Eager to leave Khartoum and exploring a new country, we were headed to the Ethiopian embassy to get our visas done. We had heard rumors that the borders were closed due to the pandemic, but no one could really confirm the that and we couldn’t get information online from the embassy itself. As we had passed the US embassy on our way, completely shut off from the public by high fences topped with barbed wire, surveillance cameras on every corner and armed guards, we were surprised to find the Ethiopian embassy unguarded and basically open to anyone who cared to walk in. And that’s also where to easy part stopped. Obviously, we were the only non-Ethiopian visitors and everyone was surprised to see us there. We were told to wait and after a couple of minutes an official came to talk to us. The conversation was rather quick: borders are closed and there was no way and the embassy wouldn’t issue a visa. We were confused, since we also knew that people could fly into Addis Ababa with an online visa. So, if tourists could enter via the airport, COVID couldn’t possibly be the reason, right?
"...by the we were trying to get our visas, the situation threatened to escalate, and Ethiopia was on the brink of a civil war."
We went back to our new second home, Abd Alsalam’s garage, to figure out what to do next. As always, the place was buzzing with all kinds of acquaintances of Abd Alsalam and it was there that we learnt that in fact with our arrival in Khartoum a political development in Ethiopia had started which turned out to be getting worse (link). Being a federalist state, the most powerful region - Tigray, on the border to Sudan - was uprising against the central government after ongoing smoldering conflicts between the leaders in Tigray and Addis Ababa. By the time we were trying to get our visas, the situation threatened to escalate, and Ethiopia was on the brink of a civil war. Official information of the topic could nowhere be found, as the Tigray region had been completely shut off from power and internet by the central government. Two days later though, when the conflict was mentioned in the ARD Tagesschau, we knew that there wouldn’t be a way for us anytime soon to cross the land border to Ethiopa. Already, thousands of refugees were crossing from Ethiopia into Sudan, fleeing the military interventions.
When it finally sunk in that we were stuck in Khartoum and there was no easy way out, we hit rock bottom as far as our journey was concerned. We could not believe it: we had come so far in times of a global pandemic and now we happened to have the unbelievably bad timing of wanting to enter a country which had lived in peace for years and was now starting a civil war? COME ON, you must be f*** kidding me. By the way: of course, we know that ours, as compared to the people of Ethiopia exposed to the current political situation, was and still is a luxury problem. Nevertheless, it was a big problem to us which sucked big time.
Our options were limited:
1. Continue our journey without Boggy and returning to him as soon as we would be able to cross into Ethiopia. You heard correctly: LEAVING BOGGY. No. Way.
2. Waiting in Khartoum for the border to open. If you have read my last blogpost, you and I both now that there is no way we were going to spend another day in this city.
3. Sea border instead of land border. There was an option to ship Boggy from Port Sudan to either Dar El Salam (Tanzania) or Mombasa (Kenia) on a container ship and picking him up there. This would be taking weeks, if not months and also cost a fortune. As you might have seen on the latest photos, Bjoern apparently can’t even afford a halfway decent haircut anymore, so we weren’t going to spend thousands of dollars on shipping.
So, we strongly disliked all the above-mentioned options but couldn’t come up with other solutions. One sleepless night and one depressing day later, after having turned over every thought twice, we hit our lowest low. Sitting on a river bank on the Nile, drinking coffee, we were both literally and emotionally stuck. That’s when we decided we needed to escape Khartoum in order to clear our heads. We simply couldn’t take the city, the heat and the dust anymore, so we looked at the African continent for a destination where we could relax and plan our next steps. We both intuitively picked the one country we thought we’d not go to on this journey - we had ticked it off our bucket list 11 years ago, on a trip we took together with a group of friends when we were still featuring chubby cheeks and a face like a shiny baby ass.
TRAVEL TIME: November 1 - 4, 2020