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OPINION: Sudan - A great sight on a great continent

SUDAN - It is one of the great sights on a great continent. In fact, you have not seen Africa until you have seen the confluence of the White and Blue Nile.

Laying eyes on the meeting of the churning White and the smooth Blue gives meaning to the word arterial.

A lone angler sits on the aquatically busy corner gently dipping his line into the water where the rivers converge, probably grateful that the Sudanese authorities have not done must to embellish this attraction.

An eight arch bridge nearby joins the capital with Omdurman across the White Nile. The troika of these two cities plus Bahri resemble a giant elephant with the river forming the trunk.

That is what Khartoum means in Arabic: elephant.

The island of Tuti fits in here somewhere - although residents of what amounts to the capital's vegetable garden are legendary misfits.

Their antiquated water pumps thump noisily. They have refused government offers to replace them with new devices because they are suspicious that there might be strings attached.

They did not like the building of a bridge with the mainland - a gift from Turkey - which brought the first cars onto the island. So they fiercely oppose building hotels and villas.

They say: Let the residents of the capital have their giant orange-squeezer shaped, Libyan-built Burj, the Hall of Friendship, which is one many Chinese expressions of gratitude for accessing virtually every drop of oil this country can pump, and other impressive pieces of cutting edge architecture. They will keep growing greens.

Sudan is still on Washington's list of terrorist-sponsoring countries and subject to some US sanctions.

But like Cuba and Iran it is coming in from the cold.

The conventional wisdom is one should get into Cuba and Iran now, before the world does.

The same applies to Sudan.

My advice is take this Madhi-Kalmis-Ter-I tour before the marketing buffs get in.

Arabic is essential for business but English more than gets one buy in this country with a strong British colonial background .

Before you say: ah cricket! Remember that the Brits were not here long enough to instill an appreciation of willow on leather.

The Mahdi rather spoiled things by sending his troops from Omdurman just across the river to fetch Gordon who was under siege in Khartoum trying to evacuate British troops and citizens.

The Mahdi's men went totally off message and removed the British administrator's head.

There is a brass plaque on the steps of the Presidential Palace indicating the site of this slaying.

I was not able to see it this time because chez Gordon has become the old palace - replaced by an impressive Chinese-built replica. Both old and new are now under security lockdown.

My rambling, slightly-foxed hotel on the banks of the Blue Nile was the first five-star establishment in Khartoum.

It has the same architect as Singapore's famous Raffles. Don't try walking into the bar and ordering a Sudanese Sling though. There is no bar is this very dry country.

And don't trying walking into the fancy hotel next door because that is the headquarters in Sudan of the China National Petroleum Company.

My hotel has housed Queen Elizabeth II and Winston Churchill.

It has also accommodated Thomas Cook which is ironic because foreign credit cards are not accepted in sanctions-hit Sudan.

My source on the famous guests is the editor of Sudan Vision. It is one of three English-language newspapers in this country.

Navigating the convoluted contents confirms the harsh reality that because the King's tongue is indeed the second most spoken language on the globe does not mean it is always delivered as she should be.

Jean-Jacques Cornish is the Africa correspondent at Eyewitness News . Follow him on Twitter: @jjcornish

This piece first appeared on www.jjcornish.com

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