It’s a slightly emotive title, I know, and I apologise, but a recent trip to the Bayuda Desert, in Northern Sudan, resulted in my briefly returning to the ancient Nubian city of Meroe, where I had last been aged 12, a boy with his very first proper camera – a Pentax K1000, to be precise.
The picture I took that day, of three girls, crouched and sheltering from the sand, has followed me from school, through college and onto the walls of my adult life. It means a great deal to me – possibly because it is all I have of the two years my family spent in what was then Sudan. (My father’s work for the UN World Food Programme meant we tended to move around a lot).
At any rate, to return to the very spot I took the photograph, some 28 years later, was both moving and somewhat extraordinary. And to do so in the hands of a fine guide, and by camel, in a style commensurate with the traditions and pace of the Bedouin, felt right and proper.
My own childhood notwithstanding, I was back to discover whether the Bayuda might be the sort of place from which we could, in good conscience, design itineraries for clients after the most frontier-like of experiences. Because, as you probably know, The Bayuda Desert is extremely remote: it’s relatively inaccessible, difficult to cross and, like all deserts, experiences extreme temperatures. It is, in short, a most inhospitable place.
However, it is also the most incredible of places. Its people, the Bisharin, to whom the three girls I photographed undoubtedly belonged, are some of the most welcoming hosts you could ever hope of meeting. It marks the southernmost area of one of the first great civilisations, the Kingdom of Nubia, and as a result contains some of the world’s finest examples of ancient pyramid architecture. It is a geological wonder, and home to a fair length’s worth of the Nile.
And it’s beautiful, very. In fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting. I’m going back – as soon as I can.