31 – Enter Kassala
Mon 28th Dec, Hotel Al Nada, Kassala
So close, but yet so far. Tonight I am in Kassala, 30km from the border to Eritrea. One guy tells me they travel over the border, drink themselves silly then go back into Sudan. The trip from Khartoum was another 7 hour bus ride, aboard another made in China bus, with me asleep most of the time. I’m quite amazed at the service on these buses. I had lunch in a styrofoam box, drinks from a cup, then later a packet of butter cake and a bottled soft drink. It’s a wonder why bus companies elsewhere don’t provide such things on their long distance journeys.
Approaching Kassala (50 SDP, 7 hours), the Taka, Toteel and Aweitila mountains loom above the city. I got off at the bus station (Souq As-Shabi) and take the minibus (0.5 SDP) with the locals into the main square bus terminal (Al mawkaf al-aan). The fella beside me from the bus makes a call to his friend to bring me to my hotel. Unfortunately the hotel was full and I went round and round the central area looking for a hotel. All were full. Kassala must really be a touristy place for the locals then… I must have checked out at least 10 hotels / lokandas. Finally settled on an expensive option (Al Nada, 50 SDP!, but it comes with lousy aircon, cable tv and privacy).
From what I found out walking around, Toteel, Bashar are probably the best bets. Beside them is the more expensive Hipton. El-Sharg is just as pricey and probably as top end here too. The rest are El-Safa hotel and Hotel Africa. In Arabic were Lokanda Riduan & hotel elnoor. Every single one was full. Never mind, as I am writing this, I am watching From Dusk Till Dawn, a welcome change from movies in Arabic and Sudanese variety shows on the buses. I don’t think it is worth the room price, but the alternative is sleeping on the street.
Kassala’s main square where the minibuses leave from are surrounded by souqs. Didn’t manage to see much today but here’s my first take on it. The city feels much less developed compared to Khartoum and has a mountain town feel about it. The souqs are colourful, due to all the tribes that come into the city to sell their wares. The women wear colourful robes. And the men wear sleeveless jackets over their white jabailiyas. And they are obviously different from elsewhere. Some have frizzy hair, uncommon when everyone ive seen so far have close cropped cuts.
Dinner was your typical bread with meat dish on the many roadside setups. I’ve got so used to eating bread off tables just wiped with dirty rags and drinking untreated water that it hardly bothers me any longer (when in Rome…)