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Pole to Pole

Day 69: Khartoum

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe threat of violence is more real here than in any of the other countries through which we have travelled. The American ambassador was assassinated recently. In 1988, a bomb was thrown into the restaurant of the Acropole Hotel, a popular rendezvous for Western aid workers and journalists. Five people were killed. Last year a bomb was tossed into the lobby of the hotel at which we are staying. A notice by the lifts reminds guests that there is a curfew in the city between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.

Despite the presence of tanks and troops at various points in the city, especially around the bridges, access to the Ministry of Information seems very relaxed. People come and go in the forecourt including a trim, urbane gentleman with short silver-grey hair who turns out to be Sudan's leading film director, Jed Gudalla Gubara. He is a man of spirit and humour, fluent in English. He says he is shooting two films here at the moment. I ask him what they are. One, he says, is about National Savings, and the other about mining.

The news from inside the Ministry of Information is not good. They refuse to give us a permit to travel south. A state of civil war has existed there for years and they cannot guarantee our safety. Even if we were to fly into the southern capital of Juba, it is surrounded by Garang's SPLA (Sudan People's Liberation Army) fighters and it would be highly dangerous for us to try and get through to Uganda.

Our attempt to follow the thirty degree meridian, in which we have succeeded, give or take a degree or two, since reaching Leningrad forty-two days ago, seems to have ground to a halt.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 69
  • Country/sea: Sudan
  • Place: Khartoum
  • Book page no: 149

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