk's favorite place in Ethiopia.

In here - the kitchen - people from the same family have lived for the last 1500 years. For now, it is our bedroom.

106,36

Euros spent per day

This sounds a lot and probably it is. We had saved up for years for the trip and had 125€ per day. Still, we did not wild camp too often (as we could probably have done) ... and we have to admit that we did give us treats with good food and restaurants quite often. For sure, this sum could be way cheaper. Also, from what we have heard and read, East Africa is not the cheapest overland destination. So, also the area of the world you travel in definitely affects the daily budget a lot.

Yes, we do spend quite a lot money on good food. Here it is fresh Barracuda for Christmas in Kenya.

Lobster in Tanzania ... 8€ for 1,5 kilograms!

97,71

kilometres per day on average

Nearly one hundred kilometres per day might sound a lot on average, but it actually is not. This includes all the autobahn-kilometres and those on very good roads we easily put behind us in Europe and southern Africa ... It also includes the stretches, we just drove through non-stop (like from the Ethiopian-Kenyan border to Nairobi). We had many lazy days during our trip where we did not move a wheel at all!

94

days spent in Europe

Europe is wonderful and there is so much to discover. Period!

The old monks' rooms and monasteries in the cliffs at Meteora in Greece - an absolutely magical place!

Lake Koman ferry in Albania.

71

nights in hotels, B&Bs, hostels and holiday flats

As I said, this could easily be reduced. We just needed that every now and then to relax, recover and enjoy.

A family room at a lodge in Namibia.

And a hostel room (yes, this is no mistake ... this really is a room in a hostel) in Girokastër in Albania. The kids thought the house was haunted!

18

foreign countries visited

The original plan was to visit more countries on the way, but we did not want to "tick" countries but wanted to travel. This is where our route(s) took us.

16

nights spent wild camping

We love wild camping and we were surprised how easy and wonderful wild camping can be. Absolute highlights in this sense were Greece and Sudan. Still, there are countries, where camping in the wilderness for us was not an option, such as Ethiopia, where nearly every square meter is inhabited and we didn't like the feeling of being openly watched by tens of persons all the time.

A wildcamp in the Sahara desert in Sudan ... absolutely safe but (nice) people (and camels) will find you in the morning and try to trade with you.

Our wild camp at the (nudist) beach in Lefkhada in Greece. A wonderful place!

15,15

€ per night on average

Prices for accomodation vary considerably from country to country and region to region. The Balkans were cheap and good, whereas East Africa was quite expensive. Some campsites in southern Africa were completely for free for people driving a car licensed from overseas.

12,8

average fuel consumption in liters

Not much different compared to the consumtion we have recorded during other overland trips in Europe.

7

nights spent at family member's houses

... at the beginning and end of the trip.

6

things that broke (both water pumps, front prop shaft, central locking right rear passenger door, double shocker keep, Foxwing awning)

We had expected more things to break. And due to heat, dust and road conditions, we constantly expected more to happen. Maybe the small number of things that broke was due to using a relatively new, well maintenanced car and constant maintenance on the road (i.e. service every 5000 to 10000 km and directly before the trip). We think it is worth buying quality products intead of going for cheap options.

When the front propshaft started making funny noises, we used it for educational purposes immediately. We got it fixed within 48 hrs! In Africa!

On the way to Ol Doinyo Lengai in Kenya, the keep of the double shock absorbers broke. The village blacksmith easily fixed it at a very considerably price.

6

malaria tests

Malaria felt like a constant threat, especially thinking of the kids. We now think that we might have overrated Malaria, but are also 100% sure that being on the safe side healthwise never is a bad thing to do. Malaria tests and medication in Africa is relatively cheap (for us Europeans with hard currency at least) and doctors know more how to treat Malaria than our doctors sometimes as they are constantly exposed to the problem.

3

uncomfortable situations

Actually, two of these happened in northern Africa. Juliane had two situations where she felt uncomfortably approached by men, in Egypt and Sudan. But there is a big difference between cities like Cairo and Khartoum and small villages. We felt absolutely safe and extremely politely treated in the villages. Mischa would have had no problem of leaving Juliane and the two girls behind there for a while. The third incident was a misunderstanding with customs officials at a checkpoint in Ethiopia about 200km away from the Ethiopian-Kenyan border. We drove on without being allowed to (which we could not figure out because of unclear signs), people stopped us, came running at us in uniforms waving weapons and made us go back behind a piece of rope across the street . While reversing, Mischa bumped into a concrete pillar on the road and went mad.

 

This barber stole a kiss from Juliane while Mischa and the girls were in the same room. Juliane didn't want to tell Mischa right away as she feared he would go wild ...

 

3

times servicing the Land Rover

As we said before, service is the key to everything staying in good shape car-wise!

 

First service at "JBK" in Athens - the Greek Land Rover "horse whisperers".

 

2

speeding tickets

Mischa got his first two speeding tickets in Africa. His first two EVER! ... on two successive days. And he was speeding!

Quite beautiful actually! BUT I DON'T drive a LANDCRUISER!

1

car breakdown

Only one time our car broke down completely ... on a major crossroads in Arusha, Tanzania, when the president was visiting the city. ... 2 km away from a Land Rover garage ... It took 45 minutes from the time the Landy broke down to have the car towed to the garage. ... And the manager of the garage took us home with him for the night. The next day everything was fixed again.

1

visitor from Germany

Mischa's mother visited us in Ethiopia, which was absolutely great. It was a brave thing to do for a lady of 67 who had never been to Africa before!

Bajaj outing with Oma Babs.

And she brought Swiss cheese - a rare thing in southern Egypt, Sudan, Kenya and Ethiopia ... worth its weight in gold almost!

0

bribes

We never pay bribes as the next travellers have to pay even higher prices. Also, we never give "gifts" for services that are not special. Whenever people really do things for us, we pay a fair price, though! We don't want to support a "bribe and beg" mentality, but want to make people start their own initiatives to make a living and support their families. When people are ill and sick, we sometimes go and buy food for them or give some medication.

