As we crossed the border into Sudan and landed at Wadi Halfa, the heat struck us with blistering intensity.
As we flew on to Atbara, I was at the controls, Jack navigating. Below us were miles upon miles of flat sand. While we’d been over Egypt we’d watched the ribbon of the Nile. Now it wandered off out of sight, 200 miles to the west of our course.
We had no navigational aids, our map showed nothing. We knew that if we got lost over this vast desert we would be lost indeed.
‘A sheet of sandpaper would make as accurate a map as those charts you’re holding!’ I observed to Jack.
He nodded but had some good news: ‘I can see the railway line below us now.’
There was the faint but important landmark, to be followed religiously, a tiny, thin thread of railway, originally built by Kitchener’s army during the 1896 Sudan campaign against the Dervishes. It ran for more than 500 miles across the northern deserts of the Sudan to Khartoum.
Jack flew the final leg from Atbara to Khartoum. The sun was low as we saw the sandy outskirts of the Sudan capital with their many clusters of mud houses. Beneath us flowed the White Nile coming up from the distant south. We could also see the Blue Nile which rises in the far mountains of Ethiopia to the east. The two rivers met and mingled just north of the city.
‘A sheet of sandpaper would make as accurate a map as those charts you’re holding!’ Stuart King
To our right was the large sprawling Arab town of Omdurman. In front of us now were the white-painted, flat-roofed houses and buildings of Khartoum itself, its mosques and minarets casting long shadows across the dry landscape in the setting sun. On the dusty streets below us, people, cars, carts and donkeys bustled together in the welcome cool of the evening.