‘This is Africa’ is a phrase that comes to mind often in Sudan: the epic scale of the Sahara, seen from the air as you fly into Khartoum or felt rather closer to hand with the grit in your face as you drive through northern Sudan, takes your breath away just as the endless savanna does in the Dinder National Park.
As a staple of bleak news headlines, Sudan has been slow to make its abundant attractions known to the outside world. It is we who are losing out.
Few foreigners have heard of the ancient Kingdom of Kush, walked among the isolated pyramids of Meroë (far more numerous and yet less crowded than those in neighbouring Egypt) or witnessed entranced the whirling Sufi dervishes of Omdurman. Yet those who do make it here are invariably enchanted by Sudan’s easy-going nature, its varied, fascinating history and the warm welcome they receive unexpectedly from the Sudanese people.
The country has an incredible variety to offer the intrepid traveller, whether you are coming for the first time or returning after many years. From the labyrinthine souks of old Khartoum to the coral-bedecked wrecks off the Red Sea coast, this is an unpolished tourist offering, and one that enables you to look deep into Sudan’s culture past and present.
Whether you’re rushing through on the trans-Africa trail or whiling away weeks among rich archaeological sites, Sudan will certainly not disappoint. By all means tick off the advertised highlights of Omdurman, Meroë and Suakin, but also take the time to make your own discoveries, meet people and soak up the experience.
Sophie Ibbotson and Max Lovell-Hoare