0

punctures

... good tyres pay off! BF Goodrich Mud Terrain KM2! Never change a winning team!

 
 

0

robberies

... even though people could have robbed us easily. Was it luck? We don't know! We nearly always felt safe!

0

abductions

... see above!

0

days in prison

... see above! Although we were absolutely happy to be out of Ethiopia, as the traffic there is an absolute mess (Mischa would love to drive again in Cairo and Khartoum, but NOT in Ethiopia) and pedestrians don't know how to cope with modern road traffic. There are hundreds of people on the road, cattle, sheep and goats everywhere ... at night, people even sleep on the road. If you injure or kill somebody in an accident, you have to expect being lynched by the mob or will be put into prison for seven years. Even the embassies advise people to leave the country immediately after a fatal accident with a local person.

...

countless

new friends, experiences, things we learned

That's why we love traveling so much! There is nothing more to say!

Our kids make friends easily everywhere. Here in Namibia with Max and Irmgard.

The Calders in South Africa.

At the friday prayer in Omdurman in Sudan.

In "Anouk's mountain village" Zik'allay in Ethiopia.

Games in Kenya ...

... and in Ethiopia.

Farm friends in Namibia.

... with their wonderful parents.

Juliane and Zeinab in Cairo.

With Sam Watson in Cairo.

With Mohammed ("Mo") of "Adam Home Overland Camp" in Aswan.

... more friends in Khartoum, Sudan.

With Tyseer on a boat trip in Khartoum.

And with Sheikh Mohammad Mubarak and Tyseer in Khartoum.

With Chief Mkwawa and his family in Iringa, Tanzania.

With Ian, the manager of the Land Rover garage in Arusha.

With our travel friends "Six en Piste" from France who are now travelling in South America.

Lars - a wonderful family father, friend and Land Rover mechanic with a most wonderful family - in Nairobi.

... and so many many more! We miss you guys! Dearly!

Why many people don’t go on extended travel

Why actually do so few people from the "western World" travel the world overland long term?

During a long "kitchen party" together with another German overland-family we discussed this question.

 

We love long kitchen parties ... not just before a long day of traveling!

 

Especially in industrial nations many people are extremely focused on consumerism and competition. Long term travel is nearly always connected to a long-term withdrawal from the competition with colleagues at work, which can even lead to a jobwise "powerloss". The jobwise position can most surely not be kept during a long term travel. Earning money in the "normal" way most of the times also doesn't work, so people can't consume the products advertisements make us believe we need as life-essentials.

Fearing these two aspects deeply combined with a general and all-embracing angst concerning the "dangerous world out there" is the basic reason why so many of the citizens of the so-called "Western World" do not go out to take a personal look at the rest of our globe.

But it is also the simple fear of "being singled out because of being different" that stops people from going on a long term travel, as everybody knows that every single bit of "differentness" from the "norms" can lead to social isolation - in spite of the fact that we base our governments, cultures, job-culture and circle of friends on democratic systems stating that everybody is appreciated, approved and recognized in their otherness.

By many members of the so-called "upper classes" and the "educated classes", for example, the overland traveller is being looked down upon from the safari-cars as being somewhat inferior and being some kind of "left-wing-progressive camper rucksack tourist" who is not able to afford "proper travel".

 

This is real luxury: a warm night, a blazing fire, good food and drink, nice company ... and all "homemade".

 

From the perspective of the so-called "lower classes" long term travelers are viewed as "posh tourists who can afford constant vacation" ... We have met members of all occupational groups on our travels: from bus driver to university professor and from nurse to medical doctor or teacher.

People who do long term travel have to accept that for the "system", they have now thoroughly become "strange" and even "suspicious" persons.

Fundamentalists? ...

Terrorists? ...

... or just culturally interested, aware and respectful?!

To just give one example here from entering the USA, please read the following conversation between a traveler and US-customs: "Why did you travel to the Middle East?" ... "I didn't!" ... "Your passport states that you have recently been to Egypt!" ... "Ah, but that is Africa, isn't it!?" ... For government bodies and system followers it is unimaginable that people travel to Egypt or Sudan out of pure personal cultural interest, so everybody suggests terrorist motives these days.

When in Rome do as the Romans do!

Deep in conversation without a shared language!

For families with young children the situation with long-term travel is even more difficult, because everybody assumes that because their kids have been out of the school system, they will miss out on subject matters and thus will have less good starting positions on the jobwise competition-sprint.

 

Travel school can look quite "traditional"

 

Because schools have been "invented" by countries to recruit young talents for industry and economy, caring parents assume that their offspring will become disadvantaged because of long-term travel. Educational failure as the result of long-term travel! We are clear that schools have always been and today especially are very intensively controlled by the industry and do not focus on education from and for the child - why else still subjects such as music, arts and P.E. are the "Cinderellas" of school subjects at ALL schools from state to private!? In this context it by the way is quite enthralling that the internationally famous "PISA-study", which compares different school systems in different countries, is being financed and controlled by the international industry and economy.

Alongside the educational aspect quite a few people assume that "travel-children" might become "asocial monsters" because they allegedly lack contact to peers.

There are many opportunities for social interactions when traveling!

Everybody loves playing games!

One of our former colleagues postulated before we left home that all travel-children she had met until then had social adaptive difficulties and were eventually unhappy because of that.

Additionally, parents fear illnesses and diseases and because of that don't travel. Africa in itself is life-endangering! But with the help of good means of communication when traveling, vaccinations, medication, intensive planning, good travel-insurance and consulting specialist medical doctors it is possible to reduce those risks considerably. The long-term-traveler from industrial nations is anyway privileged, as he can always "pull out the trump-card" of a hard currency in the case of any medical problem and immediately be treated in a good private hospital ... even in Africa ... and in opposition to the local population which is not able to afford any good medical care of this kind!

