Standing on top of Juba!
I spotted it on my initial flight into Juba. A rocky mountain dotted with green trees and high grass. In trips in and around the city, I caught glimpses of its boulder size rocks and various rock quarries. I researched the mountain and discovered that it had a hiking path to the top and very popular among the expat crowd. After two months of planning and plotting, I finally got my chance to hike Jebel Kujur. While Jebel Kujur resembles a smaller version of Old Rag Mountain in the Shenandoah Mountains, the climb to the top was not as taxing or difficult as Old Rag. We tried to get an early start to beat the South Sudan sun, but even at 10am, the sun felt as it was riding on my back. After about an hour of hiking upwards, we arrived at the top of Juba. The view from the top gave me a bird’s eye view of Juba and its surrounding villages. The city has spread around the mountain, constantly growing as members of the South Sudanese Diaspora returns and villagers move into the fast growing Juba.
Hiking the mountain can also be dangerous, especially if you wonder off the well worn trails that lead up and around the mountain. During the civil war that plagued the region, Jebel Kujur was a prized outlook for both sides of the war. Between 1992 and 1994, a battle raged for control of Jebel Kujur. The battle was one of the bloodiest episodes of the north-south war. The area around the mountain is littered with unexploded ordinances (land mines) planted during that battle. There are weekly reminders of the dangers that exist in Juba from the continuous civil war. Two weeks ago, five children were killed in a neighborhood of Juba as they dug for scrap metal. There are several organizations working in Juba to ride the country of landmines. But sadly each year people are killed and maimed by undetected land mines.
It was a beautiful day for a hike and I hope to hike Jebel Kujur again very soon.