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Published: December 8th 2010
On my penultimate day in Egypt, I sat in a bar watching the sun set over the banks the Nile, the massed fellucas floating past, and the sky turning red, as the sun disappeared and signalled the end to my time in the country. It started as just a place that I had to travel through before getting to countries that I wanted to see, but after 4 weeks here, I couldn't have asked for more. The smell of sheesha smoke in the air. The sound of dominoes hitting the table. Coffee being brewed. Friendly people. Fantastic monuments. Captivating deserts. Starry skies. Golden sand. Red sunsets. The Nile. Karnak. Siwa. It's been a lot more than I ever expected, and I'm slightly sad to move on that's for sure. But now, for Sudan, and here I am, on the edge of Lake Nasser, waiting for the ferry from Aswan to Wadi Halfa.
The queue for the ferry is an odd one - the usual mix of locals with a whole assortment of goods from plastic trays to freezers, joined here by the remnants of colonialism in their brand new Land Cruisers, knee-high socks, safari shorts, and khaki shirts. As elsewhere
in Africa (and as on the ferry from Venice), 'adventure' now seem to be big business. Excitement for the wealthy. There's still a fair share of cyclists, backpackers, and battered old Land Rovers, but there's a hint of business and beourgeousie too. Each to his/her own I guess, but this ferry feels less 'adventurous' than I expected and hoped, especially when I see toddlers running about on deck. I thought travelling in Sudan would be about me, the desert, and Nubia. Romantic ideals of heading into the untamed and unknown. I didn't expect to have to share it with Mr and Mrs Beaumont from Surrey, with their darling Tabitha and Peaches too.
Putting that to one side, I'm still excited by the ferry, and the thought of Sudan ahead. I meet up with the Australians I first met on the Venice ferry 4 weeks ago, and after a convoluted check-in, we are the first to board the ship. It's a free for all for 'seating', and we get the prime spot below the life-raft - shade from the sun, and safety incase anything goes wrong. The downside of being first on, is that we have to sit and wait while the world and his dog (and their new fridge/freezer/washing machine/blender) are also loaded. Seven hours after boarding, the engine roars into action, the ropes are thrown off, and we finally leave Egypt behind.
The sun sets over Lake Nasser, turning the water a bright shade of orange. All eyes stare expectantly south - travellers into the unknown, and families returning home. In 18 hours we travel from Egypt to Sudan. From the Middle East to Nubia and Africa. From tour buses and touts, to dust and sand. From some of the most photographed sights in the world, to pyramids without another soul insight. For me, it's the great unknown, and I can't wait. This is where it starts. I put on my mp3 player, lie back, stare at the sky as the sun sets over Egypt and the first part of my trip, and smile...
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