Afloat on 2 Niles with the Fishermen of Khartoum

Photos by Mosa’ab Elshamy

At the confluence of the Blue Nile and the White Nile near Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, 35-year-old Younis Hamad al-Nil sails his wooden boat from sunrise to sunset, searching the wide waters for today’s catch.

For 20 years, he has made the same trip, using his expert eye to search for suitable patches of water. Once satisfied with the location, he beats the water’s surface with a long wooden pole before spreading his net; pulling it back a half hour later to survey his haul.

He and his fellow fishermen can catch up to 100 kilograms (221 pounds) of fish on a really good day, but most days average around 50 kilograms. Depending on market prices, his day’s profits usually — but not always — cover his family’s expenses, as well as maintenance and fuel for the boat.

The river fishermen are in competition with their deep-water counterparts on the Red Sea coast. Area wholesalers and consumers tend to prefer the Red Sea fish in summer and the bonier Nile fish in winter.

“The Nile is gentle,” Hamad al-Nil says with a smile, whereas “the sea is dangerous.”

The world’s longest river, the Nile’s water is shared by 11 countries, ending in Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. Its main tributaries, the Blue and the White Niles, meet just north of Khartoum.

The river fishermen spend most of their days on the water, their boats turned into temporarily homes. The fishermen cook their meals onboard and stretch under the sun, listening to music playing from mobile phones charged by solar grids.

As Hamad al-Nil’s boat sails toward his preferred fishing spot — near an island off the city of Omdorman just north of Khartoum — he floats past farmers with cattle feeding on grass on small islands and ferries carrying people from one riverbank to the other. Passing fishermen often hand each other food and cigarettes from boat to boat.

Hamad al-Nil never went to school and doesn’t read or write, but he has made a point of sending his four children to school.

“I love fishing,” he said, but he doesn’t intend to let his children work with him.

Here is a series of images by AP photographer Mosa’ab Elshamy of Sudanese fishermen on the two Niles.

Click on any image below to launch the gallery. 


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Text from the AP news story, AP PHOTOS: Afloat on 2 Niles with the fishermen of Khartoum, by Maggie Michael.


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