Shattered Sudan | Drilling for Oil, Hoping for Peace, National Geographic: Giant Statue | Tombos Quarry | Northern Sudan

Giant Statue | Tombos Quarry | Northern Sudan

In the ancient Tombos quarry, villagers skirt a statue from the seventh century B.C., when their Nubian ancestors ruled all of Egypt. Today, Sudan’s government doesn’t even control the whole country. Since independence from Britain in 1956, the nation’s northern leaders have fought to extend their power throughout the south in a search for resources.

From my journal:

This is our first day of travel across the desert.  We are getting on a ferry that saves 5 hours of time on the roads—the owner is greedy, so they tell him they met a foreigner by chance and are giving me a lift, so they only have to pay double–$16—instead of $50 if they had known it was my expedition.

We have 5 people in the two vehicles—me, Kamal, Ahmed (driver), Adil (driver), and a cook.  The white Toyota is piled high with camping equipment, multiple propane tanks, stove, table, chairs, food, tents and sleeping bags.  You need two cars out in the desert like this… we won’t see another vehicle in three days.  They brought the table and chairs because they think since I am an American I need to sit in a chair when I eat.  There is virtually no tourism here—so they are just doing the best they can in the dark ages of this business.  The name of this company is indicative: Blue Sky Tourism Development Corp.

My car is the faster one and just has my equipment, our clothing bags and most of the massive amount of water.

Last night when we couldn’t find camel caravans, Adil was driving like a banshee across the open desert.  He tried to slow down for the massive bumps but he was so hell-bent on finding caravans before dark that we spent a good part of the evening drive in the air.

We are almost at the other side of the river now—they had to hire a boat to get over to the ferry that didn’t respond to us honking and yelling—when they got there the owner said he was out of diesel—so they sent a donkey cart for the diesel—I don’t know if we paid for that or not.

I’ve never seen such hot, ugly light in my entire life.  It is impossible to shoot outdoors except one hour in the evening and a couple of hours in the morning.  And with almost all household activity closed to me because of Sharia (Islamic law) this is a very difficult assignment.

After three days of driving across open desert with two cars, we finally find waves of camel caravans on the 40-day-road from Geneina (Chad border) headed up to markets in Egypt.  The only indications that this is a major trade route are the bleached bones of camels that didn’t make it along the side.

Camel shepherds keep coming up asking for cigarettes, so I have Kamal start shooting Polaroid’s for them—I believe in this—take a picture—give a picture—especially with indigenous groups.  But at some point if you don’t draw a line across your neck and say you’re out of film there’s a chance of starting a riot.

We meet a pair of archaeologists who are working at Tumbus—an old quarry where at least one large unfinished statue is lying on the ground from Nubian culture.  Stuart Tyson Smith and Bruce Williams—Williams is on the frontlines of a theory that the Nubians came first and Egyptian culture developed from there.

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