My journey to the Pyramids of Sudan (part II)

This is part 2 of the story of my journey to the Pyramids of Sudan. In Part 1, I visited the Jebel Barkal pyamids and the Nuri Pyramids. For part one click here.

I was back in the capital Khartoum and I had planned with Musab, my driver and now friend, to go to the Bejrawiya pyramids the day after. The Bejrawiya is the arabic name of the pyramid site, that Google called Meroe. That day I was visiting the national museum in Khartoum and checking out some markets. I also had to call the airport to check up on the missing bag.

Going to the museum allowed me to see some of the treasures and mummies found inside the tombs I had just visited in Barkal and Nuri

Upon arrival to Khartoum I did not receive my luggage so I of course reported it and convinced the lady working there to give me her personal Whatsapp in order to contact her, as I did not have a Sudanese phone.

The luggage had arrived and was stored in the airport, but the problem was, that it was not possible to pick it up until the next day at 8 AM. Because it was also my last day in Sudan, it was my last chance to pick it up.

Airport first and then we are off to the Pyramids

It ruined my plans a little, because I was intending to go to Bejrawiya early morning to be able to make it back in time for the Mawlid celebrations that was going to happen in Omdurman later that day.

At 7:50 I was with Musab at the airport asking for my luggage back. As expected everything took lots of time to sort out, but 45 minutes later we were heading towards Bejrawiya.

The first bribe

On the way there are many checkpoints awaiting you. As soon as they see me they of course ask for identification. It should not be a problem, but they keep complicating it by saying we need some permit or that the car needs to be searched. Musab could feel the bribe vibe and gave a handshake with some money between his fingers. We were off again.

The distance to the Pyramids were 230 km, but we havent even completed 50 km before we got pulled over again.

Another bribe or a speed ticket?

This time a police officer pulled us over for a speed ticket. He wanted 200 sudanese pounds for exceeding the speed limit. That is the equivalent to 1 dollar at that time. Musab got off and talked to him for few minutes and when he came back, he told me that he negotiated the price down to 100 pounds. I could not help myself laughing, but it was great for him.

Third bribe, Musab got cocky

So third time we were stopped on our way there, and this time the officer wanted to know if we had a tourism permit to go see the pyramids. If you have read part one of the story, this was a huge issue when we went to Jabal Barkal.

This time Musab was getting confident and he said with conviction:

“No we don’t need a permit, our honored leader has announced it is open for everybody now”

To put this in context, this happened just few weeks before the uprising of the Sudanese people, that resulted a successful (and still ongoing) revolution, where they got rid of their dictator Omar El-Bashir, who had been ruling the country for 30 years. It was El-Bashir Musab was refering to here.

I honestly was surprised by his courage, and the officer was obviously confused as well. After a little pause, the officer said: “Yes yes, I know he did, but if there is a permit we still like to see it.”

Eventually he let us continue.

From 40 dollars to a fraction of a dollar

So we finally made it to the Bejrawiya, or Meroe, as it was signed in English. We parked by the entrance as the only car and only guests there. There were few kids trying to sell us souvenirs already and a small entrance office.

I was wearing a T-shirt saying “TOKYO” and my fancy sunglasses. I walk in and greet the lady at the counter. She looks at me for 3 seconds and says in English:

“40 dollars!” 

I take my sunglasses off to expose my dark Arabic eyes and smile to her. I answer her in perfect Arabic: “What would you take from a local?” 

I don’t know if she is disappointed in my ethnicity, but she says:

“Fine, of course as long as you are Arabic, we will treat you like one of our own. 300 (Sudanese) pounds please”

I say: “Really? Do you take 300 from Sudanese?”

Her: “Okay, just 50” 

And that is how it is done!

The sight

The sight of these pyramids though are like nothing I have ever seen. It is not just 3-5 pyramids on a row like the Pyramids of Giza or the Pyramids of Jabal Barkal. No.. here is tens of pyramids all very close together. How many Pyramids where there at the Meroe site? Somewhere around 60-70 pyramids, in addition tens of ruins that may have been pyramids at some point.

