Wadi Halfa to Dongola
Hundreds of historic sites and some striking desert and river scenery line this 400km stretch of the Nile, while the many villages offer a fascinating taste of Nubian life. For many this is the highlight of Sudan. Buses and bokasi (minibuses) run fairly frequently between all these towns and Dongola and Wadi Halfa.
Karima itself is just a dusty Nile-side Nubian village. If it weren't for its extraordinary collection of ancient sites, which together have given the whole area Unesco World Heritage status, there would be little reason to stop here. As it is though, the majesty of Karima's past will probably remain with you for a long time.
The first significant town on the stretch between Wadi Hald and Dongola is Abri (market day is Monday), the base for visiting Sai Island, 10km south. With a temple from Egypt's Middle Kingdom, a medieval church and an Ottoman fort among the many ruins, Sai Island is something of a synopsis of ancient Sudanese history.
South of Soleb, and on the west bank, are the remains of the Egyptian town of Sesibi. Founded in the 14th Century BC by Akhenaten, (who is known for having abandoned the classical Egyptian gods to worship the sun disc Aten). Today the site is pretty ramshackle but at sunset the remaining temple columns are wildly exotic.
Nuba Mountains & El-Obeid
Smack in the heart of the country, the beautifully green and (in places) forested Nuba Mountains are, in a sense, a gateway to sub-Saharan Africa. This Scotland-sized slab of fertile land is inhabited by the Nuba people, 60-some related tribes and subtribes with as many differences as similarities.
If you're travelling in your own car between Dongola and Karima it's well worth making the short detour to beautiful, sandswept Old Dongola with its faded Christian glories and massive Sufi saints' tombs. The city was capital of the Christian kingdom of Makuria between the 7th and 14th centuries and at its peak it was home to dozens of churches.
Famous for its palm groves, the relaxed little town of Dongola is full of character and boasts good amenities. The east-bank ruins of the Temple of Kawa, which are almost totally buried under sand, are about 4km south of the bus station and are a little hard to find. Many people find the two-hour walk there along the banks of the Nile more of a highlight than the temple.
Suakin was Sudan's only port before the construction of Port Sudan. Abandoned in the 1930s, it's now a melancholy ghost town, full of crumbling coral buildings, demonic cats said to be cursed, and circling kites and hawks with a devil's shrill call. The ruins, connected to the mainland by a short causeway, are fascinating to explore.
Kassala, with its wonderful setting at the foot of the melting granite peaks of the Taka Mountains, is where half the tribes of northern Sudan seem to meet. Its huge souqs are an ethnic mosaic of colours, smells, noises and experiences. There are famous camel races annually in September or October.