When hearing of our travel plans, people accused us of being egoistic because we decided on traveling long-term instead of asking our kids (which, by the way we did and thus they were the major force to change the continent we planned to travel to).

 

Our kids just love Africa ... and decided to come back here because in Germany they missed the warmth of the people!

 

Everybody reading this might be ask themselves who exactly is the most egoistic, the parent who goes to work nine to five seven days a week to earn enough money for consumerism and then when they are traveling stay at a club for two weeks and send their children to the club's child care for most of the day to be able to play tennis, go running et cetera ... or the parents who invest time in family and children and "even" do without earning a wage for a long period of time.

Time with their parents is what young kids really need!

Child labor or sharing responsibilities?!

One thing that includes all the aspects described above for parents and their children alike are the media, the true "opium of the people", which are used to create a fear that makes people seek refuge in investing and saving money, over-insurance, travel-reluctance and at the same time is soothing, tranquilizing and satisfying addictions. The media-reports are the "modern sea monsters" that once used to be painted on maps at Columbus' times to instil fear in the too adventurous and restrict trade and navigatory knowledge to a small circle of insiders. People are not supposed to go out and explore on their own because they then would start to question the reports, prejudices and news and would realize that the all-encompassing fear homespun by bestseller-negative-news, half-truths and lies is completely made-up and unnecessary. People would maybe then discover that Muslims can be quite nice or African policemen not always corrupt ... the power to control and navigate people using fear would be gone then! Fairly dangerous!

It is intended and piloted by economy, politics and media that the Germans, Europeans, "Westerners" do not travel to far away lands because of this fear and in case they travel abroad in spite of that, then at a max they should travel to "safe trade partners". The "precious Euros or Dollars" are please to be spent in the domestic economy zone and rather not travel as a form of private foreign aid to Africa! And if Africa is the destination, please only book via overpriced European travel agencies so that a substantial part of that money can be skimmed at home instead of traveling individually without any pree-bookings!

...

But what is the real situation like during a long term travel concerning the aspects and concepts above?

Traveling definitely is an absolute "eye opener"! Apart from many learning experiences on the more intellectual side the most essential new experience caused by travel is to learn how to get rid of your fears. These fears eliminate themselves in any case when people realize that the "world outside" is not as bad as the media make us think it is.

For us it was for example quite scary at the beginning to wild-camp somewhere in the Sudanese desert because due to one-sided media cover, Sudan is considered an "absolutely dangerous country".

 

A wild camp in the Sudanese Sahara ... very relaxing and deeply touching instead of being dangerous!

 

We have finally camped wild regularly in Sudan and have felt very very safe, safer actually than in other places in Africa or even Europe!

An intensive openness concerning new situations is something that "just happens anyway" when you are traveling outside of your comfort zone and cultural sphere.

At the same time one learns to restrain oneself on the bare essentials.

 

Everything has to fit into the "small" Land Rover ... bare necessities of life!

 

With that, you automatically leave the consumerist-competition and instead of consuming "things" one indulges in deep, intensive human encounters ... traveling definitely also is making a move to a more social being. Once people asked us whether it is not boring not to build, create, construct something for one complete year ... our answer was and still is, "We do exactly that: we establish new ties and relations and stabilize those within the family, with the partner and with our children.

...

But what about the problem areas concerning children and education as stated above?

While traveling we have witnessed how our children "naturally" learned a foreign language, English, without any teacher in the traditional sense and without any learning material.

Natural learning: hatching turtles (science)

... zoology ...

... geology, mineralogy ...

... and gardening.

Furthermore, our two daughters were allowed to find out about their limits, could test themselves and by that find a different "inner ease of mind". Definitely, our children have become more culturally aware and also more cosmopolitan and open minded.

 
 

Life in the open in combination with more attention by the parents (who don't have to go to work) and simply more time gives the chance to include the children in many ways in travel planning, navigation, cooking, car-maintenance et cetera.

Mechanics and car maintenance ...

... help is always needed!

The great majority of contacts kids establish to other traveling children, adults and Africans of all ages are not rational but highly flexible and creative, especially when it comes to language(s)! At the same time even very young children learn a natural media competence by communicating with family and friends at home using emails, Facebook, Skype and the such.

 

Even "old school letters" reach us sometimes!

 

Believe it or not: our kids so far have not become "asocial monsters" - quite the contrary is true!

 
 

Ill or sick our kids were probaly not more than they would have been had we stayed at home. It is only more inconvenient when you are traveling! Our two daughters had gastro-intestinal problems (Anouk once and Sóley twice), tonsillitis (Anouk once and Sóley twice) and an ear infection (Anouk once). That was "it"! Still, we nearly always had the fear for malaria at the back of our necks even though all of us were on antimalarials.

...

Still, extended travel is not a "universal remedy" just as any "prenatal musical character coining" of all children using Mozart without taking into account the mother's favourite music is! Certainly, we don't want to persuade anybody and we also don't want to be fundamentalist in this direction! Those who love traveling will love long term travel and will profit from that and will experience great benefits in their children. Even the people you meet on the road will benefit from these encounters! On the long run travel will establish more mutual understanding! In addition to that long-term travel enables you to spend relaxed and intensive, sometimes challenging time together as a family and escape the competition about power and consumerism for a while! Certainly, after such a travel one has changed many points of view in many different fields!

For sure, we don't want to give the impression here that everybody HAS TO TRAVEL! There are many ways of living and what we do is just one of them! With this blog post we try to discuss why the majority of people in "our world" might fear long term travel! ... and we want to provide "food for thought"!

 
 

“Allah Karima” … “Insh’Allah” (Sudan #2)

Eine deutschsprachige Version dieses Eintrages gibt es hier

 

The Hamad El Niel Mosque ... a really magical place!

