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#1 Jun 20, 2017 11:41 pm

New Historian

Scribbled on the back of the in-flite magazine, over Sudan


That’s the word that springs to mind, when gazing out the window of the 737 as we descend into the airport at Khartoum. And with that word comes the thought: Thank God I wasn’t born here! Landscape as sandscape. The stuff is everywhere: on the ground, in the air, plastered against the sandstone buildings. As we begin the descent, I can vaguely see, below the yellow sandy haze, a hodgepodge of sand-coloured matchboxes, indiscriminately thrown against each other, all fighting for space; each surrounded by a tiny walled yard. To keep in, or keep out? Although they are, somewhat, arranged as if by streets, there are in fact, no streets at all. Just open, dusty spaces. Not a tree in sight. I mean, not one. And almost no cars. Meandering tracks through the sand evidence their existence, but they are nowhere to be seen; as if like all living creatures, they wisely stay out of the ferocious noonday sun.

As we descend still lower, the White Nile meanders into view. Snake-like, it wends a languid path through the sand, leaving traces of where it has been; no clue as to where it might go. Man’s impact is evident by the irrigated fields on either bank; but a stone’s throw from the river, the desert reigns. I gaze down at the confluence of the White and Blue Niles: an historic spot. We hover over suburban Khartoum. Now, at last, signs of human habitation begin to take on a more recognisable mein. Urban dwellings, devoid of trees, all bearing the same stamp: heat, dust, poverty. The city centre, at least, appears more organised: factories, mosques, minarets.

We land. As we taxi to a stop and the door opens, a wall of heat invades the interior, doing battle with the inadequate auxiliary power unit. A few passengers scamper down the stairs, into the welcoming arms of the air-conditioned bus. Its 42 degrees Centigrade. A cool day, we are informed. I stand on the steps for 2 minutes, breathing in Khartoum air. An armed soldier at the foot of the stairs discourages further investigation. I scurry back to my seat. Been there; done that. Or as much of it as I want.

Onward to Asmara.

Desert. Unrelenting. Mountains. Craggy, domineering. Not much lower than we are. Paths along the saddles of the ranges. Who walks here? Mountains – plateau – more mountains – still higher plateau. Step-like, we ascend to Asmara. At last, signs of habitation. Ploughed fields, kraals. A road. Cattle the only traffic. We descend lower. A village; haphazard. More fields; still no roads. Where are we going to land? Terraced hillocks. Like an African girl’s cane-rowed head. Patchwork fields of green and brown (not that I can tell them apart!). Meandering streams, cutting deep into the earth. Another village.  Still no roads. Mud-brick houses, walls. A mosque. At last, red-mud houses. One bus.

We land. Military hardware everywhere. Green-brown camouflage; gleaming white UN. Flags. A helicopter hovers. Asmara in the distance.


#2 Jun 21, 2017 7:13 am


Re: Scribbled on the back of the in-flite magazine, over Sudan

Save this for the are very descriptive.


#3 Jun 25, 2017 1:34 pm


Re: Scribbled on the back of the in-flite magazine, over Sudan

Silkee wrote:

Save this for the are very descriptive.

I think that it is pretty obvious from previous posts that it is exactly what New Hist has been doing.

A book signing coming to a book store somewhere near you any day now.


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