Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Nubian Desert Treasures Part 1

Since I arrived to live with Grant in Khartoum in August last year, he has been telling me about the desert "out there". When we lived on the diamond mines of Namibia in the nineties, a four-minute walk from our home took me to the edge of town and the beginning of the Namib desert. Not so here in the huge city Khartoum. The only time I'm reminded of the desert, is during severe dust storms when it comes to visit me. I'd never been out to visit IT!

Earlier this year we dicussed doing a trip to the coast after October when the diving and holiday resort at Port Sudan on the Red Sea opens up for the winter season.  

However, when we obtained travel and photo permits last week, Grant suggested we travel North to the Sudanese pyramids in the Nubian desert. Now I don't know about any of you out there, but until we came to live in the Sudan, I never knew there were pyramids in this country. Not only are there pyramids, there are more pyramids in the Sudan than in Egypt. Admittedly they are smaller than their Egyptian counterparts, but when you visit the various pyramid sites in the Sudan, you are normally the only people there.  

Meroe pyramids lie 220km/138 miles north-east of Khartoum. We left home at 5am while it was still dark and made our way through the city, and eventually onto the Port Sudan highway.

At last! We were on a trip into the desert.

There's something cosy about being on a road trip. Last year, Grant travelled this road and further north quite a few times on on business. He pointed out many interesting places and scenes as we drove along.

Villages of mudbrick houses dotted along the highway

A motel complex on the highway between Khartoum and Port Sudan.  I love the plastic orange palm tree peeking out behind one of the rondawels/round huts!

Baby camels in transit

If you own a donkey in Africa, you are a wealthy man. Donkeys are as much part of the traffic in and around Khartoum as the motorised transport. They also, like women pedestrians, have the right of way. The Sudanese are generally very kind to their animals. You often see a donkey munching a pile of greens on the ground while it's owner is doing business with another merchant 

 This is not a river on either side of the highway; it is rainwater. As we drove along, we found evidence of recent heavy rains.

I took a total of 419 photos on my camera/s on our trip into the desert. Grant took one on his. This was IT (ha!)

Early morning coffee under this sky in the desert. What more could we ask for?

As we drove through the desert towards the Meroe pyramids (which we could see in the middle distance), two camels riders crossed our path. We stopped and I told them we were on our way to the pyramids. They cheerfully told us to follow them!

Grant gave my Sony camera to one of the Sudanese gentlemen and he took this photo (Photo credit: Sudanese Camel rider)

Apart from viewing the pyramids (photos follow below), we also had our first-ever camel ride. We'd entered a fenced off area approximately a kilometer-and-a-half from the pyramids. We were ushered into an office by a middle-aged lady who spoke a little English. (She could tell us we owed her SDG40!) Outside, we were suddenly surrounded by no less than nine camel riders (where had they all materialised from?) all shouting that they wanted us to ride their camel. When I could make myself heard,  I negotiated with two to take us for a ride. A third rider and his camel accompanied us. He was the gentleman who took photos of us on our mounts and the group one (four of us and a camel) when we arrived at the pyramids. When Grant paid for our rides, he paid " our impromptu photographer" as well.  

While I photographed Grant from atop my camel, the gentleman photographed me!
My camel photographed while I perched on top of it. Not an easy feat but I enjoyed it immensely. There are photos of me on the camel but I am keeping them for a post later in the week

A camel ride cost SDG10/US$4.16 one way to the pyramids about a kilometer away. When we arrived at the site and I asked the men if they would wait for us,  they immediately replied,
"ʻGhynyā ShrwnThānyh" (another 20 SDG!)  I told them we'd walk back

Camels are very vocal. They groan and grumble, especially when other camels come near them. They sound like a bunch of cantankerous people thrown together in a room! They are very docile but can bite if you get too near them. We also heard afterwards that they spit on/at you, but we escaped this experience!

Here we are at the site with our camel drivers. My camel was to the right and out of the photo

My first sight of the pyramids up on the hill
I was so excited to visit the Meroe pyramids and kept snapping away while exclaiming at this or that pyramid and its structure or colouring. After about ten minutes, Grant said: "Once you've seen one pyramid, you've seen them all." Oh no sirree! I beg to differ. Just look at all the different shapes and sizes!
The decapitated pyramids reveal rubble cores covered in brick; an ancient, quick-fix building technique. Each pyramid sits above a simple tomb chamber, which is dug into the rock below, and porch-like structures on the eastern sides of the pyramids house decorated funeral chapels.