 

The impressions from the "Zikir" at the Hamad El Niel-Mosque in Omdurman/Khartoum deeply stay in our minds. Again, it's the personal encounters with people on the road which are even more inspiring than all the places, buildings and sights which in themselves are impressive anyway! Not only our Sudanese friend Tyseer, who has planned a whole program for our week in Khartoum, has brought us here to this place and explains all the new aspects of this culture, but also locals standing crowded together next to us sense our interest and curiosity and explain without us asking for it and, what is even more important, they do not missionize! Drinking a multitude of glasses full of a sweet tea with peppermint, we discuss religion, especially Sufyia, but also world politics and football in a spontaneous round of interested and interesting people. Sòley and Anouk also easily find other children of the same age and relaxedly roam around with them without any common language basis, which is fascinating the adults around them who take picture after picture with their smartphones.

 
 

In the middle of this bubbling bustle Tyseer's friend Sheikh Mohammad Mubarak, one of the leaders of the local Sufiya movement, joins us. When he heard that Tyseer would soon expect a visit of friends from Germany, he helped her to find a flat for us. Now we had the unique chance to talk to an expert on Islam and Sufiya and ask all the questions which had been going around in our heads. But one evening in this crowd is not enough and we would meet again and again after that, just to discuss and learn from each other, while Tyseer permanently translated. Also, Mischa has brought a German Qur'an which includes a glossary and explanations to find out more when we are in the flat. How many people do know that the Qur'an does not tell women to veil themselves completely? That Jesus is not seen as the Son of God in Islam, but as an important prophet, sounds rather plausible (if the term "Son of God" is meant in a literal sense, we then are back with the term "prophet", because Mohammed also percieved himself as God's mouthpiece, mediated by the Archangel). Also, the concept of "God" which seems to be more connected with the universal power God has instead of depicting Him as the human-like figure of a "God-Father" is not far from how we try to explain this concept to our kids.
Especially exciting is the background to the Sufiya movement which seems to be older than Islam and rather connecting different religions instead of dividing them. This topic and the Derwish dances we want to learn more about!

Tyseer really impressed me at some other time by her really warm-hearted reaction on beggars, which for me still are very inconvenient situations. Most often deep compassion mixes with the knowledge that some money will not help in a sustainable way but sometimes may even be a factor in increasing the suffering. This precariousness in me certainly can be perceived by others. Tyseer masters situations like this by reacting with the common benediction "Allah Karima", meaning, "Allah will take care of you!". Maybe, these words give some hope. Or is it just an empty phrase? Does it help? ... Insh' Allah! As God wills it!

At the end of our week in Khartoum some more practical things, running errands and planning the onward route through the Sudan mix in. Mischa had to go to a garage to extract a bolt from one of the tyres and have it repaired. A barber for Mischa and a cosmetic studio, where I could delve in into the relaxed atmosphere among women behing doors and curtains also were on the agenda. Happily gossiping, many hours are spent here taking care of the body, mind and soul from head to heels. Unfortunately, I only have time for a "short program", otherwise I would have loved to have done the wonderfully beautiful henna tatoos married women in Sudan typically have on their feet.

 
 

My hands already have been decorated by Sheikh Mohammad's wife after having dinner at their home.

Tyseer also invites us to her family's home where Anouk and Sóley can meet her nieces who are roundabout the same age as our kids. Due to these visits, we get quite a good insight into the private life of the people of Khartoum. But this is not supposed to be "it" ... Sheikh Mohammad not only wants to help us with contact persons from his family on our further way towards Ethiopia, but out of hand decides to join us in person for the next days ... now without our trusted friend and mediator Tyseer, because her lectures at the University of Khartoum start again. After the conversion, our Land Rover only has four remaining seats. For a short passage, we had already given our "fixer" Magdi a lift from the Sudanese side of the border between Egypt and Sudan to his home in Wadi Halfa. I simply resembled Sóley's child seat and squeezed in with the kids in the Land Rover's rear bench. No, this is not really convenient and also doesn't fit any European standards on child safety in cars, but we simply can't say "No!" to this offer coming from the heart of a new friend. So, we alltogether shoulder the five hours on rough dirt tracks to the small hut-village of Mohammad's family (in addition to three hours driving on road). Later on, we would even find another sixth "seat" for a roofrack passenger, which for the locals is no security risk at all.

 
 

But before we leave Khartoum, with the help of Tyseer and Mohammad we have to pick a bone with Mustafa, the owner of "our" flat. In a very dedicated and appearingly corteous manner, he had offered us his help and support in any kind of way, which was not strange at all for us, as all Sudanese we had met until then were immensely welcoming and ready to help. But sadly, Mustafa was not able to keep the natural distance between him and me, which in Muslim countries is certainly larger between men and women than in Europe. He touched my face, made compliments and told me about the problems he has with his wife in situations when I met him alone and thus hassled me in a way which simply is bad manners, both here in this culture and in Europe. Mohammad moderated a heated crosstalk between Mustafa and Mischa, but for saying "Sorry!" Mustafa simply was too proud ... too weak!? For us, he seems to be one exemption which exist in all countries, all cultures, still I have to admit that in Sudan I always attract attention as a European woman and seem to be "an easy lay" from the point of view of some men in spite of husband and daughters next to me. Do I have to wear the headscarf more often? "No!", says Tyseer. I am supposed to stay as I am, also in Sudan. She states that I already adapt myself far enough! So, I plan to carry on walking the streets of Khartoum in a self-confident manner, maybe with some more pretended pride.

 
 

With a "local" such as Sheikh Mohammad in the Land Rover, we don't have to present any documents anymore at the police checkpoints. A short smalltalk in English by us and in Arabic by him is enough to be waved through. In between, Mohammad sings like a muezzin for Sóley (she simply loves mosques and when the muezzin sings, always a glorifying "My friend!" escapes Sóley's lips) and tries to learn English and German from Mischa while Mischa tries to learn some more Arabic.

We reach the place of Mohammad's uncle in Sennar just as the sun sets. Some children play in the courtyard with a plastic bottle hanging from a tree. Sóley and Anouk without any heasitation join in and laugh so very loud that it can be heard by the complete neighborhood.

