Transport in Africa: Get a move on

UNLESS you take to the air or the high seas, the only reasonably safe passage from north Africa to the rest of the continent is a weekly ferry on a lake on the eastern edge of the Sahara. The few roads that cross the vast desert are either broken or infested with kidnappers. So every Monday morning a horde of turbaned migrants lines up at a concrete pier in the southern Egyptian city of Aswan on Lake Nasser, a dammed-up bit of the Nile, for the overnight journey of 500km (300-odd miles) to Wadi Halfa in northern Sudan. They bring carpets from Cairo, bubble-wrapped fridges from Tripoli and bicycles bought with wages earned in Algiers. All are stowed in the white steel hull of the 30-metre-long good ship Sinai—and around her engine and in the stairways and under the lifeboats and in the lifeboats; every surface is covered with bags, parcels and boxes.When Sudan approaches, after a cold night under the stars on deck, the men roll up blankets and their wives braid the hair of young daughters. Squinting into jewelled sunlight bouncing off the water, more and more of the shore comes into view on both sides: craggy hills that once formed the top of the Nile valley where early human civilisations erected tombs and temples. Some were moved to higher ground when the dam in Aswan created the lake half a century ago. The rest slide by, below the keel. Coming off…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *