Going from Atbara to Karima you need to cross the Bayuda Desert. For many hours we stared at the pancake-flat landscape flying by, once in a while low bushes, sometimes we could see mountains in the background. All of a sudden we spotted patches of green that soon turned in large palm groves. We were approaching Karima.
El Nasser Hotel – very basic but very helpful
From the bus drop off it was a three minute walk to the EL Nasser Hotel, a very, very simple hotel run by a friendly man who speaks some English. We had very little money of local currency left and could not even pay the € 7 for the most expensive room. But the friendly owner told us not to worry. The lobby was dominated by the owner’s bed, where he spent the nights sleeping and his days watching TV.
Entering our room felt like slipping into a highly-secured container, a medal door led to little “antechamber”, from there another metal door led into a very basic bathroom and the third door into our room. We would not have minded the peeling paint and the spider webs, but a mattress only covered by a smelly woolen blanket was a bit much. We tried not to touch anything and slipped in our silk sleeping bags. There was an ancient TV which we did not touch, since it was covered with dust.
This lack in comfort was made up by the owner’s knowledge of tourist procedure: he sent us straight to the security office to register, only required in Karima though. This is how we got a first impression of the village. Even more important, he knew the moneychanger in the souk- the most valuable information at this point in our trip.
There is not much to do in the evening in such a small town, but sitting on the huge sandy plot near the market and watch life go by. Well, it turned out to be more exciting than I would have ever imagined and of course this was mutual affair, because we were watched with immense scrutiny. There we learned with how little money we could comfortably live. Dinner was a hug plate with falafel, bread, beans that fed the two of us and cost SGD 15, less than a Euro. Dinner at the okay Acropolis Hotel was SGD 100.- per person.
In the morning we headed for the bazaar with the name of the money exchanger scribbled on a piece of paper by the omniscient owner of the El Nasser Hotel. We would have never entered through the tiny door of the hardware store that sold EVERYTHING. A superior looking man pulled out a plastic bag full of cash from a heavy iron safe next to him, typed “19” into his calculator and we had a deal. One of those moments I will never forget in my life.
With all this money in our hands, we went straight to the Nubian Guesthouse, a luxurious place next to Jebel Barkal.
And yes they had a room for us, US 100 for two people, all meals included. An absurd price for Sudan, but we decided we treat ourselves to this luxury for one night and it was worth every penny. The place has an Italian management and is frequented mainly by Italian tourists. The architecture is typically Nubian and the art work is truly exquisite.