Map of the Fortnight 286: From Sea 2 Sea

From Sea 2 Sea

The Challenge

Make a map showing a country that borders two significant bodies of water.

The Restrictions
There are no restrictions on when your PoD or map may be set. Fantasy, sci-fi, and future maps are allowed, but blatantly implausible (ASB) maps are not.

If you're not sure whether your idea meets the criteria of this challenge, please feel free to PM me or comment in the main thread.


The entry period for this round will end when the voting thread is posted on Monday the 19th of February.



Any discussion must take place in the main thread. If you post anything other than a map entry (or a description accompanying a map entry) in this thread then you will be asked to delete the post. If you refuse to delete the post, post something that is clearly disruptive or malicious, or post spam then you may be disqualified from entering in this round of MotF and you may be reported to the board's moderators.

(inspired by @lock's winning map of the original From Sea to Sea competition)

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Monrovia to Sagallo in 100 hours (and 30 minutes): a travellers' guide

The second-longest rail route in the world, second only to the mighty Trans-Siberian Railway, the Trans-African Railway, going from Monrovia to Sagallo, crossing the United States of African from its Atlantic capital to its major port in the Indian Ocean (more precisely, in the Gulf of Aden), is no less of an impressive and challenging trek to the daring traveller. Finished in the 1960s, it is the pride of the country, and perhaps the only form of transportation there that runs on time, diligently fulfilling its 100 hours schedule each iteration.

Now, normally people don’t do the whole 4 days and 4 hours in a row. The vast majority of passengers are just heading from a city to another and, for the tourists, there are plenty of enchanting stops on the way. But after having accomplished the same feat for the Trans-Siberian last year, I decided this would be quite feasible. And so, carrying my laptop, a small pile of books and some chocolate, I boarded the train and found my cabin.

My three companions were African, one of them from Monrovia, going down to the Congo on business; the second a Yoruba man, going home to Lagos, and the last one an Abyssinian, going all the way to Axum. They were all quite nice, as most Africans are, in my experience, and seemed excited with the prospect of following a travel chronicler in my adventures. I fear I may have disappointed them. I suppose my chosen profession calls for itself an aura of adventure and stumbling into trouble, when in reality, our travels are hopefully as mundane as everyone else’s.

Our train departed impeccably on time at 10 AM, GMT time. A good presage towards that famed punctuality. For the first third of the journey, the train mostly follows the Atlantic shore of Africa, giving you a beautiful sight to behold. Over the first day, we pass through the beautiful shorelines of the region once known as the Pepper Coast, or the Grain Coast, both names derived from the availability of the melegueta pepper, that was also dubbed “the grain of paradise”, and that still compliments the region’s cuisine.

This region is also well-known for being Old Liberia, and hence the womb of the United States of Africa project. It was here that the American Colonization Society led its efforts to place freed blacks, who would lead a massive colonization project across the continent, rivalled only by their former masters’ project over North America. This old connection is still quite present in the region’s toponymy, with the three states making up Old Liberia, Kentucky-in-Africa, Mississippi-in-Africa and Maryland-in-Africa, being named after American States, from where patrons of the American Colonization Society hailed, but also present in city and street names, most notably Monrovia, capital of the country and named after James Monroe, American President at the time of founding of the colony.

Old Liberia is not only the centre of power in Africa, but also its wealthiest region and a predominantly conservative region, dominated by the Americo-Liberian community that settled there in the 19th century and built the country. Here, elections are still very much dominated by the True Whig Party, that can easily gather 98% of the votes in any given election, from Representative to school board member.

Night fell while we were still crossing Maryland’s African shore. Throughout the night, we passed through the States of Baule and the Ashanti. It was 4 AM when we stopped in Accra, an old colonial city, once Danish, then Dutch, and then sold to the Liberians, in their early expansions. During much of the 20th century, Accra was the centre of much of oppositionist movements in Africa, and although mostly dominated by the True Whig Party to this day, it is a much more secular and progressive version of the party, compared to what you’d find in Old Liberia.

It is also a favoured city for tourists, receiving millions of visitors each year, and also having a strong contingent of international students coming there to study at their prestigious universities and historical archives. Unfortunately, all I could see were the city lights as they passed by. Certainly, a place to consider on my way back.

Speaking of the night, you’ll be happy to know that the beds on the cabins are quite comfortable, and the curtains allow you to have very decent darkness. Which is useful as, this near to the Equator, the Sun will begin creeping in at 6 AM.

