Egypt’s Abu Simbel city has become a temporary resting place for refugees and evacuees from Sudan that has been gripped by fighting between its army and Rapid Support Forces (RSF).
Abu Simbel is one of the rest stops for droves of buses and vans of evacuees making their journey from Sudanese areas to Egypt. Once they enter Egypt, they will make yet another journey to Cairo where they can be flown home.
Islam, 4, is one of ten children on a bus from Khartoum. The children are unaware of the circumstances that forced their families to hastily leave Khartoum and to spend a couple of days at the Egyptian and Sudanese borders before being allowed to continue their journey to safety.
A bus driver, Mohammed, has been working the Khartoum-Aswan route since 2019. He spoke to Asharq Al-Awsat about how the evacuees and refugees are being exploited to make the crossing to Egypt.
The prices of all goods have doubled, forcing some Sudanese families to bring their own food and water from Khartoum, he revealed, while also noting he “modest” services on the Sudanese side of the border.
On his latest journey, he said that he drove the bus some 900 kilometers inside northern Sudan towards the Argeen crossing. However, the heavy flow of refugees forced him to change routes and head to Wadi Halfa and then Egypt’s Qastal port.
“We were forced to remain at the crossing for two days due to the massive number of refugees,” he remarked.
Mustafa Othman is a Sudanese university student living in Saudi Arabia. Exhausted, he said he hadn't slept for an entire week.
“This whole week has felt like a year,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
He was accompanying his father on a visit to Khartoum when the conflict erupted. The fighting forced the suspension of flights out of Khartoum, and he sought an alternative option with his father that would take him to Saudi Arabia from Egypt.
Before the conflict, Abu Simbel was a quiet tourist destination of some 10,000 residents. Now, it has become a transit point for refugees and evacuees.
Asharq Al-Awsat caught up with an Indian family that was resting in Abu Simbel before heading to Aswan city. They have booked a flight from Cairo to Mumbai.
The head of the family worked as an English teacher in Khartoum. “We sought the fastest way back home and found Egypt to be the best route in spite of the influx at the borders,” he told Asharq Al-Awsat.
Taxi and private car drivers have exploited the influx by raising their fares. Before the crisis, a fare would have cost some 2,000 Egyptian pounds (1USD is equivalent to 31 Egyptian pounds). Now, a journey across the Argeen or Qastal crossings costs 5,000 pounds.
Abu Simbel International Hospital has also received patients suffering from chronic diseases. Among them is Zeinab, 65, who had suffered a stroke during the holy fasting month of Ramadan.
Her daughter told Asharq Al-Awsat that they fled Khartoum two days ago and were transported by private ambulance to Wadi Halfa. An Egyptian ambulance took them to Egypt through the Qastal crossing.
The daughter said that once her mother receives a health check, the pair will head to Cairo to reunite with her brother who has been living in the capital for five years.
Hospital Director Mohammed Abu Wafa told Asharq Al-Awsat that facility was prepared to receive more patients among the refugees.
It has so far treated people who have suffered from exhaustion and complications from chronic diseases, especially among the elderly. They will head to Aswan as soon as they receive the necessary health care.