Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Travel: Khawaja kwais

canada.com (Anne Wood)

It is a slow news day so here's something a bit different. Even though this isn't strictly speaking Egyptology, it is certainly travel of a somewhat unconventional sort and it is very engaging. Over five pages Ann Wood describes her journey by barge from the source of the Nile in Uganda to the Mediterranean sea.

At the end of the day, I figured it was just as well that nobody had really understood.

After the umpteenth person had commented on my upcoming Nile cruise and the archaeological wonders I would see between Luxor and Aswan, it dawned on me that my actual plan, to follow the 6,000-kilometre length of the Nile River -- from its source in Uganda to its mouth at the Mediterranean Sea -- had not really registered.

Yes, I explained, I was intending to visit the Valley of the Kings and stop for high tea at the legendary Old Cataract Hotel in Aswan. But to get there, I would first have to cross the vast African wetlands known as the Sudd by river barge.

Attempts to clarify my itinerary, which inevitably drew attention to the fact that most of my journey would be through Sudan where President Omar al-Bashir's regime has inflicted untold suffering and death on the indigenous tribes in Darfur (not to mention the 21-year war with the South that only ended in 2005), met with horrified expressions. Best, I thought, to reserve until my return mention of the fact that I would be one of the first tourists to ride a barge down the Nile River since the end (goodness, probably since the start) of the North-South civil war.

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