24 hours to the minute after having started our travel, at 10 AM, we arrived at Lagos. The largest city in the country, the largest city in the continent, this thriving melting point is a major cultural centre for Africa, with a vibrant music scene and amazing nightlife. I have been there quite often, and have written much already about what to see, what to eat and where to go hang out. I cannot recommend it enough, really. It was also here that we lost our first original travelling companion, who had arrived home and invited me, on the way back, to contact him so he could show me around the city. I will have to consider his offer.

Four hours after leaving Lagos, the train goes, for the first time, away from the shoreline. This is to avoid the Niger Delta. A major oil region, its once beautiful climate has been utterly destroyed by human exploitation, and the train makes sure to keep its distance. It is overall a pity, but it is also important for us to remember the damage our species is capable of.

Fortunately, the ocean view returns in time for dinner, starting at 7 PM. Speaking of the food, it truly is remarkable, with the menu being quite open and versatile, allowing for all tastes, and prepared quite well, given the limiting conditions of the train environment. Thanks to my companions, I was able to taste much of the local cuisines we crossed through. Considering the size and diversity of Africa, you can imagine the skills of the kitchen staff. Bravo!

We reach Buea, in Cameroon, four and a half hours later, but already past midnight. By entering Cameroon, we have crossed to the second time zone, adding an hour to our clocks. It is also here that our second companion leaves us, to now go south towards Congo, where he is to spend his vacation. He speaks very well of the beaches in Gabon, which piques my curiosity. In my notebooks, I note the idea of going there one day myself. This is also the last time, until reaching the Indian Ocean, that the train sees the sea.

Afterwards, we slept. Through the night, we could hear the sounds of the forest, as we crossed the dense Cameroonian jungle. Must be beautiful, but during the night, there is very little that can be seen. When the sun rose, we were already well entrenched in the savannah region, which is a pity, even if the savannah is no less beautiful. That being said, the forest returns as, by 4 PM, the train now runs for a long while by the Ubangi River and other rivers from the wider Congo River system, and its deep, impressive forests.

Across the river, is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That the Trans-African Railway runs so deeply to the south of the country, right by the border with a less-than-secure neighbouring nation, is very telling of the divisions and prejudices of the United States of Africa and its government. The train’s trajectory is, notably, all through the Christian regions of the country, in areas dominated by the ruling True Whig Party. To the north, in the regions that are traditionally more Islamic, and where the opposition’s Full Democratic Party has greater sway, federal services are noticeable less present and less impeccable than here. That my three travelling companions were all Christians is not surprising either, as most Muslims would find it much harder to buy a seat in one of these cabins. Of course, things are changing, and African Muslims have it better today than they had for most of the country’s existence, but this inequality is still quite visible, when you look for it.

By morning, we are halfway across Gazellia, and I have to remember to add yet another hour to my clock. Named after the literal millions of animals that cross the country each year, the world’s largest large mammal migration, it is beautiful countryside, and one that has, for decades, been the centre of a great effort towards colonization by Americo-Liberians, that have since come to dominate the local economy and landscape. It is a country of great inequalities, with the geological resources, and much of the wild landscape, being owned by Americo-Liberians, while native peoples struggle to make a living. Many tribes have been left in a planned backwardness, to add a further charm to the safaris, gazing not only at wild animals, but to “wild people”, left in a false backwardness.

Lunch is being served as we cross the Nile. It is interesting to think how, very much further up the river, we would reach Egypt and so different of a world.

It is already night time when we enter Abyssinia. This is the largest state in the country, population wise, and home to a very unique culture, with ancient Christian roots. The relationship between Ethiopian Christians and the Protestant branches coming from Liberia is somewhat complicated. That being said, the State is very strongly for the True Whig Party, although it is very much a unique and very divergent State party.

We reach Addis Ababa at 7:30 AM, and I say my goodbyes to my last travelling companion, who is now heading to Axum. Both wonderful cities to visit, unique centres of Abyssinian culture, a country that is unlike anything else in Africa or the world. Ethiopian food is astounding, and both cities have vibrant cultural centres very much worth visiting. My new friend invited me to go meet him back in Axum, and it will certainly be where I will be going next.

The final nine hours of my journey are spent alone. And much of the journey goes through the Awash Depression and, even if the train mostly follows the Awash River, we are still talking about one of the hottest and most desolate places on Earth. Suffice it to say, after the Congolese forests and the savannahs, it is not much of a sight. Bring books, people, four days are not a short trip.

