Yesterday I began my marathon itinerary of flights with a premium economy American Airlines seat from NYC to Doha.
I’m glad I didn’t bother with figuring out miles for business class; I nearly had the whole premium economy cabin to myself.
Landing in Doha at 5pm local time and feeling proud for having gotten 7 hours of sleep on our 10 hour flight, I had dinner at the Al Maha lounge thanks to Priority Pass access before boarding a 4 hour Qatar Airways flight to Addis Ababa and landing at 12:10am local time.
Once in Addis Ababa, I showed them proof of my pre-arranged e-visa, bolted out of arrivals, woke up the hotel driver from his nap (thankfully airport hotels mark their vans on the outside so I knew which one to approach) in the parking lot, and then checked into the new and nearby BonRoyal Hotel at 1am for a steal of less than $80/night.
I loved this itinerary because I was able to sleep the moment I got into bed at 2am, getting me back into my circadian rhythm earlier.
The next morning I woke up on my own at around 9am where I took advantage of a free breakfast by myself and then 2 hours in their new rooftop gym with fresh barely used (if ever) equipment.
I then returned to the Addis Ababa airport early where I could relax at the Plaza Premium Hotel in Terminal 2 thanks to AMEX Platinum access.
At 3:10pm I boarded the 2 hour Ethiopian Air flight into Juba, landing at 4pm local time (their time zone is an hour before Ethiopia’s)
That this is the world’s youngest country, it would be no surprise that our first stop getting off would be the health declaration shed before moving onto arrivals.
I filled out a long form with a backside, and showed them my yellow fever and COVID-19 vaccine cards:
Waved through, I then left the health inspections shed and crossed over into Arrivals.
At the visa desk I showed them my proof of e-visa and letter of invitation, obtaining a simple stamp in my passport as a thank you for following their directions:
Then at baggage claims I was then picked up by our local guide Sebit and made it in time for dinner by the Nile (complete with a shipwreck!) afterwards at the AFEX camp:
The next morning after breakfast we quickly exchanged cash at a rate of 1000 South Sudanese pounds to 1 US Dollar in the hotel lobby (the money changers knew where to find us).
We then got into our 4-SUV convoy and made our first stop strolling through South Sudan’s biggest market, Konyo Konyo, an incredible place where the immense ethnic diversity of South Sudan can be witnessed.
You may not find a legit parking space here…
…but you might be able to find everything else instead:
Konyo Konyo market is a myriad of different traditional dresses and tattoos like none other in the world.
We then drove back out and waited by the largest church in South Sudan for some of our cars that got inexplicably stopped by roadside police.
Once we were all free and clear, we hung out with students at Juba University – founded in 1975 in response to the need for higher education in southern areas of Sudan.
They let us crash an outdoor study session on the stages of humerus bone (I forgot…everything), and sit in at a study room outfitted and donated by the Japanese government.
Saving the rest of Juba for later, we finished our studies with an early lunch…
…and then it was the waiting game: We waited about an extra hour after lunch at the restaurant for our passports, which had been couriered earlier in the morning by our guides, to be registered by an outside office. Then when we drove out half an hour for an afternoon departure to the Mundari camp, we waited another hour for our passports to get registered again at a checkpoint. And then again for another half an hour at another checkpoint right before reaching the Mundari.
The driving time from Juba to see the Mundari differs, as their camps always move around; it can be anywhere between 15 min to a 3 hour drive: Full post on camping with the Mundari.
On the bright side, before all the waiting we were able to drive by the Presidential Palace, the residence of South Sudan’s leader and the man with a cowboy hat, Salva Kiir Mayardit
Returning after a night camping and a unreal morning with the Mundari tribe, we were back in Juba at 9am to resume our city tour at the capital city’s largest mosque:
Then we quickly visited Jubek Tomb, the final resting place of the man after whom Juba was named and one of the most important figure of the Bari people. Photos are not allowed here.
We also drove by the John Garang Mausoleum, whose eponymous permanent resident was famous for not only leading the revolution but also promoting the concept of Sudanism, which stated that his people should go beyond their divisions (Animists, Christians, Muslims, Arabs, etc.) and instead embrace all cultures and unify under the fact that they are all South Sudanese.
We then finished our tour of the world’s newest capital city of its youngest UN-recognized country with a stop by the craft market; our last opportunity for those who would like to bring back souvenirs from one of the least visited countries in the world!
After freshening up back at our lodgings at Dembesh Hotel, we wrapped up with dinner and drinks at the Radisson Blu pool bar down the street and then at Notos Lounge Bar & Grill.
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- At time of posting in Juba, it was 24 °C - Humidity: 81% | Wind Speed: 6km/hr | Cloud Cover: clear