In the foreground are reconstructed pyramids to show us what they looked like. The Meroe pyramids are smaller than their Egyptian counterparts but there are many more pyramids in Sudan than in Egypt. You also have the site to yourself when visiting these pyramids

Not all of the pyramids at Meroe are intact — many look as if they have been neatly bitten off at the top. This vandalism was the work of a 19th-century Italian treasure-hunter who dismantled the monuments as part of his largely unsuccessful search for gold. Over time other marauders have plundered the site while the harsh elements also took their toll

There are about forty pyramids at the Meroe burial site. I couldn't get enough of photos of them!

More pyramids

An ancient pyramid almost intact

I loved the gold sheen of the blocks

The sands of time...

Another group of pyramids can be seen in the background.
Back at the entrance to the fenced off area, we bid farewell to the Meroe Camel Tranport Company

Tourist traps exist even in the desert, albeit here was only one elderly gentleman and three young lads displaying their wares! Grant felt sorry for these vendors and decided to support them. Here he holds up an old coin. (there are more vendors touting jewelry and curios. See tomorrow's post)
If you're like my darling hubby and also wonder why I'm waxing lyrical about pyramids, please bear with me; tomorrow's post is also about our visit to the pyramids this time I'll include many photos of the trip there and back.  

For more worlds around the world, click here

The Arabic word for pyramids is ʼHrām (pronounced Shrum). The Arabic word for desert is Şḩrāʼ (pronounced Sheera)

Monday, August 30, 2010

You are my God

But as for me, I trust in You, O Lord; I say: You are my God. My times are in Your hand. Psalm 31:14 &15a

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Evening scene over Omdurman

Beautiful evening scene over Omdurman

For more beautiful scenes around the world, click here

The Arabic word for beautiful scene is Mshhd Jmyl (pronounced Mu-shed Jimeel) and is actually "scene beautiful"

Khartoum Stray Cats

Apart from caring for our budgies and Shadow the cat, I'm still feeding the stray cats downstairs. The one in the foreground is surely pregnant again *dang*. If you look carefully you can just see another cat's head in the left corner of the silver bumper. She is very timid and I'm sure she's one of the three kittens this one had.   I was feeding just before we went out in leave in July. 

For more on pets around the world, click here

BTW: we've had two showers of rain since Thursday. Just a smattering each time,  but the weather is cooling by the day. Praise God!

The Arabic for rain is Mţr (pronounced Muttar)

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ramadan in Khartoum

It was full moon on Wednesday and half way through the Ramadan month of fasting here in Khartoum (Photo:mine)

Breaking the fast at sunset with iftar on the city sidewalks in the Sudan. (Photo: Internet) 

During Ramadan strict rules have to be adhered to by Muslims while fasting, praying, and reading the Qu’ran. All Muslims rise  before dawn and eat the pre-dawn meal. The call for the Morning Prayer is the sign that fasting must begin until the call for the fourth prayer in the evening, Şlāh el Ghrwb (salah el Maghrib is how the people of Khartoum pronounce it), is made. Eating and drinking is again allowed after sunset.

Apart from fasting, the Muslims are encouraged to read or recite the Qu’ran during Ramadan. Special prayer sessions and Qu’ran-reciting sessions known as Tarawih are conducted every night in the mosques. They read a section of the Qu’ran everyday and eventually finish reading it by the 30th day. From our flat we hear these readings emanating from three to five mosques at a time.

While sipping our fresh fruit juice on the balcony in the evening, we observe how the women prepare the meal for the evening. In both our streets (our apartment is on the corner of two streets), the store owners act as hosts to the men who all eat together on the sidewalks. The women, who have prepared all the food, stay behind the walls of their compounds and eat with other women in their family. The children sometimes eat with the women but often are out on the sidewalk eating with the men and playing in the street.

