We could have written a post everyday for the past three weeks while coming to Karthoum, Sudan’s capital, from Aswan in Upper Egypt through the deserts and villages of North Sudan. Our own survival in a sun baked land could have provided ample stories of prickly heat, triclosan powder, nausea, constipation and butt crack irritation. The rich and long history of ancient civilizations, invaders, wars and extreme politics could have been unpacked through daily musings. Not to mention the rich tapestry of tribal cultures intertwined and evolving in Africa but, figuratively and literally, so close to the Middle East. Most importantly we could have told you about the people, their openness and positivism, the daily gestures that made us feel comfortable and welcomed even during the hottest time of the year, on which falls the Ramadan this year. One of the five pillars of Islam, the holy month is a time for prayer and humility while Muslims refrain from eating, drinking (no water), smoking and sexy times from sun up to sun down!

Now that we have reached the laid-back capital city and are sitting in clean clothes in our air-conditioned room at the mirage that is the legendary German Guesthouse (now re-branded as the International Karthoum Guesthouse), provided with three square meals a day and an excellent WiFi connection, we are overwhelmed by the material and pressed for time as our new Ethiopian visas are already ticking—even though Ethiopia is still more than 500 kilometres away. So, we have decided to share this section of the journey with few words but lots of images. Aware that some overlanders will be rummaging through this post looking for slivers of road information about this poorly documented part of the world we include here some practical information about water, food and shade in the Nubian and Bayuda deserts.

Why come to Sudan now, we have been asked. Well, Pierre and I are not meticulous about timing, we’re of the broad strokes kind. Anyway, on a long ride you know where and when it starts, but for the rest of it you get there when you get there. So, it is unintentionally that we threw this double wrench in our wheels. Here is what happened…

KM 12930a
Sailing on Lake Nasser from Aswan to Wadi Halfa, from Egypt to Sudan, an overnight ride on one of the biggest man-made lake. The reservoir was created after Egypt built the Aswan High Dam on the Nile in the 1960s. Aswan Governorate, the Arab Republic of Egypt.
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En route, female tourists from Sudan and Canada enjoy a glimpse of the impressive Abu Simbel. The two temples were built starting in 1264 BC by Egyptian pharaoh Ramesses II and moved entirely from their location in 1968 to save them from the rising waters of the reservoir. Many other sites are now at the bottom of the lake. Abu Simbel, Aswan Governorate, Arab Republic of Egypt.
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After landing at Wadi Halfa we change some US dollars (international financial sanctions means no foreign bank system), load up with food and water and head out in the Nubian Desert. Mile posts and 2009 pavement on this beauty–and many thoughts for bike travellers that rode here before 2009! Wadi Halfa, Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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It is understood promptly that we will need to rise very early in the morning to try to beat the heat. Our days go from 30°C to 50°C! Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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Magzoub use to work in Karthoum for the oil pipeline but, since the secession of South Sudan in 2011, the industry has dried up and he is back in his beloved Nubia. He invites us for a delicious meal of eggplant, lentils, yogourt, bread and watermelon and educates us about Ramadan that starts at daybreak on June 18th. Old people, the sick, pregnant and nursing women, children and travellers don’t have to fast–sigh of relief!–and it is in his guesthouse that people will be coming for a meal. In other towns, like Delgo or Karima, we will find ourselves at the hospital cafeteria, the only open establishment until dusk. Abri, Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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From Abri we stay close to the Nile river through a series of wealthy agricultural communities. Children are off from school for the beginning of Ramadan and hamming it up for the camera. Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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At km 655 people are breaking the fast at a petrol station. We are invited to join in an fill up on chick peas, dates, flat bread and glasses of tamarindo and hibiscus juice. Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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Maps maintain that we are following the Nile but it is not so simple. The long river is often kilometres to the west, hidden behind mountains of rocks. We are in Sudan’s “belly of stones”. Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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After riding from daybreak to midday we find shade and water jars, sleep, eat (away from fasters), purify water and sweat. That day, it climbs to 45°C in the shade and when the hot desert wind blows it cooks the soles of our feet! Riding after 1pm is not constructive as our stomachs rebel already against the 11-12 litres of warm water we each drink daily. Delgo, Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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The capital of Northern State, Dongola, provides a bit of excitement with well-stoked shops, money changers and restaurants that open around 9 pm (after breakfast and prayer) and stay open for most of the night. We register our visas with the police ( a formality all visitors must do within 7 days of their arrival in the country) and indulge in some fried Nile perch. Dongola, Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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From Dongola we opt out of riding on the desolate direct road to Karima and stay along the Nile. Camels are found around most farms but these guys are caravaning along the “40 days road” to Egypt. Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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These beds are all over the north and we use them to rest at truck stops and here to spend the night after breaking the fast with most men from the neighborhood the night before. The green shop behind sold cold bottled water, a welcome change after days of luke warm water from our plastic water bottles. KM 328, Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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Men are mostly dressed in white but women have colorful dresses more akin to Indian saris than Islamic garbs we have seen in Jordan and Egypt. En route to Korti, Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.

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Five hundred years after the Egyptians had stopped building tombs in the shape of pyramids, the Kingdom of Kush picked it up. Karima, Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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The Bayuda desert crossing from Merowe to Atbara is 262 kilometres of sand, wild camels, petrified wood, dung beetles, wind and very few services or shade. Pierre and I have always designed itineraries around mountain ranges and big climbs–we are on mountain bikes with knobby tires–and riding this pancake is a new challenge. Bayuda Desert, Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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Afternoon break at a roadside cafeteria. The fridge? The generator is turned off. Why keep Sprite cold during the day when most are NOT drinking. Bayuda Desert, Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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Those blissful moments in early morning before we need to put cycling shorts–and for me sports bra and long pants–and smelly sandals on. Bayuda Desert, Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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While the Nubian is the belly of stones the Bayuda is all sand…and wind! Starting to give up on the long pants, nobody cares. Bayuda Desert, Northern State, Republic of the Sudan.
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Kilos of henna for sale on the highway to Karthoum. Atbara, Nile River State, Republic of the Sudan.
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The Royal cemetery at Meroë, site of the last Kushite kingdom (300BC-300AD). Nile River State, Republic of the Sudan.
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In Shendi, we decided to leave the busy Port Sudan-Karthoum highway, cross the Nile and continue on to Omdurman and Karthoum on the west bank. The pavement gave way to a 50-kilometre section of sand and washboard that made the capital city feel further than three weeks ago! River Nile State, Republic of the Sudan.
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Looking for scraps of shade in the midday heat. Pierre finds it under a thorny tree and fixes his flat tire. River Nile State, Republic of the Sudan.
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“Come on boys, look up from your cell phones just long enough for Pierre to snap a portrait of us and immortalize this afternoon spent together in the shade”. Karthoum State, Republic of the Sudan.
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Elated, we cross the bridge over the White Nile and enter Karthoum three weeks after leaving Wadi Halfa. It has been a hot and fast ride through the north, one we are not about to forget. Soon we will head into a greener, busier Sudan, to the Ethiopian border, but first let us have another plate of barbecued fish by the pool at the German Guesthouse, iced drink in hand! Karthoum State, Republic of the Sudan.

Stairway to Ethiopia! (Gondar, Ethiopia - KM 13,515)
And a River runs through it! (Aswan, Egypt - KM 11,555)

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