“We go?” Tarik asked.
“Aiwa,” I grinned and followed him out the gate.
Mohammed and Mohammed had gone off to work and Mohammed (yes, all three share the same name) had a full day with his family so Mohammed had organised for his neighbour, Tarik, who spoke as much English as I did Arabic, to show me around town.
As I was staying across the road from the Blue Nile, we crossed the busy tarmac and walked through the farming fields to the banks of the longest river in the world (and the longest north-flowing one). We then popped into some small shops that sold wood chips for charcoal and small clay vases. From here we hopped back across the road and watched a local weave nylon roped over a metal frame that would eventually become a bed before we sat in the shade of a tea stall and drank some tea.
Tarik disappeared for about an hour leaving me to sit and chat with some locals. When he came back, we headed off to the old part of town. Khartoum, which mean’s ‘Elephant’s Trunk’ due to how the Nile winds around the city, is basically three large towns combined: Khartoum Town, Khartoum Bahir and Omdurman, where Governor-General Gordon lost his head to Mahdi’s rebels (he wanted the Brit alive but his soldiers got into a frenzy).
It’s here that the White Nile (sourced from Uganda’s Lake Nalubela) and the Blue Nile (sourced from Ehtiopia’s Lake Tana) meet and become The Nile, flowing north all the way through the Sudanese and Egyptian saharas (Arab word for ‘desert’) until it meets the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the only north-flowing river in Africa.
The city skyline is dotted with minarets and mosques are as abundant as the bridges that criss-cross the river.
We had lunch in a small street-side restaurant – fried fish with shati – a spicy sauce. We then had tea before we retired back to Mungi’s pad with Tarik’s brother, Nader, where I jammed some tunes while they rolled some Bob Marleys.
A few hours later, as the sun dropped, Tarik and I headed out on a tuk-tuk to the markets. He lead me around between the spice stalls and the baskets full of wares. Pet stores selling birds of exotic colours. Pigeons the size of eagles. Chicken chicks dyed with unnatural colours.
Nothing sadder than seeing birds in cages. What’s the point of having wings if you can’t fly?
We walked back towards the river. Tarik had purchased us a bottle of water each, and as we walked down the stairs under one of the many bridges of the city, he pointed out the pile of rubbish.
“Very bad,” he said.
I agreed and was happy to see that he was aware of the situation.
Until he added his empty plastic bottle to the pile.
We walked back home along the Nile where I shukraned him for the day and caught up with Mohammed, Mohammed and Mohammed. After dinner, we began an impromptu jam session that lasted into the late hours of the early morning.
I’m really getting hooked on the vibe here.