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Pole to Pole

Day 69: Khartoum

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleBack at the hotel we consider our options. There is no shortage of advice. The expatriate community here has grown close as it has diminished, and the lobby of the Hilton is one of the places where it meets the outside world. We talk to an Englishman who has worked here for three years and who thinks that if the present government continues its policies most of the aid agencies will be forced out of Sudan in the next year. He looks up with weary resignation: 'They don't like us'. The aid scams are a joke, he says. 'Twenty million pounds' worth of stuff is unaccounted for.' He finishes yet another fruit juice. 'Welcome to the Sudan,' he keeps repeating with a shallow laugh.

Still feeling low on energy, I content myself with a game of table tennis, a lazy swim and a wander round the undernourished hotel bookshop, which must be the only one in the world which has Jilly Cooper next door to The Cultural Atlas of Islam and Jeffrey Archer side by side with The Sudanese Bourgeoisie - Vanguard of Development?.

I finish Alan Moorehead's The White Nile looking out across the river itself, swollen and grey, inundating fields and trees a few hundred yards from my window. If I could follow it, it would lead me due south across swamp and desert to the Equator and the Mountains of the Moon, the very centre of Africa, to which the great names of Victorian exploration, the Spekes and Burtons and Stanleys and Livingstones, had been drawn 130 years ago. Now it seems that my hope of seeing any more of the White Nile must be abandoned - a casualty of war.
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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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