Pole to Pole
Day 66: Atbara to Khartoum
Ibrahim cannot understand the need for all these stops, he just wants to get to Khartoum. It is Mohammed's birthday and there will be festivities tonight. My porter friend is much more chatty. He says he is a schoolmaster and asks me such imponderables as, 'Do you know Richard Burton?' I shake my head. There is a short pause. 'Do you know Roger Moore?'
We stop at a Nileside village. The river, swollen by the rains in Ethiopia, has risen eleven metres and will continue to rise until October. But the great, wide, generous Nile flows by on its way to make electricity for the Egyptians, leaving these Sudanese villages to try and extract what they can with, in this case, one steam pump and wooden sticks and boards to scrape out irrigation channels.
Its one of the puzzles of history that such hardship and poverty can exist in a land which over 2000 years ago was renowned for an iron industry and a rich agriculture. The area we are passing through still has some of the remains of the ancient kingdom of Meroe, including a group of broken and leaning pyramids, some topless, which stand in the desert like a row of bad teeth.
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