Huge silver platters are filled with falafel, feta cheese, fried chicken, salad and pita bread.  A young man or the man of the house will take it to the arranged place on the street for all the men to enjoy when breaking the fast. (Photo: Internet)

Ramadan also concentrates on building the self-acceptability of every Muslim. By conducting prayers and meditations in the mosques, the muslims are made to create a bond between them and Allah. They are encouraged to do good deeds like helping the poor and the needy by giving them food, care, and love. Muslims often relish buying gifts for their family and friends.

This is my favourite part of Sudanese food: the sweet treats and desserts. Yum. These are served after the meal. I  hope we're invited when the fast ends in September! (Photo: Internet)
The Arabic word for the pre-dawn meal is Shr (pronouced shorfa - thanks Raindrops!) . The meal with which the muslims break their fast is called al-ʼFţār (pronounced Iftar)

Thursday, August 26, 2010

More Autumn Sunrise over the Omdurman

Last week I posted a very similar photograph to the one above. That one was taken from the roof of our apartment, (second storey) while this one was take from the first floor balcony of the flat.  I just LOVE how the sun cuts through the railings in the foreground

The Arabic word for roof is Sqf (pronounced segeeff) and the Arabic word for balcony is Shrfh (pronounced shirrfah)

For more beautiful skies around the world, click here

Travel and Photo Permit

The Travel and Photo permit which allows us to travel freely through the Sudan AND take photos! Whoo-hoo!

My six-year-old Sony Cybershot camera. It is my all - time favourite camera and I'm never without it. It is showing signs of wear, but still takes amazing photos. One day soon I'll blog about the wonderful attributes of this camera (ha!)
My Canon Powershot which I'm beginning to love. However, I don't lug it all over with me unless I know I'm going to be in one place and able to take photos (like at a function or when I want to capture our beautiful grandchildren on camera)

I've posted before about how I was unable to just snap away while travelling in the city of Khartoum.  This week Grant and I drove to the tourism office and enquired about a photo permit. We were each given a Travel and Photo permit for three months. I'm so excited. As I write about everything we do and see here in Khartoum, the fact that I've been nervous of "treading on toes" by taking photos, has inhibited me. Now I have permission to take photos. Whoo-hoo!

There are many places which I may not photograph: bridges,  (although I may stand on the bridge and photograph the Nile, or stand on the riverbank and photograph anything, even if the bridge comes into play, lol!) police vehicles and/or -officers, the presidential residence, military instances, railway stations, water or gas utility stations, slum areas, beggars or anything defamatory.

But for the rest, I may click and click and click away. Amen! What liberation!

We're also planning a trip into the desert with our new permits in hand. This should be great fun.

The Arabic word for photo is swr (pronounced sewarr), for travel is Sfr (pronounced Safarr) and for permit is Tşāryḩ (pronounced Tisaree).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Khartoum Garden

When I look through my blog posts about life in Khartoum, I see many titles: Khartoum Cats, Khartoum Laundry Services, Khartoum, Jo and the Dentist, Khartoum - oh I'm sure you get the picture! If you would like to see what I've done in Khartoum over the last year (I arrived here in August 2009), please look at the labels Life in North Africa - Local. However, this is the first time I have posted under the title of Khartoum Garden.

We've been back in Khartoum three weeks today. Of course, nostalgia for our family,  friends, pets  and garden in South Africa has set in.  I decided to plant a garden here in the flat to combat the feeling!

Well, I have a garden in Khartoum now and here it is...
Ten days ago I planted birdseed in pots and placed them near the window on the first landing going downstairs to the exit of our flat. Within two days the first seeds sprouted and now I have a whole pot of birdseed "grasses" . Note garden assistant in the corner!

Guess who is benefitting from fresh greens from the garden, every day?

As my garden chores take up so little time, I played around with photographing the birdseed. This is a Supersized Macro shot
My garden in Sepia...

and in Black and White!

How much is that Kitty in the window?

Bertram the Bull smelling the flowers instead of fighting the Matador? I do apologize: this is ANOTHER post with Shadow in the photos. But as he is my shadow (hence his name) he is with me as I sleep, eat, cook, blog, "garden" and take photos.

The Arabic for birdseed is aţ-Ţywr al-Bdhwr.

