Nuit Blanche au Nil Blanc*
We drove in convoy from Khartoum, heading south. A UN Land-Cruiser, NGO pick-ups and a couple of cars; Italians, French, Germans, a Palestinian, an Egyptian, several Sudanese, and me, an Englishman. The only lights were those of oncoming vehicles, and the bright, full-moon above. After an hour and a half of driving into the desert night, we turned off the road. A dirt-track led through a village and onto our friends’ friend’s farm.
We had to leave a vehicle on the road for some stragglers, and so I jumped in the back of one of the pick-ups. As we sped over the bumpy ground, dust & sand filled the air, an arid fog in the light of the head-lamps. My nose, hair and eyes are filled with it.
Two steel gates were swung open and we drove into the farm, mango trees on one side, citrus groves on the other. Emerging through the trees into a clearing, the White Nile stood like a lake before us, reflecting the moon, its water softly lapping against the shore. Mohammed immediately wades in, catching a fish for the barbecue, leaving it gasping for air as we unload the vehicles.
Shish-kebabs are brought out, followed by the shisha, obligatory for a Sudanese soirée. Cristiano is playing guitar, and a group forms around his feet, still not mastering il gatto e la volpe, his party-piece.
As dawn breaks, acacia trees become visible across the milky water on the opposite bank, and the sun begins to prepare itself for another toiling day of oppressive heat. At this time of the morning, though, the air is pleasant as we breakfast on watermelon.
And then we had to leave. There were fears of the police coming to break up the party.
That was Jebel al-Alwiya.