On Her Majesty’s Disservice

It took three attempts to face the stonewall of ambiguity at the Sudanese Embassy to realise that there is more chance of a camel passing through the eye of a needle than getting a transit visa cleared by the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA). I don’t know whether they suspected that I was some kind of spy-on-two-wheels but I wouldn’t make a very good one considering my predictability for frequent coffee stops. The one saving grace is that the Sudanese authorities had the courtesy of being consistent in their ambiguity which is more than be said of their British counterparts. After liberating me of fifty beans sterling for the privilege of a cut and paste supporting letter onto FCO watermarked paper (politely folded into a ‘On her Majesty’s Service’ envelope), I was later informed that the embassy in Khartoum could not possibly put a kind word into the MFA on my behalf because of my lack of diplomatic credentials. Surely all nationals are effectively in the diplomatic service of their own country when they are traveling overseas? I maintained; the amiable civil servant behind the desk just shrugged his shoulders in response. I left the embassy in Addis feeling more like a crestfallen cash cow than a British national in need of some minor diplomatic assistance. At least I can now sleep well at night knowing that my contribution to consular coffers has gone towards the upkeep of the Ambassador’s golf course.

It seems that my Egyptian visa will have to go unstamped, for now.

Travel plans revised and some much-needed repairs to the Sherpa (bottom bracket went after 5000km of sterling service), I’m now on a final tour of the northern historical circuit before taking the silver bird back to Europa.

Next stop: The rock-hewn churches of Lalibela; Ethiopia’s very own ‘Jerusalem’.


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