We decided to wild camp near Naqa temple, 30 km into the desert between Atabara and Khartoum. On the off road tracks we saw many camels and goats from the local Bedouins. We found a beautiful spot on the red ground between some trees. During the evening a farmer and his wife (or daughter?) stopped by but luckily left quickly. When evening fell we saw we were not alone with some lights in the distance. Although not ideal when wild camping (it’s always a little game of hide-and-seek, which we seemingly had lost) – we didn’t think too much of it.
At night, while we were sleeping, our rooftop tent cover got stolen. It was the only thing we left outside our vehicle (as always, because its big and dirty). After the initial shock of knowing that we were robbed, we decided to go to Naqa temple anyway. The temple is beautiful but our mind was somewhere else; how on earth are we going to get a decent rooftop tent cover… We absolutely need something to protect the tent from rain and dust.
Walking around Naqa temple, we spotted a tourist group (which in itself is pretty unique in Sudan). They had a guide who spoke English, so we thought it might be a good idea to have a chat with him to see if he had any ideas of what we could do in this situation – local knowledge is always best. We first spoke to Ramon, a painter from Venezuela who was part of the group and curious about our trip. When we told about the theft, he brought us to the guide Hatim. After explaining the situation he could almost not believe that something was stolen in this area, it was not the wind? Nope, there was no wind at all and when you sleep in a rooftop tent you know.
Let’s talk to Mohammed, Hatim said, he knows the area very well. With Mohemmed on the passenger seat and Charlotte in the middle (on the center console) we went back to our camping spot and Mohammed went to the nearest huts to ask if they had seen anything. Unfortunately no luck. In hind sight, you could see why the nomads living there would want our cover. The huts were made of wooden sticks and plastic bags, so our tent cover would make a luxurious roof.
We did feel much better at this point because there were people who cared about us and our shitty situation. Because there was nothing more we could do, we decided to go to Khartoum. In Khartoum there are definitely fabric markets and Hatim also knows a guy, Osman, who makes covers for his gear. So off to Khartoum!
We arrived just in time to catch a taxi to the Sufi dancing ceremony, only held before Friday prayer at the Hamed al-Nil cemetery. Adherents of the Tariqa gather to dance and pray, they get into a ecstatic state in which the heart can communicate directly to God. A must see when you are in Khartoum at the right time.
Funny thing is, we saw the tourist group again and decided to ask Hatim if he could contact Osman. The next day Hatim had called Osman and he and a colleague showed up two hours later at the Blue Nile Sailing Club where we were camping. Together with Osman we went to the Omdurman souq to choose our materials. Because there was no taxi to be found we decided to drive ourselves, Charlotte sitting in between Guus and Osman again. Osman showed us the way but we don’t think he drives a car. We went literally though the souq, stalls were even moved for us. It was a stressful and a unique experience at the same time. After hitting a huge traffic jam, we were in Osman’s shop three hours later. At 17h we would be back to pick up the cover.
And so we did. Again we got into a huge traffic jam, and did some night driving around Khartoum (which was against our principles – but hey, who cares about that now). At 18h we installed our new rooftop tent cover, made by the lovely Osman with lots of help (and translation over the phone) of the hero Hatim.