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Pole to Pole

Day 73: Khartoum

Michael Palin - Pole to PoleStill no sign of the permits we need for the journey south. Pass the time with a visit to the camel market, out in the desert. Huge numbers of cattle and camels are gathered here from all over the country, accompanied by herdsmen who have walked with them for hundreds of miles. I ask how much it would cost to buy a camel - one owner, good condition - and am quoted 25,000 Sudanese pounds, which is £1000 sterling.

On the way back we run into trouble. We have stopped in one of the featureless desert settlements that border the city. Our several minders have gone to buy drinks. Through the car window Basil photographs a beautiful robed figure against a background of drifting smoke. His camera is spotted and two or three men approach the car pointing and demanding the film. Basil refuses to hand it over. A crowd gathers and soon the atmosphere is as hot as the day itself. Arms stretch into the car in which we are sitting, fingers jab at the camera. Someone shouts to us not to get out of the car - as if we could. We are surrounded and people are banging on the roof. All the fuss is because they thought that Basil was snapping not a fine figure of a Sudani but the rubbish tip in the background. With a smart piece of sleight of hand Basil passes over to them an unexposed film.

We end up filming the least provocative thing we call think of - the point where the waters of the Blue and White Niles meet.

A group of pelicans bobs obligingly along the line where the waters merge, and, yes, it is possible to distinguish the different colours. The White Nile is clearly grey and the Blue Nile undoubtedly brown.

To bed, with another sandstorm howling into town.
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  • Series: Pole to Pole
  • Day: 73
  • Country/sea: Sudan
  • Place: Khartoum
  • Book page no: 155

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