When cruising sailors visit Sudan, they all stop at Suakin. This modest
port is a much better stopover than Port Sudan which is the main commercial
port in the country. Suakin has a large well protected harbor with good
holding in relatively shallow water. You could sit out a real blow in this
harbor without much risk of dragging anchor.
The ruins of old Suakin occupy a small peninsula north of the anchorage.
This town was reputed to be the last place in the Red Sea where there was an
active slave market. On a more positive note, the town is unique because
its white buildings were constructed out of coral.
The fisherman of Suakin sail in traditional wooden craft with and without
engines. Fishing vessels have a centrally located icebox that they fill
with block ice before heading out to sea. Then they ply the waters of Sudan
for a week before they return with their catch.
Suakin is an easy port of entry because a self-appointed agent named
Mohammad handles all of your paperwork. You give him your documents and
some cash, and he completes the formalities of entering and leaving the
country. He also arranges for delivery of potable water and assists in
transporting groceries to your boat. He is a man of many talents, and a
gentleman at that.
While anchored in Suakin, we took the local bus to Port Sudan which is
thirty miles to the north. Port Sudan had a middle eastern flavor with
small shops selling the necessities of life. It was tempting to shoot
photos, but we were warned that open photography could result in
confiscation of our camera or even a trip to jail.
The Dress Code for shopping in Suakin is simple. Ladies need to cover
their legs with pants or jeans, and men can wear whatever they want.
If you don't dress appropriately, then expect stares from people who
will look at you like you are from another galaxy. The basic idea is
to blend in as much as possible. The crew of Exit Only in this picture
wore their usual attire, and they had a pleasant shopping experience.
Sudanese vendors have tomatoes in abundance. These aren't hot house
tomatoes. This is organic farming at it's best. These are
awesome tomatoes, and they are cheap. The vendors even sold apples
imported from Washington state.
My biggest food surprise in Sudan was bazillions of tasty succulent
watermelons. I would have thought it would be impossible to raise
watermelons in the Sudanese desert. Wrong! When we took the bus
to Port Sudan, there were fields of watermelons all along the highway.
Donkeys are the most common beasts of burden in rural Sudan. This
donkey cart belongs to a water vendor who delivers water to the residents of
Suakin and to yachties when they are in port. The foliage lashed to
the water barrels is donkey fodder. These hard working animals earn
their keep and their owners keep their investment alive and well by giving
them an ample supply of food.
Not everyone in the market place lives in Suakin. Bedouins come into
town with their camels to pick up supplies. Donkey carts don't work
well in the desert. The donkeys aren't adapted to long desert treks,
and the carts get stuck in soft desert sand. Hence, camels are the
preferred beasts of burden for Bedouins who live in the desert. The
Bedouin's clothes are stained tan by desert dust, whereas the residents of
Suakin lack the tan color to their attire.
This small business establishment sells sandals created by the man in the
top left corner of the picture. Every time I went into Suakin to shop,
I would speak Arabic with these gentlemen, which always put a smile on their
face. I don't know if they were impressed with my linguistic skills,
but at least they were smiling most of the time.
Smiling must be built into the Sudanese genome. Big smiles greeted us
everywhere we went. This is "Telephone Man". With his four
phones and world map, he can connect you with your friends and relatives
anywhere on the planet. He keeps track of the time you spend talking,
and he charges by the minute.
This is the main mosque in Suakin. Sudanese people come here to pray
five times a day.
Sudan does the best job of recycling that I have ever seen. If they
have a 55 gallon drum that is empty, they cut it open and beat it flat to
use as a wall in their houses. They recycle everything. If
environmentalists give out an award to the greenest country on planet earth,
Sudan would likely be the winner. Nothing goes to waste.
The walls of this enclosure are made of the tops and bottoms of 55 gallon
This house gives new meaning to the word recycling. Every scrap of
wood is put to use in construction. Nothing is wasted.
Sudanese fisherman make their own sails for their fishing boats. This
boat glides silently across the harbor in Old Suakin.
This single-handed fishing vessel uses a small sail to propel the yacht, and
a small paddle serves as the rudder. If the wind gives out, the paddle
becomes the source of propulsion of the boat.
When shopping is done and chores on Exit Only are finished, it's time to do
After water tanks are topped off and food stores stowed on board, yachties
leave Suakin harbor in single file hoping that there's a weather window
waiting for them out there when they turn north up the Red Sea.
Although Suakin isn't fancy, it's memorable, safe,