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Pole to Pole

Day 63: Aswan to Wadi Halfa

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe proprietor of the hotel, Ibrahim Abbas, a tall, dignified, melancholy character, brings out two photographs, and I understand his sadness. One shows an elegant waterfront of distinctive wooden-balconied houses alongside a fine mosque with decorated minaret. The next shows nothing but water lapping around the pinnacle of the minaret.

'The waters come at night,' he remembers, ' . . . pushed down the houses. It was terrible.' It was in August 1964 that Lake Nasser finally engulfed the old Wadi Halfa.

4 p.m. I lie on a thin grubby mattress in my room. The air is unmoving. The thermometer shows ninety-eight Fahrenheit, but it's dry heat, just bearable. Flies settle on my mouth and nostrils until I grow tired of waving them away and fall into a light sleep. The room seems hotter when I wake. I blink out at an implacable sky. Beside my bed my Braun alarm clock sits on a pink metal table next to a chair with a plastic strip seat. The walls are bare, with a pale blue wash over chipped and scuffed plaster.

Around five o'clock I hear the wailing sound of a distant locomotive, and within minutes the hotel is galvanized. This is the moment for which they have been waiting a month - the arrival of the Khartoum train. The hotel suddenly fills up - every bed, inside and outside, is mobilized.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 63
  • Country/sea: Sudan
  • Place: Wadi Halfa
  • Book page no: 137

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