We arrived at Sagallo, the final destination of the Trans-African Railway, precisely at 4:30 PM. Impressive. Sagallo is a curious city, built almost from nothing as the main Indian Ocean port for the United States of Africa. It is very much a modern city, with many tall buildings and a very much immigrant culture, with Americo-Liberians at the top and those working for them all around. It has its unique features, as all places do, but it is neither beautiful nor culturally enriching. It is not really a tourist destination, but a place where to depart for anywhere else, really. But that is quite fine too.

Sitting on a bar booth on the hotel in Sagallo, finishing my thoughts, I consider what else to add. What were my overall impressions of this travel? I’d say it gave me a unique opportunity to understand the true size of Africa, and how amazing it is that such a country, with so many languages, peoples, creeds, could exist in a single nation. I had written “live together in peace”, but that wouldn’t be quite true, would it? As noted before, there is a reason why all my companions, and all lands I passed through, were Christian, when almost half of the country’s population, and more than half by sheer area, are Muslim.

This is a complicated country, and this is a trip that confronts you with much of its contradictions and injustices. Which just make it all the more interesting. Fare well, everyone, and see you around.


Not as detailed as I'd have liked, but I will be travelling in a few days and won't have any more time to do this. Besides, I liked how it turned out, so there's that.

Sea-to-shining-sea Liberia is an idea I have wanted to do for a while now, and this presented a very great opportunity to do just that. I had tried it before, but hadn't liked the results I ended up with, the borders didn't fully satisfy me, looked weird, but this... This I like. This is the Greater Liberia in my mind's eye. There's this Texas-esque thing in the Congo's flow that just made me go there, I can't explain it, and finally I got it to work.

Now how did we get here? I can give no coherent TL, I'm sorry. Just Liberians embodying the American spirit and going all the way to build a monstrosity of their own. I tried, in the text, to highlight some points of Greater Liberian history I thought would be interesting to explore, such as:

- The conflict between Americo-Liberians and native Africans being a very big part of the country's history, with the ruling Americo-Liberians ultimately giving ground but, rather than fully embracing the natives, being selective and going from Americans vs Natives, turning it into Christians vs Muslims, essentially adopting the native Christians and the converts, while still discriminating the Muslim communities, which probably would have a deeper history of resistance against Liberian rule, hence further justifying the injustices against them. Think of this process akin to the American WASPs embracing other whites in the 20th century

- A two party system between the True Whig Party, formerly the one-party dominated by Americo-Liberians, and now a more open Christian democratic party, that is still probably quite corrupt and autocratic when it can get away with it. And, for the opposition, the Full Democratic Party (I really just enjoy the two-word parallelism with the US 19th century party system), that started as a broad movement of opposition forces, probably with all sorts of socialist to localist to Islamic movements, fighting against the one-party system of the True Whig Party but that, as the True Whigs expanded to the native Christians, its audience became ever more Islamic and, therefore, the party itself became dominated by Islamic somewhat-democratic elements, probably with some good deal of patronage coming from the Muslim world. So yeah, both parties kind of suck, which just lends the whole thing some realism and nuance

- Internal colonialism within Africa, with places like Gazellia, Sagallo and maybe even the Congo having come to be dominated and even settled by Americo-Liberians, to the detriment of local populations. I didn't develop this too much, but I found it an interesting touch

What else? I thought of just giving it the Liberian flag, but I honestly find it quite boring, so I decided to try and do a "reconciliationist" flag, in the sense of being something the True Whigs, to appease their new native base, would do. It is inspired in the Juneteenth flag, to give it that extra "Made in America" flair, but with the Pan-African colours in the middle. I actually think it turned out interesting.

Anyway, I'm glad to finally have this idea put out there. I might do more with it in the future, now that I have the state shapes in a way I enjoy. Like I collected a bunch of data while making this, so might as well use it.​

The unification of Arabia Felix - The Sultanate of Hadramawt declared!

MUKHA, Arabia, December 12th, 1935 - The throngs in the streets shout and dance as the procession of the young Sultan Ja'far ibn al-Mansur al-Kathiri passes them by, a city elated by the end of hostilities, and host to the declaration of the Sultanate of Hadramawt. In a lightning victory, the Kethiri sultans of Sayoun have crushed the last holdouts in the former British trucial states, with a general retreat ordered from the holdouts on the Pirate Coast and the Curia Muria islands, where the de-facto British colonial project began more than 80 years ago. With the Sultan’s declaration of national unification comes an end to nearly 2 years of open war with the British Empire, announcing a renewed time of peace in a region sorely deprived.

