Wadi Halfa, Sudan

  • Date
  • 16 October 2000

Late afternoon Jim called me from inside the hotel, where I was reading, and announced, “Madam, your car is here”. I grinned when I saw an old donkey, steered by an even older Muslim man wearing traditional garb, and a homemade, welded cart hitched behind the tired, white donkey. Jumping onto our metal throne, we took off for a ride to the Black part of town, as coined by the local Nubians. The Southerners or Blacks from southern Sudan squat on a small piece of land out by the Nile. There is little electricity except for three or four florescent lights powered by local generators.

As we passed people, they looked baffled at our contentment on this donkey cart joy ride. They smiled, laughed and waved, but very few people were out as little social life exists in Wadi Halfa. People remain in their homes during the heat of the day and since electricity sometimes works in the early evening, those who can afford a TV sit inside at night watching the national station berate Israel.

In the Black part of town we found young boys and teenagers playing soccer in the dusty sand. We passed narrow passages with mud-built homes on either side and mud walls separating one home from another. A rare light offered a glimpse of a man with a stall serving ful (beans and oil) from a huge tin pot and a small shop, composed of toothpaste, mirrors and brushes on a wobbly table outside a man’s home. Mohammed, our driver veered over to the sole church where we ran into Raja, a 28-year-old Nuba Mountain woman I have met several times in the morning selling tea in the market. Raja’s eyes widened in almost disbelief in seeing us visit her church.

We witnessed yet another glorious sunset. I am not sure if the sunsets are more spectacular here or if we just have the time to enjoy them more, but as the sun falls over Wadi Halfa, we see shades of burnt red giving way to tangerine-orange. The desert sand sparkles and radiates like liquid gold as the sun drops quickly, almost like a ball of fire descending, and once it disappears, a golden yellow glow beams over the desert before blue darkness hits. Even then, glittering stars and a full moon spotlight movements.