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Pole to Pole

Day 71: Khartoum

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleThe modern British presence in Khartoum has dwindled to a handful of aid workers and teachers. Since the Gulf War even the embassy has been reduced to fewer than ten people. There remains the Sudan Club, once open only to those of British and British Commonwealth nationality, now extended to include anyone from an EC country. It occupies a villa in the middle of the city. It has a swimming-pool, squash courts, a pale green lawn and a membership that has shrunk to 230 from a colonial high of over 1000. I meet Alan Woodruff for lunch here. He is Professor of Medicine at the University of Juba. He's seventy years old and plays tennis three times a week.

Talking with him offers a bracing corrective to any dewy-eyed nostalgia for a British Sudan. I ask him what it was like during the Gulf War, when Sudan took Saddam Hussein's side and most European governments advised their nationals to get out.

Professor Woodruff brightens visibly at the memory. 'Well . . . I had the whole place to myself . . . dined in state, on my own!' He says he felt quite safe and secure. The country's myriad political problems and the fact that he is, as he admits, living in a 'war situation' does not seem to worry him half as much as the salad.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 71
  • Country/sea: Sudan
  • Place: Khartoum
  • Book page no: 153

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