An oasis of hospitality in the searing heat of the Nubian Desert

← previous part ¦ next part →

Lake Nasser (Nubia) ferry
Lake Nasser (Nubia) ferry

Signaling the warming up of relations between Egypt and Sudan, a land border crossing between the two nations was opened in 2014. Three years prior, however, when we did our motorcycle trip through Africa, the only way to get from Egypt to Sudan was by ferry.

Wadi Halfa town center
Wadi Halfa town center

The ferry starts from Aswan, where we left off last time, and takes about 18 hours to reach the remote Sudanese town of Wadi Halfa on the shores of Lake‪ Nubia. To get an idea of the conditions on the ferry, imagine a launch in Bangladesh during Eid. We arrived in Wadi Halfa on the last day of May 2011, where we had to wait for our motorcycles for five days, as they were transported on a separate ship. Life in Wadi Halfa is slow, houses are simple yet incredibly beautiful, and people are friendly and open-hearted. Water and ‪desert‬ create a peaceful ambience for weary souls, and I have been dreaming of going back ever since.‬‬

Once we had been reunited with our motorcycles, we rode through the Nubian Desert, where temperatures during the day often go significantly above 40 degrees Celsius, to the Sudanese capital of Khartoum. The road, about 1,000 kilometers long, was in perfect shape. That, however, does not help much, if you are “lucky” enough to hit the only stone on hundreds of kilometers of asphalt. My front tire broke internally, resulting in a scary tire bulge. It took us more than 2,000 kilometers of slow and careful riding until we found a new tire, in Addis Ababa.

In the Nubian Desert, somewhere between Wadi Halfa and the Sudanese capital of Khartoum

In Khartoum, where the White Nile and the Blue Nile meet, a Sudanese friend introduced us to the local cuisine. The national dish of Sudan is ful, which we already knew from Egypt, where it is popular, too. Ful is a dish of cooked fava beans served with vegetable oil and cumin, and optionally with onion, garlic, parsley, lemon juice, and chili pepper.

Our next stop in Sudan was Al Qadarif, which is located about 160 kilometers away from the Ethiopian border at Metema. Finding an affordable hotel there proved harder than one might expect. The night began to set in, and we were still searching. We were about to give up, and prepared ourselves to sleep on the ground in front of a gas station on the outskirts of the city, when a local family invited us to spend the night with them. They took us to their sparsely furnished home, two or three huts with walls made of mud, and prepared ful for us. After food, they took us along to a wedding. Looking back, this was one of our most memorable nights in Africa. Before we left for Ethiopia the next morning, we offered some money, in an attempt to express our gratitude. They refused. The poorest people are often the most generous.

Al Qadarif family
Al Qadarif family

Sudan is still widely untainted by tourism and, in my estimation, one of the most beautiful countries in Africa. Its people are incredibly friendly, warm, and generous, and their hospitality is truly humbling. Go there before the tourists do!

Part 1: From Germany to South Africa: The journey begins
Part 2: A millennium of Islamic scholarship, and a revolution yet to be completed
Part 3: Stories of a time long gone, and Egyptian khichuri
Part 4: An oasis of hospitality in the searing heat of the Nubian Desert
Part 5: The Simien Mountains, and the first hijra in Islam
Part 6: Stranded in the Kenyan desert, and a visit to the land of the Maasai
Part 7: “Welcome to Africa!”
Part 8: Victoria Falls, and free-roaming lions in Botswana
Part 9: South Africa: The Rainbow Nation
Summary: My Germany to South Africa Motorcycle Expedition 2011