Khartoum

Many thanks to my one or two regular readers who got in touch to ask why I was missing from a couple of recent issues. My lack of appearance was not down to holiday or, indeed, laziness; but more down to an interesting illness that really knocked me for six.

Work took me away for the trip of a lifetime to Sudan to visit Kenana Sugar Company with a brief stop in Egypt along the way. I remember well the two-hour drive around Cairo looking at the mosques (and several burnt-out residential blocks) against the background of the first rays of morning sun.

In Khartoum, we stayed in one of Sudan’s most famous buildings, the quite breath-taking Burj Al-Fateh Hotel. The building’s oval curved facade is similar to that of City Hall in London. It therefore resembles a motorcycle helmet but is said to have been designed with the image of a sailing boat in mind. It is known as “Gaddafi’s Egg” though (having been funded by Libya and, well, resembling an egg).

The Burj Al-Fateh overlooks the hectic spot where the Blue Nile and White Nile meet to form the Nile. This is a site of major geographic interest. The junction creates three distinct conurbations of which Khartoum is one (the others are Omdurman and Bahri).

There are four communities in fact. The fourth is Tuti Island which is in the middle of the intersection. Tuti Bridge, the first suspension bridge in Sudan, was inaugurated by President Al-Bashir in 2009 to connect the island with Khartoum. The view of Tuti Bridge and Tuti Island from the hotel is truly staggering – and a lot to take in from the upper floors.

I’ve never entered a British Embassy so visiting that in Khartoum was somewhat of a treat. The building is heavily fortified, as one would expect, but it looks like Crawley Town Hall (well, what I imagine Crawley Town Hall to look like). I will be eternally grateful to His Excellency, the British Ambassador, for suggesting that I might wish to rush back to my hotel when I changed colour during our meeting.

My illness might have been caused by me getting extremely tired or drinking the water but I’m sticking with it being down to eating raw camel hump and lung – local delicacies, I’m told.

The buildings in Khartoum are getting interesting. They’re nothing compared to the food though.