Typically, Sudan isn’t a hot spot for most vacationers, especially if they’re looking for beach bunnies and Western-style fun. Sudan does have aspects that intrigue tourists enough to lure them to this North African country, however. The country possesses a culture that can’t be experienced elsewhere.
When Sudan is in the headlines, the news generally concerns the civil conflict that has been taking place for practically half a century. Outside those war zones, tourists experience a different side of Sudan that is very rarely featured in the media.
The hospitality shown by the Sudanese is inherent in their culture: they are generally very kind, friendly, and welcoming. Northern Sudan tends to attract the majority of visitors because it has the largest territory, including the capital, Khartoum, as well as other urban centers. Since peace treaties that ended the civil war have come into effect, southern Sudan has also started to attract adventurous tourists.
1. Red Sea: The Red Sea’s shoreline is a major attraction in Sudan. It is particularly appealing to those interested in diving. The marvelous sea and its surrounding area have been one of Sudan’s top tourist attractions.
2. Ethnographic Museum: This museum in Khartoum gives visitors a chance to go back in time and get a glimpse of Sudanese village life. Its displays show how Sudanese culture has developed, through songs, traditions, religion, and other aspects of day-to-day life.
3. National Museum: This museum is also located in Khartoum and offers a comprehensive overview of Sudanese history. Two reconstructed temples, saved from older sites that had been flooded, are highlights.
4. Camel Market: Visit the camel market in the old capital of Omdurman. Animals from both eastern Sudan and western Sudan are to be seen here.
5. Tomb of Mahdi: After this tomb and mosque was destroyed, in 1898, a son of the Mahdi (the empire that ruled Sudan before English colonization) rebuilt both the tomb and the mosque in 1947.
6. Sudan’s Souks: Visit the various souks in Omdurman. You’ll find original handcrafted Sudanese pieces at great prices. It is also a fine place for people watching and interacting with locals.
Eid Al-Fitr occurs right after Ramadan; that is probably the best time to go to Sudan to enjoy music and cultural events.
The weather in Sudan is typically very hot. The rainy season lasts from May until October. Sandstorms can occur during the dry period, from April until September, so plan accordingly.
Visas: A valid passport and a visa are necessary when you’re arriving in Sudan. Tourists usually opt for a one-month visa.
Transportation: Numerous international airlines fly to Sudan; most airlines fly into Khartoum International Airport.
In Sudan, traveling by car is the best option. Driving at the appropriate hours in areas deemed safe is a secure way of getting about. If you’re bold enough to venture into areas that the government labels as dangerous or unfit for travel, you’ll need a travel permit to move around.
Mobile Phones: Sudan has relatively good coverage. Make sure to have or buy a GSM phone with a SIM card.
Owing to Sudan’s recent civil war and other issues the country is having, traveling to Sudan can be dangerous. When in Sudan, travel through hotel contacts and private car hire. Pay close attention to country and city curfews, and make sure that you observe laws and customs. We highly recommend checking the U.S. Department of State’s travel page on Sudan for complete information, and make sure to keep up with current affairs if you plan on traveling to Sudan.
The Mo Ibrahim Foundation has created a security ratings system called the Ibrahim Index, wherein scores are based on each country’s quality of government. Before traveling to Sudan or anywhere on the continent, check the index and do your research.
Sudan’s modern history is intertwined with Egypt and colonialism. Until the 1890s, Sudan was deeply integrated with Egyptian politics and existed under various Egyptian empires until the British arrived and colonized the country. Around 1953, the Egyptian revolutionary movement began to gain strength and led to the country’s eventual independence from Britain. Later, in 1956, Sudan officially became independent of both Britain and Egypt.
During the year prior to independence, civil war erupted between northern Sudan and southern Sudan. Besides the regional differences, Sudan has suffered from religious clashes: while northern Sudan was closely affiliated with Egypt and was mainly Arab Muslim, the southern part of the country was predominantly Christian. Political instability didn’t help matters.
Most of the world is aware of the civil unrest that has been plaguing Sudan for decades. Since a ceasefire in 2002 and after the ethnic killings in Darfur, Sudan has been making progress toward achieving stability and peace.
1. We recommend sticking to Khartoum and Omdurman during your visit. They are the safest and consequently the biggest tourist destinations in the country.
2. Pay attention to specific rules in any city that you stay in. Curfews are implemented in most large cities, usually from about midnight until four in the morning.
3. Sudan is an Islamic country. Be mindful and respect the culture in order to forestall any negative attention.
4. No American credit cards can be used in Sudan, because of embargoes. Make sure you change your money before traveling or at the airport at an authorized vendor, and also be mindful when you’re carrying cash on your person.
5. The official languages are Arabic and English. Learn some basic words in Arabic; even greetings will suffice.