Where else can you touch two ancient pyramids at the same time? The answer is: In the Sudan only! 

The craziest car ride ends up with an accident

The way back was very hectic. We were trying to get back in time for the Mawlid celebration in Omdurman in Khartum, but it looked like we were gonna be late. Musab was driving fast on this two-sided bumpy road. When he slowed down, others would overtake him, and one van did smash into Musab’s side mirror.

Of course this is the Sudan, so you do not stop op and exchange ensurance information, the van driver slowed down to let Musab overtake him again and while he did that he put his hands out the window and apologized.

But the craziness did not stop there. A huge truck was fallen sideways on the road and that lead to a massive line of cars. So do we wait in line, or do we drive on the opposite side of the road?

You guessed right, we drove on the opposite side of what is supposed to be “the highway”. Now.. it is a one lane each way road. So of course cars came at us, and Musab was forced down the sandy sideway. There were few Jeeps following Musab’s example but in general this was not good for the car.

The good news is though, that we made it to experience the end of the Mawlid celemony which was so amazing! But that is for another post!

The good and the bad travel blogger

Forgive the slight negativity in this post, but I have to address certain things I’ve started to witness on different travel blogs and social medias.

I’ve seen so many traveler’s travel the world and end up with just the same type of people not even realizing that this type might not be the majority of the place he is visiting.

Traveling should not just be for selfish reasons. It’s not about you visiting all countries in the world crossed off a map and hanged on your wall as a trophy. This kind of travel is endlessly provocative and in such a bad taste.

Instead cross off the countries you have actually understood and done a real connection with. Not just with the one type of people you met. But with the different groups. The different view points and those who taught you something that you didn’t expect them to. Even if you are superior to them in intellect, in richness and education. You can still learn from the old lady living on the street, the kid begging you for money, the police officer at the border and the priest at the temple that does or does not belong to your own faith.

It saddens me when a person had traveled to more than 150 countries and end up talking bad about one certain kind of people there, just because they do not fit his  vision of the country, or his twisted idea about how this country is (because he only hang out with one certain kind of people).

And when he comes back home he only talks about the freedom of traveling and how boring everyone else is instead of actually encouraging the others to travel more, see more, learn more, and most importantly not get afraid of places the media talks bad about.

Basically this is just an appeal to my fellow travel bloggers, Instagram photographers and youtube vloggers: spread positivity and accept people of the different opinion. Engage in a discussion. That is the only way to learn from each other.

If not I simply don’t enjoy following these bloggers.

And even if you have explored so much you think you can judge. DON’T!

Because all countries have people of all spectra of any scale you can think of. So don’t just assume you can judge.

  • I have traveled more than 12 times to Egypt: No I do not know everything about egyptians and their culture.
  • I have lived in Japan studying: No I do not know everything about Japanese people and their culture.
  • Even my own country(s): I do not know everything. I still meet people who I never knew existed in this country. Not just travelers or immigrants but even ethnically and culturally local people who just belong to such a different subculture within this country.

Remember: You do not simply become a better, more knowledgeable, more tolerant gentleman by traveling the world. You become all that by actually trying to understand and accept different viewpoints. By showing interest in people who are on the other spectrum of yourself. And by seeing the world as what it could have been and not what it has become.

Or maybe I am wrong? Let me know your opinion in the comments, specially if you disagree. I want to strive to be a better traveler and my blog is always open for anyone!

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Traveling is not only about freedom. It is about widening your horizon.

Keeping your integrity while traveling

The other day I met this traveler who has been volunteering in various countries in Africa. Let’s call him Tim. He have been helping out building sanitary facilities for a tribe in Uganda. They invited him for a traditional meal and he accepted. Now this guy is actually a vegetarian and is very disgusted by the smell of meat. Now he is sitting with the tribe eating and they serve him this bloody raw sheep eye.