The rapid ascendancy of what was once a backwater client kingdom can be credited to the current Sultan’s grandfather, the notorious Mansur ibn Ghalib al-Kathiri. Capitalising on the increasing destabilisation of the British-backed Qu’aiti clan, the Sultan sent an envoy expressing interest in seizing the twin port cities of Shihr and Mukalla, a desire that was responded to by only the vaguest of refusals. The ensuing ‘’Aden affair‘’ ensured the ascendancy of imperialist elements over any would-be unifiers, further evinced by the collapse of the Omani Imamate in the following years, plunging Austral Arabia into years of internecine conflict. But, in time, it is out of this dismal state that the seeds of unification would be sown.
In these tumultuous years, many of these statelets were placed under the tutelage of the British government in India, only furthering the cause of pan-Arabic revolt against their colonial overlords by their neglectful allowance of Bedouin raids, particularly by the widely-hated Al Murrah, all while the British residents were themselves distracted by internecine conflict in the Subcontinent itself.
Seeking to counterbalance the British presence in the region from their trade port of Sagallo, the United States under President Harman commenced a covert doctrine of support towards the vigorous guerilla movements in the hinterlands, seeking to aid their noble quest of liberation by way of education in the modern art of war, waiting with bated breath for the moment to come.

The chance to strike came in 1928, when the economic collapse of the Renewed Accord inflamed tensions across the demilitarised zones, dragging the world into the horrors of the Closing War. It would be in this environment that the Kethiri would return, not as war leaders, but as a point to rally around in search of an independent Hadramawt.
Ironically, the revolt of the ‘’Victor without a victory’’, though regarded by most Hadhramis as an unmitigated disaster, also spelled the end of the absolute rule of the Kathiri sultans, inadvertently marking themselves out as a powerful symbol of legitimacy in the fight against colonial occupation. With a makeshift alliance of Muwahhidun, a diverse collection of Hadhrami, Yemeni, and Omani emirs, and even the nascent socialist ‘’National Vow’’ movement offering support, the Sayyidic claimants of the house of Khatir would lead the fight against British and Ottoman occupation by way of fierce guerilla war. As scattered conflict persisted through the next five years, and the imperial powers retreated to their burrows in the metropole, a final make or break offensive would be made in the month of Shaban (December), marking the beginning of the end for the imperial system, and the birth of Hadramawt.

Today marks the 2nd anniversary of the first offensives out of Sayoun, the beginning of a titanic enterprise of national consolidation, one that is still well remembered even here in Mukha. A street vendor with a missing arm, houses conspicuously emptied out, and a monument in the town square, festooned with guns and sabres alike.
But there is also elation; streamers flit through the air, pleasant smells waft from every kitchen and street corner, and children run through the streets, the first in generations to taste true peace. Many questions await this new state in the future, but for now, their weapons sit by the wayside, and the people of Arabia the Joyous celebrate.

The timeline isn’t too fleshed out, but the gist of it hinges on a more adversarial relationship between the USA and Britain, which leads to the Americans buying a few small trade ports in Africa. This then pulls them into the power struggles of quasi-colonial south Arabia, with the main regional POD being Sultan Abdulla bin Salih, a sheikh of the Kathiri Sultanate, getting a more ambiguous response from the resident at British Aden regarding the annexation of the coast cities of Shihr and Mukalla.

Armed with the support of an exiled ruler and believing they have the tacit consent of the British, the result is a short, but pretty brutal war against a joint Arabian-British coalition, leading to a sizeable Yemeni and Hadhrami exile community in the USA (along with an associated lobby, most prominent in the US territory of Sagallo.) Things mostly stay pretty placid (the explosion of the Imamate of Oman notwithstanding), with the Brits playing local tribes against each other, until a WW1 equivalent breaks out in the late 1920s.

With a more fragmented peninsula, the result is a far more chaotic Arabian Front, which leaves a lot of regional leaders tentatively accepting the idea of using the current (thoroughly neutered) Khetiri Sultan as a figurehead, with his status as a descendant of the Prophet only sweetening the deal. Under a council of clerics, military modernisers and Bedouin tribes, the “Hadhrami alliance” conducts a lightning war against an exhausted Britain in 1933, annexing basically everything that their allies haven’t called dibs on. The USA, exuberant at seeing the Brits get a black eye, widely trumpets the idea of Hadramawt as a stabilising counter-imperial force in the region, but all is not as peachy-keen as it may appear. Guerillas still roam the deserts and mountains, ranging from marxists to monarchists to even a stranded British regiment, the great divide in religion and local custom that will most certainly come up once victory euphoria runs its course, and the British, still in control of their bases in Socotra and Iran, dream of bringing the Arabs back under their heel once their current troubles are over. The next decades will be interesting in Kethiri Hadramawt, to say the least.
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