Reading of Jim West’s trip to Egypt reminded me that I was looking for somewhere to go just before Christmas, to fight off the winter blues. I was thinking about flying out to Khartoum. After all, the location is right for sunshine in December, and spending a week in a good hotel relaxing wouldn’t be very arduous.
I came across the Tripadvisor website, for “Sudan”. This site is quite useful for hotel reviews, although for Luxor some of the hotel-keepers have started to game the system with fake reviews. (You can tell, because they’re tiny places no-one has ever heard of!) But the reviews for Sudan were enlightening.
You see, I reasoned that the rulers of Sudan, as in any third-world country, enjoy acquiring foreign aid. Those Mercedes-Benzes cost hard currency, after all! So they would need to have at least one good hotel for all the fat-cats to stay in, while being wined and dined, preparatory to handing over money exacted from poor people in rich countries to the rich people who keep poor countries poor (as the saying has it). If so, I too could stay in it.
The results are pretty awful. There is the al-Rotana, which seems the probable hotel that I had in mind, charging $200 a night. But look at the rest!!?!
The best hotel is apparently run by Greeks, which will amuse those who have read the “River War” by Winston Churchill. Churchill, who was going up the Nile with Kitchener against the dervishes, and indeed G. W. Steevens in his “With Kitchener to Khartoum”, makes regular mentions of Greek hoteliers as the only source of civilisation! Perhaps the Sudan has slumped back into the state that it was in a century ago — the victim of 50 years of failed policies.
PS: I looked at the UK Foreign Office advice here. The list of disease outbreaks was pretty interesting. You know, I don’t really want to experience all that…
PPS: I’ve been laughing all evening about the hotel reviews, which were in order of preference. Most countries list hotels by resort. This one contains the only 14 hotels in the country. The first one sounded rather dodgy. The second was the corporate one I referred to. But the review of third one started witha single word, doubtless written with a shudder of memory: “horrible”. One can imagine the pale and desperate frame of mind of the ‘guest’ in which that was the first word that came to mind. What hotel number 14 was like I cannot imagine!