They say charity begins at home, but on this occasion it began in Cairo.
A good friend of mine is driving her 1958 Morris Minor from Aberdeen in Scotland, to Cape Town to raise money for Cancer research. She was looking for victims, sorry, I mean volunteers to join her, so I opted for the section from Cairo, a city I used to call home, all the way to Khartoum in Sudan.
21 days in a blue Morris Minor called Charlie and one of my favourite travel companions, what could possibly go wrong?
The short answer is nothing. We were the dream team and was one of the most humbling trips for many reasons. But it was hot hot hot.
Return to the Pyramids
I had previously visited Egypt at age 22, lived there five years later as an older adventure tour leader, and set up operations in country a few years after this. However, this time the experience was very different, primarily due to one small word…Morris. As our drive caressed the Nile waterways, farmers, children, gossiping wives and passing cars were delighted to see two Europeans driving a slice of history.
When we stopped in rural towns, crowds drew around us for photos and to invite us for tea. Hotels were quick to drop their prices, and even tear up the bill when they saw it was a charity drive. Egyptian hospitality was administered freely without hesitation or because they wanted anything in return.
We sailed by felucca, an open-air sailing boat and when it got too hot, we swam in The Nile. We rode camels through the desert, soared above Valley of the Kings in a hot air balloon, met ancient Egyptian kings and queens engraved into sandstone walls, and washed kofta down with local beer. Every day was an adventure and another perfect way to spend 24 hours.
All roads lead to Khartoum
Crossing the border from Egypt into Sudan is notoriously challenging due to red tape. We had a ‘fixer’ on both sides to smooth over the grey areas which proved a wise move.
What can I say about Sudan. It came with the strongest warnings; however, the Sudanese are some of the friendliest I’ve encountered. The more time I spent in country, the further this was compounded. We were invited to stay with local families who introduced us to the entire village, fed and watered us, gave us a bed to sleep in and put a party on for us. They bought us meals and paid for our tea, just to find out more about us, and didn’t charge us for services, instead insisting we come to their home for breakfast as payment. Twice we became stuck in the sand and it took only minutes before locals came to push us to freedom.
It was real kindness and truly very humbling. Apparently, when the British colonised Sudan, it was the humble Morris Minor that all agricultural ministers drove, so helped bring back lovely memories for so many people. Everywhere we drove, we had the word “Morris” yelled at us.
Sudan has more pyramids than any other country on earth and the nicest people, these are two ideal reasons for me to return.
When the road meets the sky
All good things come to an end, never so much as when it’s time to fly out. There is nothing exciting about a trip coming to an end, but we stayed at a hotel in Khartoum before doing so, that deserves a mention.
The Acropole Hotel is the oldest existing hotel in Khartoum dating back to 1952, which has been in constant operation and feels like stepping into a family home. On the wall hangs a letter from Bob Geldof, thanking them for helping ‘Save the Children’ in getting food to camps during the Darfur famine. It is popular with journalists, archaeologists and NGO workers so was never boring around the breakfast table, plus the walls are steeped in history.
In total Unmissable powered by the NDL Group raised $2K for Cancer Research, although the team collectively raised over $22K. We held an evening pub quiz with some excellent prizes, relying on the kindness of friends and family for the rest.
Good times, great charity, excellent memories…until next time.