Sudan, Suakin: An Enjoyable Visit by a Cruising Boat in April 2017

An interesting report of a short visit to Suakin and the value of the many old items which accumulate on a cruising boat to the poorer communities which you visit.

Published 6 years ago, updated 4 years ago

Mr Mohammed (local agent)

Report on Suakin, North Sudan – Visited 24 – 29 April 2017.

Without knowing it, we arrived at Suakin together with “Storm Bird” (Achmed from Turkey) just behind us and “Luke 8:24” (Aussie Stephen and crew) who arrived a few hours later. The last time we had seen each other was on Socotra.

We were the first to enter the Harbour and it is a beautiful place. We were welcomed along the shore by a group of local ladies who waved to us from the ruined town. The eloquent and elegant Mr Mohamed with his white robes was waiting for us at the dinghy dock because we had called him with the sat phone. Mr Mohamed is the agent for Sudan and you pick him up from the shore and then take him to your boat. He charges $150 US for two people and $200 for three or more and that is it. The money is partly for Customs and Immigration, etc… but you will never see either of them. You do not get a stamp in your passport, but you do get a cruising permit/clearance paper (which is an official document from Sudan) from Mr Mohamed when you leave. It is all very simple and easy going.

There are ferries from Suakin to Jedda (for Mecca, takes 24 hours) for the pilgrims and you can also go ( if you would ever want to visit the Saudis) but you have to clear that with Mr Mohamed as you don’t have a stamp in your passport from Sudan. And for Mecca, you have to be a Muslim.

Mr Mohamed changes your US dollars although you can do it “in the street” but it is easier to do it with him and the rates are the same. In any case, the banks have very bad rates. Mr Mohamed is much better. You can also order 20-litre bottles of good drinking water from him which he brings to the dinghy dock for shop prices and no extras. There is a handy bread shop quite near the dinghy dock with yummy fresh pittas. There are many markets in town for fresh veggies and fruit or meat. Just walk around.

Mr Mohamed can also provide you with an internet hotspot if you like, which you can use on your boat and the internet connections are excellent and much better than either Socotra or Djibouti. He charges $15 US for this (the SIM card). So we had the hotspot and the other boats borrowed the hotspot from time to time to have internet of their own. It worked fine for everybody. If you run out of gBytes Mr Mohamed reloads the SIM card.

The first night we had an excellent chicken BBQ dinner in town with all crews together to celebrate Tony’s birthday and Mr Mohamed ferried us in his old Mercedes and picked us later up for free. We walked at twilight through the town and met some boys who sold beautiful knives, handmade with leather straps and ironwork, something unique for $20 ….we have never seen them again anywhere else.

The people in Suakin are very poor (as everywhere else…) so we had, for a long time, collected things like glass jars, bottles with stops, kitchen stuff, cutlery, fabrics, clothes, shoes, bags, towels and we had a big valise with small old tools like screwdrivers, a soldering iron, spanners, screws, washers etc. Even plastic bottles are valuable. We also had a collection of ropes and lines we never used and which had been lying in our hold for 10 years. We have divided our stuff between Mr Mohamed and the fisherman’s village on the other side of the bay. Mr Mohamed was extremely happy and grateful with these gifts and from then on he did everything for free (our laundry for example). After all the trading on Socotra and giving away stuff at Suakin, our boat’s waterline was lifted about 10 cm. We wanted to” lose weight” for the Suez Canal…but later.

We also organized a morning to play games with some of the local school children. We had asked Mr Mohamed to invite them and quite a lot came to the harbour. Funny thing was that they all came with their Dads on motorbikes and there were no Mums involved. A bit like Socotra where the women and girls were also hardly visible. If you saw something black moving in Socotra you could bet it was a woman. If you saw some bright colours moving in Suakin, 99% chance it was a woman. The women in Suakin are not veiled and they wear scarves in bright colours not black, but you don’t see many in public. Public life is a men’s affair.

We had stuffed toys for the children and pens and notebooks etc. We also had some hats but we don’t know if they really liked them. We did some jumping games for prizes and we taught them to play with a Frisbee donated by our crew member Lucas. Some of the boys were really good after a short instruction.

If there is really a place where unused stuff and tools/clothes/ropes can get a good “home” then it is in Suakin. Please, collect and dig up your old stuff and make those people happy. The ladies at the nearby fishing village were pulling the things out of my hands, so eager were they to get some fabrics, bags or shoes. If you see how they live in huts on the beach, you can understand what it means for them to get a present. The biggest hits were the stuffed animals, the children were “going wild” with many happy faces. You can understand that we had such a good time at Suakin even if it was only for 5 days.

Report by Karin and Tony from Amber Nectar.

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