Published: December 10th 2010November 27th 2010
We left a still sleeping, and possibly hungover, Abri early the following morning, and head south along the Nile towards Kerma, 3 hours away. Along the way, we stopped off at the small village of Wawa. Wawa is pleasant enough, with wide dusty lanes, and single storey yellow and blue Nubian house, but apart from that, has little of interest itself. The main attraction is situated on the opposite bank of the Nile, in the shape of the Temple of Soleb, one of Sudan's many overlooked relics from Pharonic times.
We wanted to get over the Nile as early as possible, keen to avoid the stifling midday heat, but were ushered into a shaded courtyard and told to wait until the boatman was ready. We thought this was typical Sudanese bearacracy at work, but after an hour of waiting and getting frustrated, and still unsure why he couldn't take us across the river, a plate of food big enough to feed an army was bought out, and we were encouraged to share it with him. Now don't tell his wife, but the highlight of the meal was a bowl of Lyle's Golden Syrup, which we'd seen in a few shops
in Abri, and makes a surprisingly good dip for Nubian flatbread.
His lunch over, and now in the hottest part of the day, the boatman saw it fit to carry us across the river. Once on the other side we were walked past palm groves and beans fields, until, through the trees, huge pillars of golden sandstone loomed into sight. Eager to explore the site, it was here that we got to experience traditional Sudanese bureaucracy - an often commented upon aspect of travelling in the country. We literally had to walk past the temple, which wasn't fenced off at all, to get to the ghaffir to pay the entry fee. Here we were yet again told to sit and wait, a favourite local pastime, as the ghaffir struggled to come to terms with the only arrival of tourists that week. Once he'd gained his composure, we were told the ticket would be 50SDP for two people. Then we motioned there were three of us, not two, the boatman got involved, and we were suddenly told the price for three of us would be 40SDP. Not quite sure what was happening, but happy to save the cash, we paid for the ticket, and quickly hurried off before the ghaffir learned to count.
The temple itself was quite ruined - being built on the Nile flood plain hadn't helped matters - but several large columns and a walled gateway to one end survived upright, interspersed with hieroglyphic covered stones and broken statues half covered by the encroaching sands of the Sahara. This does however give it a very unique charm, with the emptiness of the desert a good counter compared to the tourist traps of similar sights in Egypt. What's more, our $8 entry fee had given us free reign over the whole site, without a guard, gate, or fence in sight, and the walled gateway, 20m high, seemed like the perfect vantage point to view the site. A previous visitor had clearly had a similar idea to us, and had carved steps to the top of the wall. Within less than 30 steps, and a few short leaps, were we sat on top of an 3000 year old temple. It's not everyday you get to do that, and the view was fantastic, with the palm lined Nile behind us, and the endless desert stretching out ahead. I was keen to stay for a while, be we had to leave all too soon - eager to get to Kerma before it got dark - and I regretfully climbed back down the steps and back to reality. You certainly can't do that in Egypt.