 
 

Meanwhile an sumptuous traditional Sudanese dinner is served on a large metal tray and we eat together using our right hands. We get a room for ourselves in the house even though we could have slept in the car, while some family members sleep in the courtyard under the stars. Sleeping in our Land Rover would have been an insult. The next morning the children of the family are beautifully dressed and brought to schoon by Bajaj (TukTuk).
We set off for the drive to the village where Mohammad's father lives (at least this is the place where one of his two wives lives). At first, we visit the really badly equipped and ridiculously overcrowded village-school and try to find solutions how one could help here any maybe raise some money to help them (for tables and chairs they need roundabout 2500€) and improve the conditions the students learn under.

School building Dindir village school

Schoolyard

... not enough chairs!

 
 

We establish contacts to make sure that the materialy and money needed here will really end up in the right places and not in somebody else's pockets. We would be happy to hear about your ideas, dear readers!

In the village, we get our own room, which actually is a complete hut, this time with three beds. We are introduced to many villagers and again get so much to eat that we simply cannot finish it. Mischa joins the tea-round in the hut of Mohammad's father and I mingle with the women at the fireplace in another hut. Any kind of verbal communication here is nearly impossible, which is really sad, because there is a lot of interest in that from both sides. The womens' faces alone tell so many stories!

They seem to be a bit shy but very happy about me trying to start conversations.
They would have loved to decorate my feet wit henna, but Mohammad wants to drive with us some kilometres out of the village to meet some nomadic families. This certainly is an offer we cannot say no to. We give another "hitchhiker" a lift on the roofrack and on we go taking rough dirt tracks until we reach the simple tents of the nomads.

 
 

Impressively big in comparison to the tents are the camels. Proud, the nomads show us how multi-functional their homes are and invite us to stay for a tea. Within minutes the round gets bigger and bigger and when we want to leave the camp in the setting sun, all men stand up and pray together.

 
 

On our way back through the darkness, we tow a Toyota pick-up full of people, which already had been there when we came here.
It is no wonder that this kamikaze mission got stuck here: the fuel tank is a 1,5 litre Coke plastic bottle hanging from the left door mirror and the complete car seems to be kept in one piece by many metres of wire. Traveling in this car!? Insch'Allah!
Back in the village, we brace ourselves with fresh camel milk. We have to admit that at first drinking it took us some surmounting, but after having made sure that it had been boiled before, we are polite and take the offer ... just to be surprised to find out that the milk is really really tasty. This leads to the situation, that our cups are filled up again and again.
To be able to reach Ethiopia the next day, we get up early and give Mohammad a lift to the next tarmac road after another round of camel milk tea and a cordial "Goodbye!" from Mohammad's family.

It takes us three hours on really bad pistes full of potholes to get to the next asphalt road. Unfortunately, here we have to part with Sheikh Mohammad: he takes the bus back to Khartoum and we set sail for the border post between Sudan and Ethiopia near Gallabat. The road is relatively good and we even see our first monkeys which look like Pippi Longstocking's "Mr Nilson". The roundabout 80 km through the Dindir National Park before we reach the border the road turns out to be a whole population of potholes which could swallow complete Land Rovers. Also, the villages along the road look more and more desperate and poor. But the border double-village even tops this impression: it is a bustling, ugly gallimaufry full of dark characters, trying to lure us into something and beggars who aggressively bang their fists at the car windows. From a road on a dam, it is a steep descend down to the offices of immigration and customs, in front of which "helpers" of a really irksome sort try to obtrude their "services" even though nobody needs them. The border officials are really fast and thus we are able to leave this place and the rather improvised looking border after only 1,5 hours. Now it is already late afternoon, but we don't want to set up our camp here.

After some kilometres we suddenly have to break not to run into some Pierce of rope which blocks the road: another customs checkpoint! Men with weapons. Great! Now, we've got to unpack the complete Land Rover in the darkness! We show the men that we travel with children telling them that there still is a long way ahead of us until we reach the place where we plan to stay the night. This works and we can leave after some minutes. In spite of various obstacles, animals and people sleeping on the road but also nearly invisible potholes and wheel ruts, we push on for another four hours to be able to reach "Tim-and-Kim-Village" overlooking beautiful Lake Tana. Here we will try to relax for about four days without phone or internet connection. Insch'Allah!

by Juliane

Sudan Rocks

Eine deutschsprachige Version dieses Eintrages gibt es hier

The great unknown Sudan embraces us very cordially right from the beginning. Directly in front of the border gate, Magdi Boshara, our "fixer" for the Sudanese side of the border, picks us up to help us with the border procedures. He appears to be really nice, organised and professional. Sóley and Anouk are allowed to watch cartoon after cartoon on the i-Pad and so for them the three hours of waiting at the border pass in a flash. At the same time, I can witness a way of dealing with each other of the people around me I already know from Ethiopia ... brotherly and sisterly hugs between colleagues and friends, laughing and holding hands ... simply warm and cordial.

 
 

Our first night in Sudan we spend with Magdi's family. He also has young children who easily make friends with our two daughters. Magdi's wife cooks for us and together with Magdi, Mischa goes to Wadi Halfa to get Sudanese sim-cards for our mobile phones while I am introduced to how to wear the "Thob", the traditional dress of Sudanese mothers.

 
 

With a heavy heart the next morning we have to say goodbye to Magdi's family. A very good tarmac road leads us through the Sahara desert running parallel to River Nile, which we can only see every once in a while.

 

Not just a sandy track through the desert ...

 
 
 
 
 

In the hot desert sand, we discover fossilized trees every now and then - turned to stone witnesses of an ancient time when all this countryside was covered with forests ... nearly inconceivabe!

