Climb Any Mountain
Standing atop Jebel Barkal looking east, lush green palm groves line the banks of the banks of the Nile as they cut a sweeping curve through the desert plains of Sudan’s Northern State. Looking west, these arid, dusty, rocky plains stretch to the horizon. I had heard talk of Jebel Barkal before getting to Karima, and with my basic grasp of Arabic, thought this might be a nice little opportunity for a bit of a ramble. Jebel in Arabic more or less translates as “mountain”.
What I didn’t factor into these plans were the fact that in Sudan, jebel equates more to what I would consider a hill, and that the mercury in the thermometer is rather averse to dipping below 40°. I had spent a hot, sweaty day traveling & running around Karima sorting out the bureaucracy that is innate to arriving in a new town in Sudan, but was still keen to see the gueule of this lump of rock. As the sun dropped to the horizon, hoping the temperatures would follow suit, I walked out of town towards the jebel, expecting to find solace in solitude.
All around is flat, slight undulations in the sand form rolling waves of sand, and then just before the desert reaches the green fortress protecting the Nile, a rock rises up as a watch-tower. At the base of this rock stand several pyramids, remnants of the 18th dynasty Pharaohs who held this ground as sacred, gate-keepers to the jebel.
Seclusion was not to be found. Atop a sandy hillock stood a rickshaw seemingly out of place, and at the base of Barkal several Sudanese families were picnicking. Sunset was rapidly approaching so I raced to the top of the rock, my lungs burning after months of shisha evenings & a growing unfamiliarity with physical exertion. The guys dressed in djellaba sliding down the sandy banks seemed slightly perplexed at this khawaaja striding up; they don’t get a lot of foreigners here.
From the plateaued peak the pyramids below were dwarfed, sticking out of the sand like blunt needles, separated from the setting sun by the desert plains.
As the last people left, I had the place to myself as darkness rapidly drew in. Getting closer to the equator, sunsets are periods to be snatched, not savoured.