Ariel Sharon: African Adventure

Ariel Sharon, (26 February, 1928 - 11 January, 2014)
In 1964 Sharon was 36-years old and badly in need of a break from more than twenty years of virtually uninterrupted military life. His fellow officer, friend and mentor, Lieutenant General Avraham Yoffe, who was 51 at the time, was recently demobbed from the IDF and they decided on a brief trip to Africa - for a break from military life.

The following extracts are from Sharon's autobiography Warrior, published in 1989.

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By the end of 1964 I felt I needed to get away from it all and decided to take a leave of absence. Besides, the chance had come up to travel to Africa with Yoffe, who now had been appointed head of Israel's nature preserves.

At that time travelling from Israel to Africa was not a simple matter.  ... 

... In the end we flew on a military cargo plane bound for Entebbe, Uganda, with a load of parachute equipment to be used in some demonstration. We took off from Tel Nof, my old base, and passed over Eilat heading south. As night fell , we crossed briefly over Saudi territory in order to get as far as possible from Sharm al-Sheikh, where the Egyptians had a radar station. As we flew over the black Saudi mountains, I stood in the doorway of the cockpit with a cup of coffee warming my hands. Watching the moon rise in front of us gave me an expansive feeling. ... 

... In the early morning we landed in Masawa, Ethiopia, where an Israeli crew was waiting to refuel us. ... We entered Uganda over a place called Moroto, then flew on to Entebbe, the plane's final destination. There we picked up a car and began our tour of Uganda. ... After several days of sightseeing we found ourselves back in Moroto, the place we have flown over on the way in. Moroto was as primitive a bush town as I have ever seen. ... Yoffe and I went to stock up on canned food and found ourselves queuing up at a little store together with a group of tall Karamojo tribal people. Our queue mates were naked - the men completely, the women wearing only hide loincloths. They carried small three-legged stools so that they could sit down without encountering the biting insects that swarmed on the ground.

From Uganda we crossed into Kenya at Lake Nakuru, a place breathtaking for the countless numbers of flamingos that live there, feeding on the small mollusks and crustaceans in the shallow waters. Thousands of these tall, graceful birds crowded the lake, a shifting living mass of pink and white. When they began moving, it was like watching a cloud come to life. ... 

... We drove on towards Tanzania to visit Amboseli and Ngorongoro Crater, the most wonderful preserve of all, with its huge herds of antelope, graceful impala, and long-necked Geremuk deer, zebras, gnus, waterbucks, and water buffalo with their wide backs and coarse coats. Among them we could see lionesses hunting and lions striding in to dine first at the kill. ...

... We had also made up our minds to visit what was reputed to be one of the most interesting sights in Ethiopia, the Awash River. This river flows through the Danakil Desert, then abruptly disappears into the sands. At the place it disappears, hot springs and sulphur pools dot the landscape, products, perhaps, of the same geological aberration that swallows the river. The desert around is inhabited by Danakil nomads, primitive camel herders with a reputation for savagery. Tourists are warned away from this area, which is considered too dangerous for ordinary travel.

Only recently a British pilot had made a forced landing in the desert and had been killed there. He had fallen victim to a Danakil tradition according to which the most precious gift a nomad groom can present to his intended bride is the testicles of an enemy. Receiving such a gift, the bride displays them on her forehead to proclaim the honor that has been paid her. The British pilot had been castrated and had hemorrhaged to death, after which the Ethiopian army had inflicted their own cruel punishment on the tribesmen.

Having seen quite enough of the Danakil Desert, we drove back to Addis Ababa. We had been in Africa for five weeks and it was time to go home.
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