 
 

Passing Dongola we reach the pyramids of Gebel Barkal near Karima late in the afternoon. As there is an Italian run "Nubian Resthouse" directly next to the pyramids, we decide to ask if we can camp there for the night. The place seems to be rather deserted but we meet the Italian owner who shows us around the beautiful premises ... only to send us away after that because later on there will be other guests and no room left for us. The Sudanese chef is told to show us a place behind the sand dunes where we will not disturb anybody. So, it is a night of freecamping in the desert. Darkness approaches rapidly and the desert wind is giving us a good sandblast. The petrol mix in the Coleman stove produces a rather weak flame so that it is hard to cook properly. Still, after a (long) while a patient Mischa is able to serve the vegetable pasta sauce just as promised. Dusty but happy, we fall asleep.
The next day, we take a closer look at the pyramids and after that go on driving to Atbara. The pyramids here look differently compared to the pyramids of Gizeh ... they have a smaller tip-angle, are smaller and there are more in one place. We learn that Sudan has more pyramids than Egypt.
In our GPS-maps "Tracks for Africa" we find two campsites near the famous pyramids of Meroe south of Atbara. To go there we even put up with driving into the darkness of the coming night, something everybody has warned us against. At last, we find a signpost reading that the camp is Italian owned ... what a coincidence!

 

The Italian camp seen from a distance.

 

For the next five kilometres we follow wheel tracks in the sand and with some help from locals we finally find the camp, straw-roofed huts, big tents and a whole fleet of white Toyota Landcruisers. "Here, surely, we will find a place to stay for the night!", we think. But, again, we are sent away ... a family with two small kids is sent away into the darkness of the night - nobody has even asked whether we would be willing to pay for camping! This neither fits to the African mentality, nor to our general impression of Sudan and certainly not at all to the wisdom of the Qur'an where helping travelers is a duty. Really disappointed we try to find a place sheltered from the wind to set up camp and finally are allowed to enjoy the impressive starry sky.

At sunrise we discover in a multitude of colours which beautiful landscape yesterday we had stopped in. From the Italian camp a traditionally dressed man appears after a short while. What does he want?

He sits down next to the Land Rover and shows us the local jewellery and knifes he has in his bag. Anouk is very excited gets out her pocket money and buys a bracelet for herself and for her sister. I also get one from Mischa. Another guest, a man on a camel, approaches, but we don't want to go on a camel ride before having had breakfast. After a fast breakfast, we go on to the impressive pyramids right next to the Italian Camp where all tents face the pyramids to provide an optimum view for the guests.

 

Approaching the Meroe Pyramids.

 
 

... passing dunes of golden Sudanese sand.

 
 

The Meroe Pyramids.

 

... two wings holding the sun-disk.

And even more pyramids!!

Obviously, people are preserving the pyramids here, but they use concrete which from our point of view doesn't really fit the original way the pyramids were built. Fascinatedly, we wander around this "village" of pyramids but then the midday heat makes us go back on the road. Also, we would rather like to reach the Sudanese capital Khartoum before sunset. Alas, this doesn't work out well as Anouk throws up in the car and before going on, we have to clear up the mess. Eating and drinking in this heat and the different food are great challenges for our children. It was not due to a virus or bacteria that Anouk was sick, but it was the orange juice, which was the only thing she wanted for breakfast even though we had fresh flat bread. Anouk dreams of cheese-pasta instead (á la Christina Ohmes!), but the hunger doesn't vanish just through dreaming!
At the Nile Street in Khartoum, we meet Tyseer, a friend of our Ethiopian friend Samuel, who had visited us back home on Spiekeroog earlier this year. Being on a DAAD-scholarship, Tyseer studied in Germany for four years and now she is a professor at the University of Khartoum. 

 

A furnished flat with an oversized garage in Khartoum ... what a luxury!

 

She has found a flat for us (including a large garage for the Land Rover) to which we are guided now. Here we plan to stay for one week, for which Tyseer has already planned a whole sightseeing and information program. We visit the Natural History Museum, the old English palace, and the National History Museum of Sudan.

 

The bottom part of this temple is here in Khartoum in the National History Museum - the upper part (with all the beautifully painted faces) is in the British Museum in London ... it belongs here and is property of the people of Sudan!

 

The ancient history, but also the turbulent fights and resistance against the Turkish and English occupation of Sudan are brought to life for us. In addition to that, we also walk the dusty streets of Khartoum and again and again sit down on plastic chairs in small street cafés directly on the pavements and talk, talk, talk in a very intense and open way.

 

A motorboat trip on the Nile together with Tyseer.

 

Khartoum skyline

Khartoum skyline

 

Fishing at the borderline between the two rivers.

 
 

This is exactly where the Blue Nile and the White Nile meet.

 

During a motorboat trip on the Nile we can witness how the Blue Nile (which apparently is rather brownish) and the White Nile (which actually is grey) come together but don't mix immediately. Water samples are taken to show that even in a bottle the waters of the two rivers don't mix and vertically separate again after a while (which, of course, is not true, but that's just for the fun of the crew).

 

The Hamad El Niel Mosque ... a really magical place!

 

