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Crossing from Aden/Yemen to Suakin/Sudan, April 16th - 23rd 2008 (by Dagmar)
We started the crossing towards the Red Sea with good steady winds for the first day. We entered the Red Sea thru the Strait of Bab Al Mandab, the "Gate of Tears" as the Yemeni call it, the southern entrance.
The strait was only a mile wide between the Arabian coast and Perim Island. As it is so narrow, we had steep seas and a strong current. In the Red Sea the waters calmed down. So on we sailed, past Mocha, famed for its coffee, and along the Yemeni coast.
The next day was very hot, hardly no wind. A day to motor north towards our destination in Sudan. "de Pelikaan" just came alongside "LUNA". The kids were ready for a swim. Vincent swam over and brought a delicious piece of fresh fish. They had caught a wahoo, almost as high as River.
Sailing now for some days in the Red Sea we never had any cloud on the horizon, but always a grayish blue looking sky and ocean, a haze in the distance. Sometimes reddish brown, as if a sand storm was working its way thru the Red Sea. And then suddenly one morning LUNA was covered in a slight sand layer.
Suakin, Sudan, April 22nd - 24th 2008 (by Dagmar)
Sudan is the largest country in Africa, but one of the poorest, too, due to a widespread famine, economic chaos, civil war, a chronic refugee crisis caused by refugees from war and famine in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
The people here are extremely poor, but friendly. Much of the town had come down the last 50 years and is partly in ruins. Most of the local community lives in poor shacks. The buildings of Old Suakin made of coral, are now crumbling and deserted. The settlement has had a lively history as a trading center since the 10th century BC. It was the last slave-trading post in the World, used as such until end of the Second World War.
Suakin is widely known as the shipping port for pilgrims from Africa to Mecca.
In the late afternoon, when we came close to Suakin harbor, we saw part of it in ruins. It is a huge area and looks very impressive. We learned that this were the ruins of the old city built over 10 centuries ago by the Queen of Sheba. This town must have seen way better days. Piles of gravel and stone blocks are everywhere. Looks just like after the war. There is no money to rebuild or even to maintain buildings.
Once this buildings must have been very beautiful with delicately build stone arches, domed arcades and columns.
Mohammed Hedabb does all the paper work for us, organizes diesel, changes money and had our shore passes ready just before sunset. We wanted to try one of the Sudanese food stalls in town. Maybe eat some kebab.
The streets were empty. Some old men praying in front of the mosque. The muezzin called for prayer.
" Allahu akbar. Allahu akbar. La ilaha illa Allah. God is great, God is great. There is no god but God."
The streets were not paved, but packed earth. Cooler now because the sun had set already. We followed the road, past the bazaar, past the tiny buses to the food stalls. There is no electricity in town, just some generators working very hard now. Part of the food stalls were illuminated. We found a place to eat. They were serving a bean dish, of no taste at all, pita bread, cold sliced eggs and a goat kebab. The only thing to say: the kebabs were ok, the pita bread very good. Just to let you know, Yachties are not picky what they eat. But of all the countries we had been thru that was the worst food we had. But it was a great dinner. But we were looking forward to go to the market tomorrow. Mohammed said they had fresh fruits, veggies, pita bread and eggs. What else do we need!!!
Next morning "Moorea" came into the anchorage with Kelly girl and Kelly boy. After all boats filled up with diesel, we went to shore to explore the little town, to get fruits and veggies, some bread. It was already around noon, pretty hot. Goats and donkeys were hiding in the shade of deserted narrow alleys.
River, Tristan and Matthew brought a soccer ball to town. They caught right away the interest of some local boys.
Men here were wearing long white tunics, some white turbans or little hats, women colorful long dresses with matching veils.
Three kinds of transportation for goods and people you will find in Suakin: most often you see donkeys pulling carts loaded with all kinds of things or just giving a ride to its owner and family, or camels, or the little black three wheeled cars. Camel caravans still meet in Suakin. Nomadic tribes from the nearby desert, coastal plains and foothills are regularly coming to trade their goods. The tribesmen are very well recognized by their tattooed slashes across their faces.
All our kids were super excited to get a donkey ride along the street.
Karim is the local cobbler in town, is selling knives, swords, camel saddles and other leathery items, too. Bart was thinking about buying a sword at his shop. But we decided to come again on our way back to the boat.
All men meet here at the tea house, same as in Yemen. Here they were offering tea and coffee. To the coffee they were adding spices like nutmeg, cardamom and cinnamon. It was very hot and very sweet, delicious at such a hot day. You want to know, why I know the added spices? Because I peeked behind the counter, smelled at all the little trays.
On the local fruit- and veggie market we got tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, melon, cucumbers and eggs, as well as pita bread. Only men or boys are selling the goods here.
After the market we went to the bazaar, the suq, narrow shop-lined streets, very dusty. The shops are just some shags, nailed together wooden- and metal planks. Some partly painted. Smells drifted by: leather, sweat, dust.... Just ahead the grain- and spice sellers. Familiar smells of cinnamon, cumin, jasmine, saffron and cloves. An old man was working on his sewing machine, fixing a cover for a transistor radio.
Bart decided to get one of the swords at Karim's shop. So we went back to the cobbler.
Karim had a lot of interesting things in his little store for the kids to look at: ropes of camel hair, goat fur with still the hooves on, little drums with animal skin, knives, saddle bags, leather water bottles... He wanted to marry Soleil to his oldest son. But Soleil didn't find that funny.
"de Pelikaan" invited us all for an "Arabian Night Party" on their boat. We all would do a pot luck and had to dress accordingly. What a great fun idea.
We had a great time, dancing a lot to Yemenite and international music,...Kelly girl belly dancing.....entertaining the whole anchorage.
The following morning we decided to go back into town, buying some more fresh pita bread...it was sooo good... and going back to the cobbler. We wanted to trait our sewing machine, which on board with all the salty air wouldn't get any better, against a knife and a dagger. Now so close to home we could manage without it. Karim was very fond of it. As his friend was fond of myself, offering me to be his second wife. They try, but they always stay very friendly and polite.
This time Bruce bought a dagger at Karim's, and caught a lot of attention on the street.
We continued towards the market, meeting a local musician who played for us on his self made guitar, receiving a lot of applause from a big crowd gathering around him.
Around midday we left for Egypt, hoping that the southerly winds would stay for some more days to bring us as far North as possible, leaving an amazing town with very friendly people behind.
Last modified: September 02, 2008