The Life and Times of Bruce Bramson

Archive for the ‘Cairo’ Category


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As the second tour of duty in Cairo neared its end, I was chatting with a fellow from Kansas CIty one night: we shared a huge old flat at the time, a Company facility that was being shut down. I mentioned that in the previous year I had tried to take the boat & train to Sudan, but had been unable to get a visa. “Well, let’s try again!” says he. We turned in our passports and requests at the Sudanese Embassy, and a couple of days later, the visas were approved. Committed now, we arranged for passage. Lance had not even gotten to Luxor, much less Aswan, so we arranged to spend some time in each place as we wended our way South.

In Luxor, we spotted this fine old steamer, now in private hands:

The Sudan, old steamer

I got aboard and found the steam engine intact!

There was time for a few photos in Aswan:

Cornishe, Aswan

That's the Oberoi-Aswan across the Nile

Modern sightseeing, Aswan

More modern accommodations were available on the Nile

Classic Mosque

They tend to all look alike, but this one is classic

There were two boats to Wadi Halfa each week. The Thursday boat was run by the Sudanese, the Tuesday boat by the Egyptians. We got lucky and were on the Thursday run. The train took us right up to the dock, and the first “boat” we saw was this venerable WWII LST relic:

WWII LandingCraft

Still operational, this was our "motive power"

Lashed to each side of this thing were two much older relics of days gone by: ancient steamers!

Our Luxury Accommodations

It took much of the day, but in time all this got set to right and we were under way!

Under way

Wadi Halfa, here we come!

The trip is three days and two nights. There was nothing to do; much of the time one could not even see the shoreline. No progress occurred at night: the assemblage was at anchor and lashed to buoys. We had remembered to bring our yellow-books, and a good thing it was: yellow-fever inoculations were being given to everyone, all through the same needle! Fortunately, the “doctor” administering these accepted our yellow-book entries and let us pass. In the fullness of time, we arrived in Wadi Halfa. Our train was waiting:

Train at Wadi Halfa

Looks modern enough in this view

The train was hauled by a diesel engine, and there was an ancient dining-car in the consist, and at the tail end—thank goodness—a box-car loaded with fish, rapidly rotting in the heat. Once under way (after the usual interminable wait) I spotted this kilometer-post, No. 2 of  some 137 (if I recall correctly) before any sort of settlement was encountered.

Km Post No. 2

Bleakness, sand, and scrub was all that one could see

Eventually, we began to find little towns where the train would often stop briefly. But somewhere near Berber, in the middle of the night, we became aware we were no longer in motion. We found all the passengers sleeping under the stars on the platform, the train motionless, everything dead calm. Eventually we were able to learn there was track-work ahead, and we had to wait for its completion. In the late afternoon, after more interminable waiting, the engineer gave a toot and started up the train. What a mad scramble there was for the passengers to get aboard! In the wee hours of the next morning, we rolled into Khartoum. A taxi driver took us to the Hilton, which was fully booked; he then took us to the Grand Hotel:

Grand Hotel, Khartoum

On the banks of the White Nile, the Grand Hotel

This had been a British hotel, but more recently it had been lovingly refurbished by a French Consortium. The accommodations were modern and air-conditioned, the restaurant was quite good and elegant, and best of all, one could sit on the verandah, sip a lime-and-soda and watch the White Nile, just across the road:

White Nile

Just above the confluence with the Blue Nile

Down-town Khartoum was a leisurely 20-minute walk from the hotel, and a bus stopped at the hotel for those wishing to visit Omdurman:

Mahdi's Tomb, Omdurman

The Mahdi's Tomb in Omdurman

Of course we visited General Gordon’s home (preserved) and various other notable places, but the temperature was fierce, on the order of 110º at the height of the day. Lance spent a good deal of his time in his room, but I managed to wander around and find a few souvenirs to bring home. After a week or so, we returned to Cairo on an airplane which covered the distance in a couple of hours that had taken us several weeks to cover in the other direction!

I’ve always been glad I made this trek, because Sudan seems to have gone steadily down hill ever since. Lance and I just happened to fall into the short window of opportunity when visas were available. The ancient dining-car on the train was a real hoot, and the bowab must have been with it from the beginning!

I doubt they still use these colorful bills!

Sud 10SP

Ten Sudanese Pounds

Sud 05SP

Five Sudanese Pounds

Sud 01SP

One Sudanese Pound

Sud 50sp

Fifty Sudanese Piastres

Sud 025sp

Twenty-five Sudanese Piastres

Back in Cairo, I brought to an end the study of Cairo’s sewage that I’d been in charge of for several months:


Bench-scale treatment plant for Cairo's wastewater

I had several assistants on this endeavor, who mainly went out each day and collected fresh examples for us to run:

Lunch at Andrea's

My staff on the wastewater study

There were a few remaining sight-seeing trips:

Group at Gizeh

I don't remember the occasion, but I was there!

Here’s a picture of some of our drivers: the one at left was especially good-looking, I thought, but the one on the right was actually cuter.


Waiting for food after a long day's drive

Once the shit-disturber had been shut down and the report written, it was time to head home. Next page: Manila



Written by Editor

August 8th, 2010 at 12:39 pm