Sudan

Sudan Travel Guide

Introduction

Sudan doesn’t come up in many travel conversations, as it is generally considered to be a dangerous destination, thanks to its history of war and famine. Although there still an unresolved conflict raging in the Darfur region, its issues with the South has been mostly settled with the secession of South Sudan.

While tensions remain between these two entities, travel outside Darfur is possible, if uncomfortable. Getting in the country in the first place can also be a bit unsettling, as most visitors will need to tango with a complicated visa process before they can board a flight to Khartoum.

This involves securing a letter of introduction from your home country, a task that can be frustrating at the best of times. There are have been instances where the Sudanese embassy has processed visas without a letter being produced, but don’t count on it.

When you submit your passport for approval, you’ll need to include a $100 USD processing fee, payable in that currency. Your legal responsibilities as a foreign traveller don’t stop once you’ve secured your visa, though, as you are then required to register with immigration officials within three days of arriving in Sudan.

Do this as soon as you arrive to avoid any issues; also, don’t forget to secure permits for travel outside the capital and to take photos. Both of these are reportedly free, so get them to avoid headaches when you are inevitably stopped by local police during your time in Sudan.

With all these details out of the way, let’s delve into the attractions which are waiting to be discovered by you in one of Africa’s lesser travelled countries.

Currency: Sudanese Pounds
Languages: Arabic, English, various indigenous languages

What To Do

Once you have gotten settled in Khartoum, get a briefing on the rich history of this nation by paying a visit to the Sudan National Museum. Unlike the threadbare collections of other national museums in the Sahel, this institution has one of the most comprehensive collections of Nubian artifacts in the world.

Its exhibits contain specimens dating from prehistory to the dawn of the Islamic era, making it a place where you can easily spend a couple of hours learning about the history of Sudan.

Highlights not to missed include: a four-metre high granite statue of Pharaoh Taharqo, frescoes painted by Coptic Christians that date back to the 9th century AD, and in the garden, reconstructions of Middle Egyptian temples salvaged from the submergence region of Lake Nasser before the Aswan Dam was activated in the mid-20th century.

Outside of Khartoum, you’ll find many remnants of ancient Nubian civilizations. Make Gebel Barkal your first stop, as a major settlement was built in the shadow of this small mountain.

First used as a navigational aid by boaters plying the waters of the Nile during the era of the early Egyptian Kingdoms, this place has been inhabited by humans for many millennia.

Here, you will find numerous eroded temples, palaces, and pyramids, as this place was a major city when the Kingdom of Kush was at its peak.

Those looking to go deeper into the heart of Nubia should carry on to the Meroe Pyramids. A short distance from the modern city of Meroe, a complex of nearly 200 pyramids can be found here.

Lacking the profile and the funding of their Egyptian cousins to the north, many of these historical structures are in varying states of ruin, but they still bear witness to the mighty empire that once had its base in this region.

Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is a sight you can’t afford to miss, especially when you consider the enormous effort it takes to visit Sudan.

Want to dive and snorkel in some of the clearest water in the world? Make your way to Sanganeb National Park, which is situated on Sudan’s Red Sea coast. Protecting a colourful reef just offshore, it is marked by a spectacular stone lighthouse above the water, and by a kaleidoscope of corals and tropical fish beneath it.

Sea turtles are common visitors here, as are hammerhead sharks. If you dive here, you will be swimming in the wake of the great Jacques Cousteau, who explored this area many years ago.

What to Eat

When you sit down to a meal in Sudan, chances are good that you will be served some Kisra on the side. A common accompaniment to stews and soups, it is a flatbread that draws many comparisons to Ethiopian injera, which is as well-loved in that country as kisra is in Sudan.

With 30,000 short tons consumed by its people in 1995, it is only a matter of time before you encounter this ubiquitous bread in Sudanese travels.

Ful Medames will likely be one of the stews you will be served during your time in Sudan. Consisting of fava beans, onions, garlic, chilli peppers, and many spices and herbs such as cumin and parsley, it is a flavourful meal that dates back to the days of the Old Egyptian Kingdom, so don’t miss this dish on your trip here.

Looking for a sweet end to your day? Track down some Basbousa. A sweet cake made from semolina or farina flour, it is topped with syrup and almonds, making it a delightful treat to enjoy before retiring for the night.