The time had come to leave Ethiopia so after a few days touring the monasteries and Lake Tana in Bahir Dar and the castles in Gondar, we headed towards the Sudanese border.
After our introduction to Ethiopia, we were expecting the worst at the Metemma/Gallabat border, but despite a few aggressive money changers on the Ethiopian side and a small trek to find the mud walled immigration office, all went well. As we entered Sudan we were met by the first of many military officers, who inspected our passports and visas before letting us pass through to customs and immigration. Although time consuming, the border formalities on the Sudanese side were easy, although the TV blaring E! True Hollywood Story – Scream, made for a somewhat bizarre experience.
Pulling into our last check- the “security” check, we followed the instructions and mistakenly pulled into a small concrete walled compound filled Toyota Land Cruisers, fitted with large machine guns, (Did I say large, I mean HUGE!) Their drivers were asleep in the shade underneath the vehicles and moments later an official poked his head out the window and motioned for us to go to the right area and not the scary one. Fortunately they were good humored about it and as they took down our details for the third time since crossing the border, we learned a few words in Arabic.
As we only learned a few quick words in Arabic we were still in need of some serious help in doing pretty much everything. A normally quick and easy task to buying a new SIM card for the cell phone proved a bit difficult as it took a team of locals walking Danny from the provider’s office across the street to buy some airtime, working together to understand how much to purchase and then loading it into the phone for me. The numbers here are written differently and aside from a few more words in Arabic we can almost write the numbers 1-10 in Arabic as well. The amazing thing, considering where we’ve been recently, was that everyone just wanted to help us and no one was looking for any money whatsoever. We were foreigners, their guests, and they our hosts.
On our way at last, we drove through flat pastures and grazing land on the way to Gedaref. At each check point along the way, the military officer greeted us, asked where we were from, welcomed us to Sudan and sent us on our way. Big guns and big smiles actually made us feel rather welcome and as we feasted on falafel and salad that night (for all less than one US dollar) we were thankful for the change of scenery.