But the absolute highlight, topping everything, is a trip to the Friday Sufi prayer and Derwish dances at the Hamad El Niel Mosque in Omdurman. Around the fairytale-like painted mosque there is an immense graveyard full of graves which rather look like mole hills with small homemade signs. On the large yard in front of the mosque many Sudanese men, women and children romp about wearing their traditional garments, but also some tourists (about ten, I guess) mix with the crowd, apparently without disturbing the ceremony in any kind of way. In the middle of a circle of people, two men wearing turbans are dancing, singing and beating drums. Every now and then, another Muslim joins them, dances a few rounds together with them to be nearer to Allah during this dance (and apparently that works just guessing from the enraptured and happy look on their faces). Then, he puts some banknotes into the drum bag and leaves the circle to make way for somebody else. We are extremely fascinated by this spectacle. Especially Anouk is really captivated and even has the courage to stand alone in the first line of the big circle of people to be able to see properly. This is really brave of her here in this loud and unfamiliar situation. Mischa and myself are a bit embarrased by the other tourists who have two big cameras each around their necks nearly pressing their giant camera Lenzes into the very faces of the dancing people. Sure, they are just as fascinated as we are, but we still are ashamed of their behaviour and dealing with this deeply spiritual situation. This rather destroys any kind of decent and creative photography in us here at this wonderful place (here you can watch a video shot by other overlanders).  
What we have witnessed so far is only the beginning of the ceremony: a truck with dancing and singing people beating drums approaches and stops near the mosque. They get off and form a procession which comes nearer and leaves again showing large flags all the while people are beating large drums. An even larger circle of people forms, the beating of the drums is getting more and more intense and all men and women (!) in the first line of the big circle start to rhythmically dance forwards and backwards as if they are in some kind of trance and meditatively sing and hum. Some of the dancers celebrate their faith by stretching out their arms to spin around really fast in true Derwish manner. This main part of the ceremony is called "Al Zikir". It is really impressive with what deep happiness these people celebrate their faith once a week on a Friday while the sun sets. Any comparison to a Christian service simply is impossible, especially thinking of the atmosphere. Everybody celebrates boisterously, talks with friends (or foreigners), eats and really lives a certain community spirit. Is this the rigid and conservative Islam people in the West are worried about or even fear??
Sóley, who in the middle of the ceremony awakes out of her midday nap in Mischa's arms, is not really too impressed by the ceremony and rather wants to paint pictures and symbols into the sand in the middle of the crowd's feet. This after a very short while opens up another scene, because here also forms a small circle of excited Sudanese around her. Some add their own paintings to hers. It is a matter of seconds and again, we sit, talk and are invited to drink black tea with peppermint (and an immense portion of sugar!) ... In one of these conversations, Mischa is asked whether the Germans really are as xenophobic as the media report it ... media-founded information-chaos and guidance by fear on both sides! It is good to meet and make a difference!
Khartoum is no "love at first sight" for me, but the people we meet, humans in the very sense of the word, open up an exciting and diverse city and country for us which is dominated by an immense hospitality and openness which nobody will believe who doesn't come here but lets himself be guided by western media instead. Sudan definitely is one of the absolute highlights of this travel so far - we will have to come back!

by Juliane

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Border Procedures Abu Simbel – Wadi Halfa

There are two possible ways to cross the border between Egypt and Sudan: one is the long ferry that still runs between Aswan and Wadi Halfa, the other is the "newly opened" road to Sudan which includes a short ferry.

We took the road and short ferry!

We decided to take a fixer for the border procedure although it is also possible to do that on your own (here are detailed descriptions on how to do that: by "Abseitsreisen" (in German) and Omar Mansour on the HUBB (English)).
Our fixer for the Egyptian side, Kamal Muawad, has a very good reputation with overlanders.

This are his contact details:
phone: 0100 5322669 and 01221393492
mail: kamalaswanegy@yahoo.com
Another fixer we met at the "Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge" (see below) and who was recommended to us by other travelers was Mohamed Abouda (phone: 012/25111968 and 097/2301698 and 097/2306568). He seemed to be very professional and helped us with travel tips and contact persons.

In Aswan, it is important to go to the traffic court (together with the fixer) where it is checked whether there are any traffic tickets which still have to be paid for. If you don't have their stamp in your passport and you try to go through the border, you will be sent back to Aswan at the Egyptian border checkpoint.

The visa for Sudan are easy to get in Aswan at the Sudanese consulate general
Consulate General of the Republic of Sudan
El Sadat Rd. - El Khazzah Rd. (close to the Al Rudwan Mosque)
Aswan
phone: 0972307231
GPS coordinates N 24° 05.5176', E 032° 88.3164'
You don't need a fixer here, but he can speed up the process and maybe help extending the visa validity (costs US$50 for a family).
For the visa application process you will need:
- two passport photos
- a photocopy of your passport
- your passport
- the filled in visa application form (you will get it at the consulate); in the form they ask for other valid visa you have, so I figured out that it might help to have the visa for Ethiopia before applying for the Sudan visa (they are easy to get in Cairo at the Ethiopian Embassy, Consular Section, 21 Sheikh Mohamed El Ghazali Street, Dokki; takes one working day; US$60 for one month/single entry and US$70 for three months/double entry).
We also had an invitation letter to Sudan, which is not mandatory, but also may help speeding up the process.
Usually the Sudanese visa take about three working days (in our case it was just two), for Americans they can take up to two weeks as the details have to be sent to Khartoum and processed there.
The price for the Sudan visa in Aswan is US$50 each (instead of about US$110 in Cairo). Usually, you get one month, our visa are valid for two months (due to what we do not know).

If you need a "taxi" in Aswan, call Mohammed Sayed (tel.: 0122 4421767 and 0114 2748889), he will not be more expensive than a taxi, but more reliable, speaks good English and is well informed about what overlanders might need.

 
 

A good place to stay for overlanders is the Nubian house "Adam Home Overland Camp", where you can camp for around 70EL (about 8€) for a car and two adults.
Adam Home Overland Camp
tel.: 0122 442 1767,
mail: adamhome.camp@facebook.com,
GPS coordinates: N 24°10.135' E032°51.971'
Adam Home it is a great place at the west bank of the Nile (a bit run down at the moment, though, due to health issues of the owner and the impact of less tourism). They can also organise dinners at private Nubian homes and sailing and motor boat tours on the Nile.

 

We avoided the police convoy and went through the desert alone.

 

From Aswan to Abu Simbel there is a police-convoy going daily at 4 and 11 o'clock in the morning which starts at the obelisk in Aswan (if you want to use the convoy, be there one hour in advance) and will speed through the desert at roundabout 130km/h (from what we have heard) - accidents have occured. We did not want to use this convoy and simply went to the police/military checkpoint at 10:30 in the morning. Nobody spoke English, they checked the car registration and driver's ID and off we went all alone through the desert. It is a 290km drive and there are petrol stations on the way. I would fuel up in Aswan still, as not all petrol stations have electricity and fuel all the time!
We went to Abu Simbel one day in advance as we wanted to visit the temples and you cannot go to the Abu Simbel temples and cross the border on the same day as the border is only open between 9 o'clock and 2 o'clock in the afternoon.

