I reach Karima from Dongola on an entirely paved road but then spend half an hour tramping around trying to find a lokonda.  My first option is, unbelievably, full but they direct me towards a second. It doesn't look great - the dorm is cramped, I only need to touch the mattress for dust to rise from it, the look and smell of the loos make me want to close my eyes AND nose when using them, and two backpacks indicate the presence of other foreigners - but I'm assuming it's the second best in town so I take it. I later add cockroaches, mice and mosquitos to its list of cons, but a shower cubicle with water of a pleasant sun-warmed temperature is a large pro.

The town has a couple of remarkable features. One is the number of barbers on the main street. On reflection, perhaps this isn't too surprising, with hairstyles so far in Sudan tending towards the shorter end of the spectrum. The second is the number of tea stalls around the place. Exclusively run by women, they consist of tea and coffee-making paraphernalia, a few low stools, and even fewer small tables. A bowl of water is used to rinse off used cups and spoons before they are put back into circulation. These stalls are everywhere and form the basis of a low budget version of Mediterranean cafe society.

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About this author

  • John McCabe

    From the UK, lived and worked in Japan and the US. Currently on a multi-year trip having a look at the rest of the world. Fir…

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