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This time, work took me to one of the most eastern regions of Sudan. Kassala is a popular local tourist destination, oddly with a disproportionate percentage of newlyweds. Many come to be enchanted by the mesmerizing Taka and Toteel “sugar loaf” mountains.

The post title “for you Kassala, I fell in love” is a rough translation of famous song lyrics that signify that one fell in love just so that he can come with his loved one to Kassala to share in its natural beauty.

The city of Kassala is on the border with Eretria, roughly 4 hours away from Asmara. It is about 600 km east of Khartoum. The city is split in half by the merciless Gash River. For most of the year the Gash River basin is a sandy, dry gorge that overwhelmed by water pouring down from the Ethiopian and Eritrean highlands during the rainy season. Unlike other seasonal rivers in the region, like the Atbara River, the Gash River has a habit of continually changing course and wreaking havoc on the city’s residents.

We started off on the wrong foot by leaving relatively late in the afternoon for our trip. Mid afternoon heat waves indicated that it would be a long journey. Leaving Khartoum, we took the familiar path towards Wad Medani in Gezira State (southeast of Khartoum). From Wad Medani we broke eastwards heading towards Gadarif State. Unfortunately along the way, the intense heat left its mark on our car. Till this point we were relatively unaware of the extent of the heat from the comfort of our fully air conditioned car. After crossing Gadarif state borders, our car started to show signs of fatigue. First our air conditioning system gave way, then the engine itself began to wail. The parched engine quickly evaporated all our excess water supply. In an effort to remedy the situation even our drinking water was exhausted in the process of cooling the engine. We finally gave way and stopped the car for some time. When this procedure led to limited success, we began driving slowly till we lucked out on an agricultural camping post. There we were saved by 2 generous guys who supplied us with water to remedy the situation. To give you an idea of the course travelled, take a look at the map below.

We hit the road again and made a pit stop in the outskirts of El Gadarif for food and prayer. From there we cruised into Kassala fairly late in the evening. Even in the midst of night, the prominent mountains stood in a dark haze, as though keeping watch on the city’s dwellers and visitors. The breeze was cool and refreshing a welcome change from the heat we were exposed to throughout the trip. The lush green savannahs juxtaposed to the Ethiopian highlands have a special blend of scents and gentle winds that are very welcoming and comforting to any newcomer.

Exhausted from our 11 hour journey, we made our way to our guest house and after settling in crashed for the evening. A long day awaited us in the opening day of our Eastern Region workshop.

Today the workshop started with the same routine followed in previous sectors. Members representing all institutions/ entities in the WASH sector in this region congregated to discuss and review the policy at hand and lend voice their concerns and suggestions. I stole away in the late afternoon in a gap where, with access to internet to update on my first leg of the journey. We shall see what else the lies ahead today….