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  SUDAN - Suakin
 

March 18

As we approached the port of Suakin, we motored up a channel into an inner lagoon adjacent to an island of the crumbling remnants of the late-Medival city Queen Sheba built, a once thriving port 1000 years ago and and one of the main routes of the Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. Now abandoned in preference to Port Sudan, the collapsed and decayed ancient city's minarets and limestone rubble walls, home to birds, monkeys and camels, silhouetted against the rugged mountain range disappearing into the yellow dusty haze, presented a spooky atmosphere.

Locals on shore gave us a friendly wave as we sailed into the anchorage.


Mohammed, one of the local "agents" dressed in white robes, came onboard with all the papers to check us in - although the total costs for check-in, anchorage fee, agent's fee, etc. was NOT cheap.

We relaxed onboard reveling in the wondrous sight onshore. After the buildings of the city, built of coral blocks held together with a minimum amount of mortar and wooden beams, were abandoned, they quickly fell into disrepair.
In 2003 all buildings, which need constant maintenance, had collapsed although some were still inhabited as recently as the 1960's. Now the site is home to numerous camels that roam the shoreline.
Suakin also has earned the dubious notoriety of being the last slave trading centre in the world – a role apparently held until as recently as the1960s.

The township which still exists, is a rather ramshackle, dusty place and its inhabitants clearly extremely poor.

Wandering around the narrow uneven streets, it felt like going back 100 years or perhaps even to biblical times. Rubble lined dirt streets with bedraggled donkeys tirelessly pulling their carts, shaggy floppy-eared goats rummaging through the refuge, camels driven by men in long white robes.  

We bought fresh flat-pancake type bread off a cart

Water is transported by donkey cart

Ramshackle shanties, sticks and burlap

The ever present Mosque wails its Call to Prayer

 

 

Purchasing charcoal from the local store

 

The kids, happy to pose for photos, but someone would inevitably rush out to reprimand the children.

The men wore long white robes called dishdashas.
One old man sat on the ground making leather sandals

 

Suakin relies heavily on fishing for food. The boats hardly looked seaworthy

We wandered down the camel dung and pulverized donkey poo laden roads in the village.

Right: Business is slow so woman naps on ledge

Port Sudan

March 20

We took a local bus to Port Sudan to find some groceries and a market. 

The bus does not leave until it is completely full, which includes jump seats pulled down to fill the isle, so once your in, your crammed amongst the locals. On one side of me an Arab, head wrapped loosely in a rag, polished his huge elaborately carved sword with the side of a coin; on the other side a women mostly covered, with a baby on her lap, was adorned with large rings thru her nose, on her fingers and even on her toes! Her hands were henna tattooed all over.

The bus travelled for an hour through the barren hot desert, scattered with Bedouin camps (nomadic tribes) with their dilapidated tents made with a mish mash of blankets, tarpaulins and flapping rags. Discarded debris and garbage seemed to be the goats primary food source. It is hard to imagine how people can survive such hostile conditions.
In the middle of nowhere the bus would stop and someone would get off. All around were miles of sand and nothingness.
Port Sudan was a haven for picture taking but that is forbidden. Whenever our cameras came out someone would approach and say "no photos" and the police threatened to take Becky's camera away! A man on the bus told us that Americans relate to CIA so they must think we are all spies! The streets were full of donkeys and goats and more goats, chewing on the produce for sale at the market. Fresh goat and chickens were strung up and even bloody Angora goat hides were offered for sale. We bought a few fresh veggies but there are no supermarkets as such so I will have to make do with the dwindling provisions on board. All the shops sold the same things, which put bargaining skills to the challenge.

March 21

We sailed out of the lagoon in Suakin at 5 am as the rising sun was casting a yellow glow on the ruins, past pink flamingos wading in the nearby shallow water. We decided to only sail as far as Port Sudan because that would make our next destination the following day easier. We were concerned that we may have check in problems at Port Sudan but when we informed the officials that we would not be getting off the boat and leaving early the following day, there was no problem.

Port Sudan was an industrial port with ships coming and going at all times of the day and night, sometimes getting too close for comfort as we were anchored quite close to the dock.

The next morning we were motoring in light winds. Our destination - Marsa Fijab, about 40 miles away. Marsas are natural indentations in the shore leading to winding narrow reef lined channels, sometimes 5 or 6 miles inland, that spill out into a lagoon, protected from the sea and wind. Sudan has many of these and they provide a good refuge in bad weather.

Marsa Fijab

At 1 pm we arrived at the winding entrance to the marsa. All around were bird... egrets, herons, flamingos and osprey.

A man living on a shack ashore, Sherif paddled out to welcome us but mostly to see if we could help him with his toothache. We gave him some Advil.  There was no other sign of inhabitants other than fishermen in their boats. We were hoping to snorkel but the coral appeared dead in the flat calm waters.

We explored in the dinghy but the only inhabitants we saw were herds of camels

A pesky osprey kept trying to take residence on our weather vane 

Khor Shinab

March 23

The weather seemed promising so we left for an overnight sail to Marsa Shin'Ab (Khor Shinab)

We sailed through an inconspicuous fringing reef, breaking heavily on each side of us. A long twisty channel bounded by steep clay and rock banks led us past several lagoons to a tranquil pool. It shallowed quickly but we were able to anchor without difficulty.
We went ashore determined to climb Quoin Hill at the head of the inlet. Although the hill is only 59 meters high, it has a very rugged outline with two summits. The climb over the crumbly, sharp corally rock in the intense heat was difficult but we managed to reach the summit.

The views from the top were worth the climb. You could see the reef formations in the turquoise colored Marsa, with its ribbon like entrance and our boats safely anchored in the lagoon. The surrounds were sculptured mountains displaying an array of desert colours.
After our climb down (aka slide down)  the loose shale, we wondered down the beach and came upon some camels, one being a baby. The camels were shy but we got quite close nevertheless.
The snorkeling was reportedly quite good at the entrance to the marsa but we did not give it a go. It was a peaceful spot to wait out the weather.
 

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