THE TRACK TO SHEBA

By Len A.Hynds

A Military Police unit based in the Sudan, 900 miles to the south of us at Suez, were being transferred to Egypt, and instead of travelling from Port Sudan by troopship, obtained permission to do the journey overland, following the coastline alongside the Red Sea. There were no roads as such, just the original camel caravan track way, along which the fabled Queen of Sheba had travelled on her way to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem. The terrain was such that even the camel caravans had to wait in certain places for the tide to ebb in order to travel along the flat beach.

Track Towards Sheba

We heard about this journey, which would take nearly two weeks, and we guessed that the RAF would drop them supplies as needed. I was hoping that we would be asked to travel south to meet them, but they were determined to do the whole trip without help from another unit. However one day on patrol with a colleague in the southern part of Suez Town, I decided to run about twenty miles south along that barren coast where there were only poor fishing villages. What a far cry from today when not only a road runs direct from Cairo, but one of those tiny mud brick villages is now a holiday resort, Sharm El Sheikh, and I am told the road is a motorway.

We stopped on the shoreline eventually, at a strange structure behind us. It had the four walls of a two storey house with no windows, and a stone staircase up the outside to the roof, the tiles of which had fallen into the house. It was some time before I realised that it was a water cistern by the side of the track, being filled by a tiled gully stretching right across the desert towards the distant Gebel Ataqua range, where no doubt there was an oasis at the foot.

It was obviously built by the Romans at this the most southerly point of their empire, our own Hadrianís Wall being at the most northern point.

As I started to brew up, in the far distance I could see a person riding a camel, which was plodding along. As he got closer I could see it was a Coastguard Policeman on patrol, in his khaki uniform and khaki fez. He was sitting cross legged with his rifle resting across his thighs.

He didn't look at us and I realised he was fast asleep. I shouted and roused him and invited him to have tea with us. He was so startled but delighted to see other human beings. He must have had the loneliest job in the world.

A wonderful place to be if you had an imagination wondering what tales that dusty track could tell.