An Air Show, Sword, and Night at the Train Station
Khartoum Travel Blog› entry 61 of 81 › view all entries
We moseyed to the flourishing May Garden along the Blue Nile. Banners in Khartoum promoted an air show there by the Rothman's Aerobatic Team - the cigarette manufacturer from the U.K. Crowds had already gathered in the park and along the riverfront and many were eager to practice English. Dressed-up adults and well-mannered teens approached us to chat. When they learned that Scott and I were Americans they raved admiration for Mohammed Ali, the fighter, and Jimmy Carter, the sitting U.S. President. They asked about girls and when they heard we had dated several, wondered what we did with them afterwards. Their culture prevented dating before marriage.
Four tiny blue and yellow Pitts Special biplanes buzzed low over the river then arced skyward to begin the air show.
Richard had bought a sword like those the nomads carried at the camel market. When an aggressive street-peddler approached Scott and I - looking to pawn one - we reckoned that "Swords are hot!" must have echoed in Arabic down every street and alleyway. We couldn't politely get rid of the peddler who quickly became a nuisance. He made not understanding "No!" seem easy. He was good. We picked up our pace for two blocks until spotting Dave across the street. We nodded twice toward the Australian then the sword. The hawker made a bold dash ahead of two moving cars and a horse-drawn cart.
Around midnight we all packed our belongings, checked out of the Royal, and hiked to the train station. Each time we previously tried to buy tickets we were told all seats were taken. We decided to camp there and board the train when it arrived early morning. While setting up our tents around cement benches out front, a policeman approached and in a gruffled broken English demanded "Follow me!" He lead us across the tracks to a tattered wooden shack which was a police station. Horrifying thoughts raced our minds of spending a night in a Sudanese jail until the burly man pointed to the ground and ordered, "Sleep here ... Protection..." From just what we never knew.