If you were a vegetarian, what would you have done?

Tim felt like he could not say no and thus he tried to swallow the eye at once. Of course – it can up again and he had to chew his way through and try not to throw up. It was the worst meal in his life.

This story made me think. Many travelers out there try to keep an open mind and say yes to anything along their way. Either they are afraid of saying no or they think they should try everything even if it contradict their taste or even their values. For me this is a misunderstood way of travelling.

Travelling is not about forcing yourself to do things you don’t like or don’t believe in. Travelling is supposed to enrich your life and teach you both about the world and about yourself. If you already know that you do not like to eat meat, then do not eat it. And don’t ever compromise your integrity no matter where in the world you are.

This is not about being a good “traveler” it is about being a good whole rounded human being. A true gentleman stay true to himself while still treating others politely. So how about the fear of offending your host?

In my experience, people – everywhere in the world – understand that their way of living is not the same as others. They will not get offended even if you do something that would have offended them, but because you are a foreigner they will understand. They will not judge you as they hope you will not judge them.

If you are afraid of saying no and explain your reasons, then it is more likely because of your own judgmental mind. Probably you think they will judge you because you yourself are likely to judge. People expect others to behave in the same way they do. Basically, if you expect good you are good. Not naive.

I knew that when Tim started to tell his solution for how to save the world from poverty: To convince africans not to have children so we in Europe don’t get flooded by immigrants later on. What a disgusting point of view from a volunteer worker!

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People have introduced me to lots of weird food during my travels. But always if there is something I do not wanna eat, I say no thank you. My biggest advice when travelling: Say no when people tell you to do things you know you don’t like to do!

 

5 myths about travelling alone

I get asked a lot about how it is to travel alone. I have gathered 5 myths I hear frequently – I will tell you from my personal experience whether I think they are true or not. For the reference: atm. I have travelled to 13 different countries alone.

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1. You get lonely and bored
False! You will learn to enjoy your own company. By being alone you finally have the chance to reflect about life, get to know yourself and in addition immerse yourself into the place you are visiting. I have spent hours in a local café reading about the history of the country I was visiting.
Tip: Make a large itinerary to keep yourself entertained and take your time sleeping in the morning (I hate getting up early :P).

2. It is dangerous!
True.
 Unfortunately. But I would not use the word dangerous but rather unsafe. Being alone you are an easy target and you can encounter many frauds trying to take your money. Depends on where you are in the world and your gender. However, an experienced male traveler will easily avoid danger even in the most dangerous places in the world. I have backpacked all alone in one of the world’s most dangerous countries.
Tip: Choose a “safe” location for your first few travels and be brave! Recommendable places are Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Spain, Scandinavia, and Canada. Places you shouldn’t go for the first few solo trips: Turkey, USA and various middle eastern and south European countries.

3. It’s much more expensive!
False!
Sure, when travelling in groups you can share expenses like.. hotels, but that’s all. On the other hand, flight tickets are much cheaper for a single person than a group – not many people know this. In addition, you are faster alone so you can go further away and afford more entrances!
Tip: Because you are alone you can go to places that no one else wants to go to. These places are often cheaper! Remember: There are no boring countries!

4. Eating alone is not enjoyable
True! If food means a lot to you, travelling alone might be a bummer. Depends on where in the world going into a restaurant and asking for a table for one is a bit embarrassing. Well – you need to eat, so you have to do it!
Tip: Go out and eat a good large breakfast and skip lunch. Eating breakfast alone is more acceptable.

5. You need to be brave and extroverted to do it
Super-duper false! Everyone can do it and everyone should do it. In my opinion, introverts will actually enjoy it more. They will finally have time to enjoy their own company and immerse into their interests.
Tip: Do it!

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One of my various solo trips went to Vietnam. Scuba diving of course!