Dan Morrison’s The Black Nile tells the story of a man who takes an epic journey. He begins in Uganda and follows the route of the mighty Nile river all the way up, through Sudan and finally to its end, in Alexandria Egypt. The book delves into the politics that control the flow of the river and the many battles being waged between the Arabs in Sudan’s north and the mostly Africans in the south.
I love books like this that take me on a journey….a journey that I am likely never to embark on myself, even though I am known as a traveler. To me, Morrison is an ultra traveler, like an ultra-marathoner is to a weekend runner. No, I just can’t imagine withstanding sand flies atop a ferry crossing Lake Victoria or the interrogations by drunken soldiers at roadside checkpoints as he crossed through Sudan. But I love reading about it.
An especially interesting section of the book comes when he reaches the very top of Sudan, and is about to leave the Nubian desert and cross into Egypt. The fancy hotel he stays at in Aswan, after crossing Lake Nubia, is nothing of a contrast compared with how the people are…he describes the Northern Sudanese as “cool.” They have a formality, seriousness, and not once did he ever see one person raise their voice.
Then on his first day in Aswan, he sees two taxi drivers shouting at eachother, fighting over a fare. Then one man slaps another in the face during an argument in a shop. In Sudan, he’s totally ignored, in Egypt, he’s mercilessly tailed by taxi drivers, felucca captains, child beggars and others fighting for his attention. Finally he walks to the outskirts of town and a village envelopes him into comfortable anonymity once again.