PS Thanks to all who visited my blog yesterday and wished said cat above well. He seems to be back to his old self today and should soon terrorise poor Shaun, the Sheep (who's had two days' peace) again!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shadow has a Procedure

The micro-chip identification which the vet inserted into Shadow's neck yesterday and all the admin pertaining to getting a cat into South Africa

Three months ago in the middle of May, we acquired a cat here in Khartoum. You can read about this here . A few days later I traversed all over the three cities of the Tri-city, Khartoum,  looking for the rabies and other vaccinations the cat needed. You can read about this here 

Staring up at a proffered toy

While in South Africa, we bought a micro-chip to be inserted into Shadow's neck. It is an identification chip and is necessary for when we eventually leave the Sudan and, of course, take Shadow home with us! Last week I visited the vet again and arranged for him to come to the flat and neuter Shadow while also inserting the micro-chip.
Stretching up to take his toy

Yesterday the vet, Dr Ali Khalid and his assistant, of the Police Dog Administration arrived at our home carrying his black doctor's bag. They caused quite a stir in the neighbourhood. (Afterwards Grant had to try and explain to the storekeeper aross the street and a few other neighbours what the "doctor" was doing here)  
Is he deep in thought? Can cats think?

As Dr Khalid and his assistanct entered our office/lounge/diningroom, Shadow who'd been sleeping under the table jumped up and hid behind Grant's desk. I eventually coaxed him out and grabbing him by the scruff of his neck, offered his rear end to the vet who injected him immediately. (Note: the method of grabbing the cat  by the scruff of the neck was taught to me by our vet in South Africa. It is not painful for the cat,  but like when a mother cat lifts her kittens by the scruff, they hang all curled up under her while she transports them, this is exactly how an adult cat curls up when you do it this way. He's rendered clawless - cats scratch and bite when afraid - and you can deal with the cat quickly and humanely)

Within five minutes, Shadow began to wobble and eventually fell asleep - behind the desk again. I retrieved him from under the desk and placed him on the dining table where the vet's assistant had laid out all the tools of the trade. At this point I left the room telling the vet that if he needs anything more, he could call me.
After Grant serviced the air coolers two weeks ago, he left the step ladder out on the balcony. It is now Shadow's lookout post. He can see into the street below and seems to be keeping watch on proceedings!

The vet gave me a tag for Shadow's collar. It says Intervet 2010 but we cannot read the rest - too small!

Shadow, today,  is a very different cat from the kitten (below)  who walked into our lives earlier this year

Fifteen minutes later the vet called me; he'd done the procedure (to neuter a male animal is called a procedure while spaying females counts as an operation. ) He was about to inject the micro-chip and I stood and watched. Poor li'l Shadow was out for the count, eyes wide open and tongue lolling out of one side of his half-open mouth. His breathing was so slow, I kept looking closely to see if he was still alive. The vet assured me he was under anesthetic and this was the effect. Our vet back home always told me that he didn't like pet-owners to see their pets during or  immediately after an operation. It is far too distressing for the humans. And I agree. Grant, the ninny, stayed M I L E S away in the bedroom, certain that his cat was not going to come through!

The medical team left and both Grant and I sat and looked at the cat still lying, unconcious, on the dining table. Well, I sat  and prayed...

Exactly an hour after the vet had administered the injection, Shadow's front paw twitched. His breathing became a little shallower and faster. Then he pulled his tongue in and licked his lips. He was coming around!

Another hour later and he was staggering around the flat. He didn't want a drink of water even though I offered it to him. When I went to bed, he was sleeping [peacefully] on the bottom of our bed.

Shadow (then still unnamed) five minutes after he had arrived to live with us on 16th May this year

In retrospect, I have to admit that it was a very traumatic day in the Hedges [Khartoum] household. But at least Shadow is "done" as my granddad used to call this procedure. He is also micro-chipped and can get into South Africa without too much trouble.

(So, my apologies to my blogger friends for not visiting your blogs these last two days. I've had a lot on my mind. I also apologize for another cat post but this is rather an important cat in our lives here in the Sudan)

The Arabic word for veterinarian (vet) is Tbyb Byţry (pronounced teebb-baytree). The Arabic word for procedure is ‘Jrã.

For more other worlds, click here