Finding the place in the middle to meet
May 29, 2011 7:22 AM   Subscribe

What country lies exactly in-between Sri Lanka and Mali? I'm trying to find out a country in the middle in terms of pure miles and also in terms of flight time.

Well if you have to ask, I'm moving to Mali for work and someone very close to me just moved to Colombo, Sri Lanka. We thought it would be a fun idea to meet in the middle, someplace random, as long as it's not at the bottom of an ocean!

Thanks in advance to whoever can figure this out!
posted by leecohen to Travel & Transportation around Sri Lanka (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'd get a globe and a piece of string and see what lies upon the path :)
posted by purenitrous at 7:24 AM on May 29, 2011

From what little bit of playing I've done on this site, the midpoint between Timbuktu, Mali, and Colombo, Sri Lanka is somewhere in Eritrea.
posted by SNWidget at 7:29 AM on May 29, 2011

That midpoint isn't the safest place on Earth. Ethiopa, Eritrea, Sudan...

Egypt or Kenya are probably roughly the same distance from Bamako and Colombo, but safer than finding somewhere to meet in Ethiopia, Eritrea or Sudan.
posted by knapah at 7:34 AM on May 29, 2011

I was supposed to go to Sudan last year. Ultimately it didn't happen but I have heard that Khartoum is a thoroughly modern metropolis with lots of cool things to see and do. It's outlined by slums, but the people are pretty friendly, even to Americans. There's an American embassy there that can give you the plot-lines of today if you are interested. I am imagining this to a romantic interlude. You can cruise the Nile river up to Cairo and fly home or go into the desert and go caravan.
posted by parmanparman at 7:48 AM on May 29, 2011

Consider Doha or Dubai. Not exactly half-way but close, and lots of facilities for romantic encounters of the luxurious kind.
posted by Logophiliac at 7:51 AM on May 29, 2011

Actually, you didn't specify the purpose of the meeting. If it is indeed a romantic encounter that's one problem. If it's not that's a different problem. More info needed please!
posted by Logophiliac at 8:04 AM on May 29, 2011

Yeah I think you end up in a desert, strictly speaking?

If you're wiling to veer down a little bit, definitely try for Zanzibar! Or veer up a little for Istanbul! You have a gorgeous spread of half-way points. (Those are the more romantic versions. If it's adventure you're after, hey, there's Mecca.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 8:07 AM on May 29, 2011

Having now looked at the site that SNWidget linked to, I'm more geographically challenged than I thought. The Middle East isn't even close. Khartoum is the closest large city to the midpoint, but it may not be "half-way" in terms of flight time. Having just looked quickly at, it isn't even close to half-way in terms of flight time, because Bamako doesn't seem to be the easiest place to get to and from. You might find that somewhere in North Africa--Casablanca or Marrakesh, for example--has better airline connections to Bamako.
posted by Logophiliac at 9:13 AM on May 29, 2011

If their respective Wikipedia pages are to be believed, the only place that you can fly to non-stop from both Bamako and Colombo is Paris. As noted by Logophiliac, most flight from Bamako are either to West Africa or Europe; the notable exception is a non-stop flight to Nairobi on Kenya Airways, so maybe you could parlay that into something.
posted by Johnny Assay at 11:34 AM on May 29, 2011

Here's a great circle map of the path between Colombo and Timbuktu. Eritrea (not marked on that map) seems about right to me.

What is a great circle path? "A great circle path is the shortest path on the surface of a sphere between two points on that sphere. Technically, the term geodesic path should be used since Earth is not a true sphere, but the great circle terminology is common usage."
posted by desjardins at 11:43 AM on May 29, 2011 [1 favorite]

Safety and security in Sudan: the State Department view, the FCO view.

My sense is that the risk of terrorism is slightly less since the end of the civil war, but the sense of apparent peacefulness of secession is dissipating with new clashes on the future north-south border. If I were someone with experience in areas of conflict, the South would probably be a fascinating place to visit now, but I don't think I'd go there on a lark. If I had money, I'd consider springing for a safari-style visit to Dinder National Park, a UNESCO biosphere area, which is really close to your notional midpoint, and probably a pretty secure trip overall. But if you're just a level above backpacker in experience and finances, I think the safest spot nearby would be not Eritrea, but Djibouti.

If you can be more flexible about your midpointness, there are alternatives mentioned above. I'd add the tourist resort in the Sinai, Sharm-el-Sheikh, which caters to an Israeli as well as international clientele. But I don't know how that's working in the new Egypt. One of the really great places you could pick would be Mount Kiliminjaro.

Really, there are so many possibilities somewhere along that midpoint longitude (that would be equidistant) you could do this for years and hit a different one each time.

If it's adventure you're after, hey, there's Mecca.

Uh ... Sir Richard Burton notwithstanding, only if you're a Muslim.
Somehow, I don't think that applies to someone whose nick is leecohen.
posted by dhartung at 3:12 PM on May 29, 2011

In terms of pure flying time, and not counting time waiting for a connection, Beirut seems to be a place that could work out for both of you. In fact, you could both take just one airline there and not worry about switching airlines (Tunisair for you, Emirates for your friend).

Bamako to Tunis on Tunisair = 4 hours, 40 minutes
Tunis to Beirut on Tunisair = 3 hours, 10 minutes
* Total time in the air = 7 hours, 50 minutes

Person close to you:
Colombo to Dubai on Emirates, Mihin Lanka, or Sri Lankan = 4 hours, 27 minutes
Dubai to Beirut on Emirates, MEA, or Flydubai = 3 hours, 25 minutes
* Total time in the air = 7 hours, 52 minutes

Just about equal in flying time, even if it's not in the great circle path.
posted by texano at 7:46 PM on May 29, 2011

For flight times, you're going to have to pay closer attention to airline routes than to any theoretical "midpoint" on a map.

Having said that, Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) is somewhat of a regional hub for aviation in Africa (Ethiopian Airlines being for some reason one of the major African airlines), and it just happens to be roughly the geographical midpoint between Sri Lanka & Mali.

I have no idea whether there are flights from Bamako, though - when I was there I flew in & out via Casablanca. There should be plenty of flights between the Subcontinent & the Gulf States as well...from there to Addis is anybody's guess, but it's a short hop.

Also, contrary to what was said upthread, Ethiopia isn't unsafe, although there's a lot of low-level pickpocketing & baggage tampering annoyance; nothing really physically threatening in my experience.
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:28 PM on May 29, 2011

Sorry, to clarify: I meant I travelled Casablanca - Bamako return, but Cairo - Addis return (not Addis via Casa).
posted by UbuRoivas at 9:30 PM on May 29, 2011

I'd second Ethiopia. It suffers from the hangover of 25-year-old ideas of war and famine, but things there have changed and its economy is starting to thrive (much like most of Africa in the past decade.) Definitely consider it. And it's not at all unsafe.
posted by fso at 5:10 AM on May 30, 2011

I must say, I'm blown away by the responses here. Thank you everyone! As most of you surmised, yes, the reunion would probably be of the romantic variety, though by the time we see one another I imagine it'll be as friends. This is what I love about internet! Thanks again everyone!
posted by leecohen at 7:25 PM on June 28, 2011

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