 

The Ramses Temple at night.

 

In Abu Simbel, you can camp near the temples on the main car park near the Tourist Police building or ask at one of the hotels.

 

The "Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge"

 

We took a room at "Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge", a Nubian style ecohotel with extremely helpful people, a wonderful atmosphere, great food, beer and wine. "Eskaleh" is locally owned and very professionally run, the rooms are very clean and the complete house is beautifully decorated. Some of their food is based on homegrown products from their own farm.
Eskaleh Nubian Ecolodge
phone: 0122 3680521 and 097 3401 288,
mail: info@eskaleh.net;
GPS coordinates: N 22° 20'47'', E 031°37'7'';
rooms 70€ - 80€ incl. breakfast (children under 6 are free of charge), they also do lunch and dinner.
For overlanders who would like to sleep in their cars, it is also possible here (at what rate we do not know, but this rate will surely not be over the top!).

 

Squeezed in between trucks, cars and people.

 

The car ferry leaves directly from Abu Simbel (the meeting point usually is at the Bank Cairo) and it takes about 1 hour.

 
 

From the port on the other side of Lake Nasser to the border post between Egypt and Sudan it is a drive of about 35km.

The Egyptian fixer will go with you on the ferry, to the border and will do all the bureaucratic processes together with you on the Egyptian side.
The border opens at 9:00 o'clock in the morning and they open and close the gate for each car separately.
After entering, we had to drive to the customs, who wanted to scan every bag (!) and also check the car. At borders, we always try to take control of the procedures instead of letting others search our Land Rover. The kids stay inside the car and are allowed to watch a video on the i-Pad and Juliane brings the bags to the scanner while I show the officials every box and locker ("Do you want to see this?" ... "May I show you that?"). During the process, we are always friendly, but also very slow because generally, there is only one scanner and there are other people waiting, too - sometimes the officials will give up and let us go. They also wanted to see the boxes on the roof rack, and as they are "heavy" (which they are not!), the officer had to come up with me while I showed him what was inside the boxes. Funnily, the other customs officers made fun of him shaking the car while he was on top.
After that I insisted on being allowed to park the Land Rover in the shadow because of the kids.
After customs, also the offices of the traffic police and the immigration had to be provided with bureaucratic work and finally, we were allowed to leave Egypt.
Our "fixer", Kamal Muawad, did a good job and we could certainly recommend him. The only thing we had to do was a lot of waiting (we had some tea with truck drivers, lunch and several conversations with passers by while he did his job).
For our first days in Sudan, Kamal also supported us with 2150 Sudanese Pounds, as there is no Bank in Wadi Halfa (the exchange rate was 9,18 to the € instead of the black-market-rate of 11,30 in Khartoum but certainly better than the official exchange rate which is around 7 pounds per €).

After you have passed the gate on the Egyptian side, the Sudanese gate is reached after about 100m.

For the Sudanese side, you might need another fixer. We chose to take Magdi Boshara,
contact details:
Magdi Boshara
phone: 0121730885 and 0122262060
mailNUBATIA51@YAHOO.COM,
because he simply offered us a cheaper price of US$420 (instead of US$500 from Mazar Mahir, who also has a good reputation on the HUBB; contact details: Mazar Mahir, phone:, +249122380740 and +249911075226)
mail: mazarhalfa@gmail.com).
On the Sudanese side you go to the "arrivals hall" where you have to fill in three forms with your personal details (the entry card, the document for the "Alien Registration Department" (So, you are officially registered ALIENS now!) and one document for the security police). For the "Alien Registration Department", you need one passport photocopy and a passport photo.
We were also centrally registered to Khartoum, so would not have to register somewhere else on our way through Sudan unless we would stay longer than one month. Cameras don't seem to have to be registered any more (do not take photos of checkpoints, all police and army buildings, post offices, bridges, powerlines et cetera!)!
After endless three hours of waiting in the arrivals hall, the car was inspected (5 minutes, just looking into it, asking some questions whether we had beer) and we were free to leave.

The complete procedure at the border took us 5 hours and 20 minutes (not including ferry and driving to the border post) and it was extremely friendly on both sides, but especially so on the Sudanese side.

After leaving the Sudanese side of the border, we gave Magdi a lift to his home, where we would stay for one night with his family. We also went to Wadi Halfa with him to get Sudanese sim cards (Zain company, price: SDG25 for the sim card, SDG10 for phoning and SDG10 for one week of a data flat rate). At Magdi's house we had dinner together and breakfast the next morning as well.
It was great to start our time in Sudan like that because it gave us the chance to ask many questions concerning our route, dos and no-dos at cetera. Also, it was simply nice to stay with a Sudanese family. Magdi is very warm and welcoming, really seems to like his job and wanted to make everything as easy and relaxed for us as possible. We would always highly recommend him!

The big question on the net concerning this border seems to be "A fixer or no fixer!?". For us, having one was on the one hand very convenient - who knows how long it would have taken us without a fixer if with one it already took over 5 hours. On the other hand, we think that - especially in times of nearly no tourism and nearly no overlanders passing this border - paying for the services of a fixer also helps supporting families. Being a fixer is nothing smirky, negative or illegal, but it is a proper job people need a license for and are educated for by the customs. From what we heard from other overlanders, this border crossing seems to be the only one a fixer might be needed.

Sudanese Visa
visa costs US$50 each
fixer US$50 paid for two adults and two kids, i.e.US$12,50 per person
total costs US$250 / 220,00€

Border Egypt - Sudan
total cost Egyptian side (incl. fixer) 1640EL (i.e. 192,13€) includes all costs and ferry
total cost Sudanese side (incl. fixer) US$420 includes all costs (and in our case one night at Magdi's home, dinner and lunch and help with the sim cards)
total costs US$640 / 557,00€