Updated: Mar 9
If you hadn’t already noticed: one of our greatest pleasures while travelling is being around no one. Being all by yourself, especially when in nature, creates a feeling of peace and quiet where you can let go of everything else and just be. Mostly while on vacation, this state of mind is hard to accomplish: even on the remotest hiking trail you will eventually run into another couple wearing matching Jack Wolfskin jackets and you can be sure that on a deserted island there will be at least on other naked person.
Well, Sudan is different - we were driving on desert highways by ourselves for hours, only interrupted by the occasional rest stop alongside the road with delicious freshly brewed coffee to get some energy into our parched bodies.
" There is an option to get gas at station that sell for black-market prices. It’s not illegal, ..."
The other sight we would get used to were lines. Lines of cars, sometimes for hundreds of meters in front of gas stations. Often, no one would be there: the cars were lined up and the owners had left, only to come back once the station would be supplied with gas again. When or at what price that would happen - no one can tell. There is an option to get gas at station that sell for black-market prices. It’s not illegal, it’s simply not subsidized by the government and has probably gone traded through multiple middlemen and thus, 99% of the Sudanese can’t afford it. One liter of diesel will cost you 0.56 EUR as opposed to 0.04EUR for the official price.
When we do meet people, they are with no exception the kindest, friendliest and most helpful people we have ever met. At first, we are hesitant to accept help or invitations, given our experiences in Egypt (remember the I help you, you help me mindset). But very quickly we realize that we are genuinely welcomed as strangers by people who live in one of the poorest countries in the world, often under very harsh conditions. We meet Samira at a coffee shop whom we crown the best coffee maker in Sudan, or Mohamad who, at 19 years old, owns a rest stop in the middle of nowhere and is very well educated, so we end up learning from him about the social structures in Sudan. We drive through little villages along the Nile where we are greeted with shouts of welcome by young and old. we stop at make shift food stalls to buy vegetables and falafel, often communication with our hands.
But the highlight awaits always at the end of our day: whenever it pleases us, we leave the highway which means taking a right or left turn, not on any road, but simply straight into the desert. We pick a rock or a dune to provide some shelter against the wind that usually picks up in the afternoon and calms down at night. And then we take our chairs out, sit down, exhausted by the heat and hear - nothing. There is no sound, very rarely a bird or a cricket, and this is heaven and lets us forget about the heat we endured during the day.
Actually, there is another highlight right after the silence: stripping naked, taking a shower and letting yourself dry in the warm breeze. Once we’re relaxed and felling fresh again, we have nothing else to worry about than staring off into the endless star sprinkled night sky.