Saturday, May 3, 2008


April 22, 2008
Suakin, Sudan
Coordinates 19 06.502N, 037 20.323E

It always amazes us when we turn a corner into a new country, town or anchorage and come to find a hugely developed civilization where we thought we would see primitive surroundings or run down ruins. Equally surprised, this time the opposite was true. We had heard and read from others that Suakin, Sudan was the place of choice to stop and check into the country. Ports of entry are usually fairly well built up with quite a few resources. Where we thought we might find a larger city we drifted
into a small, rather desolate town of Suakin. As you drift past flat dry desert plains dotted with occasional adobe or brick structures, we were excited to see the random camel walking or sitting by the waters edge. Mysterious ruins that originally were built out of coral blocks brought up from the sea floor by hand hundreds of years ago, have been left to decay. We were anxious to find the story behind these buildings in a town that is known to have been the last slave trading destination up
until WWI. We were sorely disappointed when their reply was simply, "They got old and fell down."

After a simple but slightly expensive check in, $360 USD including fuel, though the kids were free, we took a quick tour, dinner on shore and quickly came to love the feel of this simple and fairly impoverished town. The blazing heat both night and day and the wind storms have worked their magic over the town during the last few hundreds of years. Many buildings are simply left in piles of ruble and ruins until the next one is to be built. There were no trees or shrubs to speak of and only one
main road in this small corner of Sudan. Never fear though, technology has made its way here as evident by the cell phones that everyone is carrying. Even the oldest, most wrinkly little man we found could whip out his Motorola and show you his latest text message that was written in English!

Our first meal in Africa consisted of a bean dish (kidney or pinto) with cheese on top, slightly bitter and tasteless, salt helps. A whole chicken was $12 US, which was a bit rich for our budget. Instead we opted to simple bread similar to naan and a mystery meat on a stick cooked on an open flame. Enough of this tasty fare to feed 11 people for the low price. Including drinks which again as in every country has been coke or pepsi. The only thing that is found unanimously throughout the world
believe it or not followed only by plastic bags! The meat we ate that night was most likely to have been goat since they are the most prevalent animal to be seen around town besides the hundreds of feral cats, donkeys and occasional camel. Donkeys are the main source of transportation, carrying either men on their backs, or drawing carts behind them with a variety of goods including the water tanks for delivery from the Nile River we were told.
Matthew was our guide for the evening. With a name like Matthew we had to ask and yes, northern Sudan is 50% Muslim, 50 % Christian. We saw many many mosques in the less than 1 sq, mile that we walked but we never did see the other churches. We saw only one woman the first night and only a handful the next two days. Always dressed in full headdress but their faces were showing and their clothes were beautiful colors of purples, reds, and oranges, as well as black.
We visited the open market the next day where you can find just about any item of produce you might desire. Onions to oranges, beans to bananas, it was nearly all here depending on what you are willing to pay. The currency is a Sudanese pound with an exchange of 50 cents US to one of their pounds. 1 pound for 3 eggs vs. for 3 for an orange. We got eggs. 5 pounds for a watermelon and the goat meat, tasty looking though it was hanging out there in the dust, flies and sunshine was out of our price

A new acquaintance Awad was our self appointed guide for the day. Amazingly intelligent with a grasp of world geography and politics that would put most American's to shame; he enlightened us on many of their ways and helped with a lot of translating and trading. He is the town's local doctor and though we never could quite understand where he went to school, he certainly knew a lot about everyone and everything there. We spent a lot of time with the local shop smith of sorts. The shop smith
was diligently working on short daggers with handles made out of ebony wood. His shop had an array of whips, bridles and saddles made out of goat hair but built for camels. We were particularly interested in some very old long swords. A quick visit to a local tea house, we each tasted a new version of cappuccino. Tiny little porcelain cups that look like they should hold sake are filled ¾'s full with sugar. Next, the coffee or tea beverage made of cardamom, ginger and cloves that has been heated
in miniature aluminum watering cans is poured right over the sugar. Adding to the charm is the open flame charcoal fire inside the brick structured stove and tea house, in already 90+ degree heat, that has no way to vent to anywhere and the dish washing system run entirely by flies. It's a whole new flavor!

We always bring our cameras but have learned over the last couple of months to carefully hold it up first and ask if we may take some photos. It is often surprising who does and doesn't want a photo taken. And it never fails that if we forget to ask first, we get in trouble or at least certainly get the finger wag and a good talking to. Kelly girl will let you know first hand that photos of military buildings are off limits.

We topped off our stay there with an Arabian nights dinner and dance party on De Pelikaan. Each boat came in costume and together we celebrated the marvelous connections we have made and the memories we share. Once we get through the canal many of our paths will be separated as we each have different time schedules to keep on the other side and none of us wants to wait until it's too late to let the other know just how special they are to us.

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